The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the
unearned in spirit. (By “spirit” I mean: man’s consciousness.) These two
aspects are necessarily interrelated, but a man’s desire may be focused
predominantly on one or the other. The desire for the unearned in spirit is the
more destructive of the two and the more corrupt. It is a desire for unearned
greatness; it is expressed (but not defined) by the foggy murk of the term
“prestige.” . . .
Unearned greatness is so unreal, so neurotic a concept that the wretch who
seeks it cannot identify it even to himself: to identify it, is to make it
impossible. He needs the irrational, undefinable slogans of altruism and
collectivism to give a semiplausible form to his nameless urge and anchor it to
reality—to support his own self-deception more than to deceive his victims.