I’ve been contemplating the concept of a Winner for a while now. In our culture, a Winner is someone who is looked up to and celebrated as example of moral good. Those who win, drive society. What one does not want to be is a Loser, because they are those society disdains and goes out of its way to punish.
You may have never considered this, but these are philosophical constructs used by folks to lend some sort of order to the world. Winners are those who determine that being first is an actual moral good, and therefor whatever path one takes to achieve that moral good doesn’t matter. The journey doesn’t matter, only the destination. Winners aren’t just people who are competitive and enjoy coming out on top in a contest, they are people who feel Winning is the only acceptable outcome. We see this all across our culture.
In sports, the New England Patriots and the Houston Astros are the two most egregious recent examples of a “win at all costs” mentality–but they are far from unique. Doping scandals have been going on for decades. The 1990’s are even referred to as Major League Baseball’s “steroid era.” In all of sports the pursuit of Winning as the moral good is summed up in the old axiom, “If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying.”
In our wider culture Winning can be seen in politics–where skewed claims, attack ads, and outright lies are commonplace. If it helps one win, it doesn’t matter if reputations are destroyed or one’s personal integrity is shredded. What matters is Winning, because only then will you have a position of power to see your ideas put into practice. And if a politician wins, yet still remains unable to see their vision put into place, then they need to win more until they are able to do so. While this is a general truth which applies across our poisoned political landscape, it seems our current U.S. administration is obsessed by this desire to be “Winners.” President Trump’s promise was, after all, for America to “Win.” Even to the point where we’ll be “sick of Winning.”
In business Winning is seen in terms of profits and market dominance. It doesn’t matter if employees’ lives are ruined by cost-saving measures, or if a insufficiently tested product is released which harms the wider public. Why? Because considering issues like that would detract from Winning–they might slow growth, reduce the income of the shareholders, or affect a chance for market dominance.
In interpersonal discourse the need to win is seen in memes, quotes, and statements meant to shut up those with whom a person disagrees. These are often done under the guise of defending personal freedom, the establishment of justice, or the assertion that one is on the “right side of history 1.” In reality, these tactics are shortcuts to a Win. If the memes contain lies 2, so what? They make us feel like Winners.
Whatever journey people are on. If they have accepted that being a Winner is the greatest possible good, then considering the impact of their journey toward Winning is seen as a negative. Doing so creates the possibility that one will deviate from the path toward Winning, which will risk making someone a “Loser.” There may be no greater shame a person versed in the philosophical school of Winning can face.
In the face of this philosophical school, which is running amuck, I’d like to make one thing clear.
I follow a Loser.
Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the conqueror of sin and death and the one who will bring the New Creation.
And he’s a Loser.
Jesus was not someone who was determined to “win at all costs.” To him, as we see in the Gospels, the journey toward his victory over sin and death mattered. His Beatitudes call the poor, those who mourn, the meek, people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted–the very people Winners call “Losers”–blessed. His disciples were the cast-offs, he ministered far from the center of his people’s power, he ran away when people became determined to make him king by force, he was betrayed by a friend. According to the philosophical school of Winning Jesus was, and is, a Loser.
Praise God. I’m a Loser too.
- I tend to not trust anyone who uses this phrase. Mostly because I know they’ll kick me to the curb if I don’t move with them in lock-step. ↩
- And, I have to say, the ability of conservatives to share false stories is mind-boggling. Occupy Democrats only wishes it could be as effective at propaganda dissemination. ↩