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Losing Is the New Winning

June 4th, 2010 - 4:25 pm

What do Canadian soccer scores, the Gaza Flotilla Incident, Marxism, and the origins of Christianity have in common? Simple: They all rely on the notion that winning is bad. The triumph of the downtrodden.

We now see the culmination of a grand historical arc playing out right before our eyes. And just as at most epochal turning points, the people experiencing it have little or no idea that it’s even happening.

I want to say just a few words about the Gaza Flotilla, but to arrive there I must first take a roundabout digression. Let’s start our journey in Canada.

The more you score, the closer you come to defeat

A kids’ soccer league in Ottawa recently instituted a new rule: If your team outscores your opponents by more than five goals, then you lose. That’s right — the high-scoring team loses the game:

Win a soccer game by more than five points and you lose, Ottawa league says

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

Kevin Cappon said he first heard about the rule on May 20 — right after he had scored his team’s last allowable goal. His team then tossed the ball around for fear of losing the game.

As insane as this new rule might seem to the naive, it’s neither surprising nor unexpected: Similar anti-competition guidelines which punish winners have seeped into our culture over the last several decades. This Ottawa soccer rule is just the consummation of a larger trend. Many public school districts in the US now discourage or prohibit intra-class competition, not just in games but scholastically as well. Why? Because competition inevitably leads to winners and losers, which leads to athletic or intellectual hierarchies, which leads to social hierarchies, which leads to social inequality. And that‘s the biggest no-no of all.

But the prohibition against competition is often a prelude to a more Orwellian inversion of reality. Many kids’ sporting leagues have something called The Mercy Rule, in which the officials stop keeping score after a certain point if two teams are so mismatched that the game would otherwise become a farce. From there, however, it is a small step to the “Ottawa Rule” whereby you are allowed to score as much as you want, but if you outscore your opponent by too much, you’ll be declared the loser. (One imagines that inept-but-clever Canadian soccer teams will henceforth attempt to win games by “accidentally” scoring own-goals and kicking the ball backwards into their own nets as often as possible; eventually the league could devolve into a frenzy of “suicide soccer” as teams try to rack up as many points for the opponents as they can, seeking to “win” by losing by more than five goals.)

A similar thing happened to me in my elementary school days. One spring, our hip teacher announced that he would soon hand out the award for “Best Student” in the class. Much speculation ensued among the kids as to who it might be; the general consensus was that three students, based on our speed in finishing quizzes ahead of everyone else, were the obvious candidates: Karen, Ronald, or me. But when the big day arrived, the teacher announced, to everyone’s shock, that the Best Student prize was going not to any of us three but instead to Wayne. Wayne?!?!?!? Everyone turned to look at him in amazement. Wayne was, by any valid measure, far and away the worst student in the class. He still had not yet learned how to read. He couldn’t do basic arithmetic. He sat in the back of the room and harassed other students, and didn’t even bother to complete most assignments. In the modern era, he definitely would have been placed in a “special education” class for learning-disabled students, but our public school district back then had eliminated all “tracking” as discriminatory, so students of all calibers were lumped together. Our teacher explained that he was giving the award to Wayne because Wayne needed it more than anyone else, in order to boost his low self-esteem, which was the cause of his misbehavior. (Of course, having his psyche dissected in front of the class humiliated him even more, completely undoing any psychological benefit the award may have given him.) But here’s the kicker: our teacher then announced that Karen, Ronald and me had to sit in the corner and not participate every time there was a quiz for the rest of the year, as punishment for “embarrassing the other students” by finishing too fast and getting perfect scores.

My school district was ahead of the curve when it came to progressive ideals, and what happened to me back then is a natural progression from the non-competition guidelines now becoming commonplace across the country — just as Mercy Rules in sports can eventually lead to “the high-scoring team loses” Ottawa-style decrees.

Christianity, Marxism, and the Triumph of the Downtrodden

Championing the underdog is nothing new. There is a long history leading to what happened in Ottawa and my school.

While these days we tend to think of Christianity and Marxism as polar opposite ideologies in direct contradiction to each other, they both can be seen as formal expressions of the same notion: That the downtrodden, society’s losers, are actually the winners; and that the rich and powerful are the losers.

Jesus said, in Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He also, in Matthew 19:21, said “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The inescapable conclusion one draws from these statements by Jesus is that people who are wealthy and successful will in the long run be the greatest losers of all, because they cannot enter heaven when they die. You may be on top now, Jesus is saying, but eventually only society’s losers (the destitute) will get the ultimate reward — eternity in heaven.

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