The Crippling Desire to Win

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Opening Statement -- The Crippling Desire to Win

I have been to the mountaintop. Thanks to the Northeast Asian Regional Peacebuilding Initiative (NARPI), I have seen the error of my ways.

   Vince Lombardi reportedly said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” On another occasion he said, “Winning isn’t the most important thing. It’s the only thing.” Lombardi was coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, so it was his job to win. Besides, sports competition takes place within a strictly limited time and space under an extremely detailed set of rules enforced by highly trained, impartial referees. Plus, Lombardi won the Super Bowl a couple times, so we Wisconsinites instantly forgave Lombardi for abandoning “good sportsmanship” in favor of intensifying his players’ desire to win.  

  We shouldn’t have. In hindsight, knowing what we know now about climate change, fossil fuels, the military-industrial-penal-Congressional complex, and industrial agriculture, all Wisconsinites should have immediately called Lombardi on the phone and explained to him that “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” We should have said, “Take it back, Vince. You’re walking us down the slippery slope. What’s more important, the Super Bowl or human survival?”

   Setting aside sports, TV quiz or reality shows, and the various national “we’ve got talent” competitions, show me a winner, and I’ll show you an enemy of humanity. Though most winners are blissfully unaware that the world has passed them by, winning has recently, as of August 6, 1945, become the root of all evil.

  All (well, most of) the world’s problems could be solved easily if it weren’t for winners. From nuclear weapons and climate change to police brutality and schoolyard bullying, problems like these are not the real problem. The problem is, the people responsible for solving our problems are more interested in winning. In the US, problems are never solved because Democrats and Republicans are 1) devoted above all to winning the next election, and 2) winners working for winners who only give money to winners.

   In the days and weeks that follow, I will take all (or most) of the world’s problems and explain exactly how winners are screwing up a perfectly manageable situation. My goal is to give winning a bad name. Winning is obsolete; winners are Neanderthals that threaten human survival on this planet.

   Again, I’m not talking about sports or games with rules and refs. I’m talking about winners who take things from losers without caring how the losers feel or what the losers are going to do without whatever the winners take. Winning or taking without caring about the person you are winning or taking from is the start of all (or most) violence. If you are a winner, you should be ashamed of yourself. I want you to stop it, right now! What you need to do instead is sit down with your rival or opponent or wife or husband and talk, then keep talking until you come up with a solution that satisfies everyone, that is, something that really makes everyone happy. The goal is everyone being happy.

   You think I’m an idealistic moron? What planet am I living on? Peace is not possible? The pie is a certain size and if you get more, I get less, I should face it? Your low-level consciousness is based on never having attended a NARPI workshop. That and never having tried to make everyone happy. Or, never having tried enough, that is, never having brought your full creativity to the solution. In fact, my bet is, you base your pessimistic assumptions on experiences of negotiating to win with others who are also negotiating to win. Two winners coming up with a creative solution that satisfies both of them is like Luke Skywalker coming to a mutually satisfying agreement with Darth Vader. Winners can’t solve problems. All they can do is win (or lose).

   So pay attention. In the weeks to come, I will help you graduate from being a winner to being a decent human being enhancing the chances of human survival on Planet Earth. 


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