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Winning the losers by Amit Phansalkar

We as a society are obsessed with winning: be it a simple game of football in the backyard or a school debating competition; be it a local election or a real war. What matters is winning. And we imbibe that same 'win at all costs' attitude in our children. We push them to the limits of their capacities. It's all about being 'first'. Consciously and sub-consciously, we're being told throughout our life that it's always winners or losers, and that if you are not one of the former then you are one of the latter.

Is it really that simple? Are boundaries between winning and losing that well defined? I remember a thought by Richard Bach in 'Bridge Across Forever':

That's what learning is after all: not whether we lose the game, but how we lose, and how we've changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before - to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.
Idealism! The real world is not like that! Resources and opportunities in the world are always limited, they say. There is a room for a few and too many aspirants, so you cannot afford to take it lightly, they say. It's a rat race and if you don't win, no one will give a damn about you, they say. Makes me wonder, are winners -- as we call them -- any better off? What does this obsession with winning do to their lives, their value systems, or their sensitivities? The tragedy is, we start running even before we know what we're running for. The rat race doesn't stop for you. If we finally win, there is this sudden emptiness: is this what I really wanted?

Am I saying we should abandon the quest for winners? Of course not. All that I'm saying is, winning is a very fuzzy concept, and obsession with it should be questioned. Children are naturally competitive - they want all to themselves, they always want to win. It's a natural human tendency to want to surpass everyone, and to excel in whatever you do. But growing up is also about learning to take small defeats, and questioning what one really wants/needs. In a sense, I think the whole society needs to grow up. It needs to question the rat races everywhere and the exclusive winner/loser way of thinking. And above all, It needs to be somewhat more forgiving and understanding to the losers. We need winners and we're proud of them. But we will have more of them if we stopped pressing for them.

Copyright 2000 Amit Phansalkar. All rights reserved.

Amit Phansalkar is a post-grad in Computer Science, who writes mostly for pleasure. His main writing interests are: science, technology and their trysts with the society. He also enjoys writing about his experiences, musings and reflections of life.