The Loser Manifesto
By Weston Ochse © 2010
“It’s not so bad.”
“They didn’t mean it.”
“They must have forgot about me.”
“We’ll get them next time.”
“We was robbed.”
These are all rationalizations for failure. We say them because they make us and the people around us feel better, because after all, it’s more important to feel better about something than to actually do better at something.
It’s utterly amazing to me the lengths we will go to make ourselves feel better about mediocrity. Let me point out that middle of the pack isn’t winning. Even if we are first of all the middle, we are still losers. So for the record, mediocrity is loserocrity.
Last night, while watching my 109 pound, blind, ten month old Great Dane pretend to be Ricochet Rabbit in the living room, I was trying to write. On the television was a movie I’d recorded a few days ago. Called ‘Second Best’ and starring Joe Panteliano, it was about a man who was essentially the king of losers. He never sought to be first. He always rationalized his inability to win. Even when he was offered a chance to win at something, he turned it down.
And this is the crux of this essay. The reason he turned it down was control. He could control his own loserocrity. He enjoyed being better than the worst. By trying to win at something, he put himself in a position to be let down, which would shatter his perception as being best of the worst. He surrounded himself with friends who on the surface seemed normal, but who really were worse off than him in some way. By being their friends, he was actually a winner among losers. Does this sound familiar?
I thought about this and some of the group dynamics with which I’ve been involved. From my perception, I can see the truth of it. I’ve been a part of groups where there were people with more problems than me. I was better. If we were just a mediocre group of guys, then I was the Emperor of the Mean. But a funny thing happened on the way to the throne. I discovered it was crowded. You see, all of us in the group had our own perceptions about ourselves and the other members. All of us thought we were superior. There was a study sometime back where members of a group were asked a series of questions wherein they had to rank the other members in terms of success, looks, sexual prowess (perceived I imagine), and a host of other things. What happened was that no one person received more than one fist place vote in any category, and those votes most always went to the one casting the vote.
So what does this tell us? It tells me that our perceptions or misperceptions of reality are grand coping mechanisms. They are evolutionary delusions designed to keep us from going off the deep end. Look at a pack of wolves, for example. There can only be one alpha male. The other wolves, recognizing the superiority of the alpha and their own inferiority, succumb and become part of the pack. Perhaps the wolves cope with the idea that they are doing something beneficial to the pack which allows them to stay in line. Forgive my anthropomorphismic metaphor, but it’s what losers do to try and rationalize mediocrity. After all, there has to be a reason that 99 percent of us are willing to be second best.
In the movie, part of Joey Pants’ manifesto said that 99% of the world is losers. 33% of them are oblivious to their position in life. They were born losers and don’t even know, nor do they care, if they are losers. The next 33% know they’re losers and don’t care. They instead feel good about the one percent that succeed. The final 33%, the one that Joe Pants assigned for himself, was the group that was cripplingly envious and hated the 1% for their success. Moreover, they lived a life of Schadenfreud, taking pleasure at the misery of others.
Which makes me wonder about Reality Television. We really don’t watch it because we are idolizing the people. We don’t watch it to elevate persons to a winner status. If so, then why is the number one rated American Idol shows those that show the losers at tryouts? No, we watch reality television because we want to feel better about ourselves by watching other people’s failures. In this day and age one can shuffle never move more than twenty feet a day and feel more superior than someone else. Their lives revolve around the circular journey from their bedroom to their living room to the bathroom, sitting on the couch with remote in hand like it’s a magic wand. And it is. It makes them feel better about who they are because at least they aren’t a has been B Movie Star stumbling drunk and crying on the set of a television show because his wife left him and his child filmed him eating a hamburger off the floor; nor are they a South Jersey orange-skinned girl destined to be three hundred pounds, but already an emotional train wreck because cruising the mall never taught her the vicissitudes of real life behavior and how to get what she wants without stomping her feet; nor are they like the man going to a fake court with a fake judge being sued by his real son because he failed to pay for the kids braces; nor are they swapping wives, getting interventions, or hoarding cats, dogs, or little statues of Elvis Presley. In fact, after an hour of someone else’s misery they feel awesome about themselves.
Sporting events give us more opportunities to feel better. Being American is a distinct advantage. After all, when an American is on the podium winning a gold medal he is doing it for us, which means that we win too. We are winners because of the track stars, the basketball players, the football players… thank god for all those winners, because if my team won, it means that your team lost.
Perhaps there is a dearth of Alpha Males. Here’s a question. What if there are hundreds or thousands of groups of friends without a real Alpha Male, with each member wanting to be an alpha but unable to do so? That means that we group together as losers. Do we practice Shadenfreud as a spectator sport? Do we rack and stack each other?
Of course there’s one definite way to avoid all this. It’s really simple. We stop rationalizing. We stop saying things like, “I’m not as fat as the next guy” or “I never really had a shot because I didn’t even try.” We stop making excuses. Instead, we begin doing. We try and win. If we lose, then we admit to losing and move on.
Don’t think that I’m one of those egotistical people who believes that he should win everything all the time. I’m not. And I’m not saying that you should, either. What we should do however is try and win occasionally. Most of us are comfortable in our mediocrity, but that comfort is mediated by our ability to win sometimes. It gives us something for which to strive. It allows us a memory of winning and achieving something special we can use during the down times. And if in the end we can’t seem to win anything at all, then we can still be winners, reliving those bright moments when we were not losers.
Remember, schadenfreud is alive and well in Reality Television and in group dynamics. It’s a game everyone can play, where you the viewer and sometimes participant will always be left with the delusional perception that you are better, and that life aboard the Starship Sofa is that which you’ve always dreamed.
Do me a favor. Keep that pose. Think those thoughts. Be that loser. I want you there. It will make it much easier for me to win. Here, let me pat you on the head and tell you how awesome you almost were.