I’ve failed repeatedly, disappointed family, pissed off and lost best friends, broken the law, stolen, cheated, lied, and hurt people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve murdered innocent animals, propagated torture, condoned the killing of humans, threatened, punched, cussed at, and made fun of other people. I’m a huge loser and probably always will be, not even seeking forgiveness.
Quit judging fool!
If you’re already looking down on me, you might as well be looking in a mirror. If you haven’t done the awful things I’ve done, or similarly awful things, then you must be Jesus or Mohammed or the Dalai Lama or whatever other person who you think is the holiest of the holy.
But you aren’t, so guess what, you’re a loser, too.
At least that’s what society would make us believe, if you aren’t a winner, you’re a loser. I grew up in the golden era of the American feel-goodery machine. “You’re special.” “You can be anything you want to be.” “I’ll love you no matter what.” “Here’s a trophy for showing up.” I literally got a trophy in the 7th grade for being the basketball team’s ‘Assist Leader’ for the season and was super proud of it. Forget the crazy number of turnovers, the low shooting percentage, and average assists per game being less than 3. I deserved a trophy damnit and I got one! And I’m not sharing it!
Trash Trophies and Other Places Self-validation Should Go
Fast forward a pair of decades and that trophy is likely buried underneath a mound of other people’s garbage they didn’t want, or simply no longer needed. Not only was that trophy a waste of physical product, its wastefulness extended to its intrinsic value. Sure, it made me feel good at the time. But it also made me think I was good at basketball. So, a big smack in the face came when the 8th grade team cut me and I had to resort to wrestling for a season, which I would eventually quit because, well, wrestling sucks. And quitting made me feel like a loser, which I was, even before that.
Before I was 14, I had already committed at least half of the transgressions I confessed at the beginning of this post. Now that I’m 30, I realize it doesn’t matter. Mostly because we are all losers, but also because we can’t escape being losers. Sure, we can do these things personally that make us more of a loser, but we’re trapped in a system that demands we be losers. You don’t want to condone murder and torture of innocent humans? Too bad, you pay your taxes that are used to bomb civilians. Don’t want to lie, cheat, or steal? Better not become part of any American system of wealth building, because that’s the only way to grow. Your making money always comes at the expense of another, or at the growth of something worse than yourself. Don’t want to be responsible for the extinction of species, or the crushing of humans under unsecure buildings? Better not buy any new clothes, ever. Every major brand in the US employs people to work for a penance with tactics that damage the environment. You’re a loser, maybe you just didn’t know it.
Just Figuring Out You’re a Loser? Erm, this is awkward.
You didn’t know it because the American system constantly tells you to feel good about yourself. “Forget about the mass extinction event we’re undergoing and buy more stuff!” Your monstrous carbon footprint due solely to your lifestyle of using American transportation, eating an American diet, and consuming American media is destroying the world. You can’t avoid it, sorry. You’re a loser, just like me.
This is partly why I find it so important to take my daughter traveling around the world, and no, it’s not because it’s inherently healthier for the planet (it’s not, airplane travel is a killer, too). It’s to relatively shield her from the outlandish and image-obsessed culture of the USA, but also to show her that there are different ways to live and that people across the world actually exist, not just Americans and their worldly desires and ignorance of people around the world. So, if you’re one of the Brian Williams types (look how beautiful our bombs are!), remember that bombs killing people is terrorism. You can’t beat terrorists with terrorism. I digress.
We’re all losers, hooray!
Back to it: I’m a loser, you’re a loser, let’s all scream for being losers. But traveling helps. It teaches you to be comfortable with ignorance, impatience, discomfort, and different. It helps you notice that the shoes you wear aren’t nearly as important as the words you say. That the $300 or $3,000 watch on your wrist might tell you the time, but it doesn’t tell you the story of the child who put it together in Bangladesh for mere pennies. Your clothes might accurately represent who you want to be as a person, but they don’t post the number of river habitats that were destroyed making that shirt on the tag. But the dye by-product has to go somewhere, and if it’s a bird’s nesting grounds, or a crocodile’s favorite hunting spot, they’re going to ingest it. So guess what? Your shirt? Makes you a loser. Your watch? Makes you a loser. Your taxes? Makes you a murderer and a torturer. Now you might say, ‘that’s not fair my taxes also go to blablabla…’ That’s true. But if a man had a $1000 and he gave half of it to subsidize the death of a random person, and the other half to save a random person. Is he a good person? Or is he still, like all of us, a loser?
Traveling helps me teach my daughter what is important. Our food choices, how we interact with people, the environment and we treat it, these are just some of them. And I don’t have time for that in the States. I’m too busy working 2-3 jobs, spending an hour at least commuting, then buying fast food or eating something upsetting because I don’t have to time to take life seriously. It’s buy, buy, buy, earn, earn, earn, then die, die, die. I don’t mean to make you feel bad for being as much of a loser as me. It actually feels good to know it and let it out. Doing so helps me remember that my choices matter. So join me, fellow losers, travel, see things that change your perspective. It doesn’t matter who you voted for this time around, how much money you make, or how many people you can sleep with because you’re a Tinder master. What matters is what you leave behind.
But can we be winners?
What I hope to leave behind is an intelligent daughter who takes time to consider her actions, thinks holistically in her approach, and challenges the status quo. Because the status quo, like me, is a loser.