TUMBY BAY - One of the consistent jibes that Donald Trump liked to make about people who disagreed with him during his presidency was that they were losers.
The inference being, of course, that he was a winner.
Winning and losing are an integral part of the ideology of people like Trump.
Winning to them is all about making money. Winners are rich; losers are poor.
Beyond that narrow wealth-based view, the idea of winning and the dread of losing are concepts that permeate much of what happens in modern society.
Everything from sport to war, which are not all that different except in body counts, is calibrated on winning. Nowadays there are awards for every conceivable aspect of our lives.
There was a time, not that long ago, when a person could consider themselves successful if they mastered a particular craft or trade.
Pride in what they produced or knew wasn’t just related to the money they earned or the accolades they received. It was the satisfaction gained from navigating across a landless sea or weaving an intricate and meaningful bilum or carving a bwema [yam house] that would honour the traditions and spirit of the people.
However, in most societies nowadays, the idea of just doing something well is looked upon with disdain. If you haven’t got a medal or a trophy or a prestigious acronym to add to your name you are in danger of being seen as a loser and a failure.
In the neoliberal world, dividing society into winners and losers is useful both as an economic as well as a political tactic.
In economic terms it feeds into the aspirational urge where the acquisition of wealth and property is seen as an indication of a winning lifestyle.
Owning a big house full of stuff is held up as a measure of success. Selling people all the stuff they need to demonstrate their success in life is a lucrative business and central to the way capitalism works.
In political terms dividing a society into winners and losers is also a handy way of pitting one group of people, especially voters, against one another.
In most representative democracies the political system has gravitated into two main parties. One party represents winners and people hoping to be winners.
The other party purports to represent those people who have been temporarily left out of the paradigm and have failed to reap the rewards.
But both parties perpetuate the winner/loser ethos and in reality are little different to each other and exchangeable.
Various aberrations of this system tend to occur in developing countries.
In Papua New Guinea, for instance, a plethora of parties represent winners who don’t care much about the bulk of the population at all.
Inherent in this division is the concept of how winners and losers are treated. That winners are deserving of better treatment than losers is axiomatic.
To further this concept, certain groups in society are often singled out for categorisation into potential winners and losers.
White males are regarded as most likely to be winners while people of colour are relegated to the ranks of potential losers, most notably in the USA.
Another significant categorisation, of course, is gender.
There is a whole industry dedicated to turning losers into winners. For a price of course.
One such promoter defines the difference between a winner and a loser in these terms:
“An example of a person who is failing at life could be a homeless person, who, while having the resources, unfortunately, fell in ‘the rankings of life’ due to certain circumstances, and stayed homeless. An example of a winner could be somebody like Steve Jobs who reached the apex of his career and changed the world.”
Give us your money and we’ll turn you into a Steve Jobs is the apparent message.
Whether Steve Jobs actually changed the world is a moot point, as is the idea that being like him is a laudable aspiration. So too is the idea that lives can be ranked and that non-winners are failures.
Winners and losers is a dubious game at the best of times for the simple reason that the effort required to win is often way out of proportion to the benefits.
Further, those benefits may seem great at the time but their glow can quickly tarnish.
And who wants to be like Donald Trump anyway?