Interlude: Silver

I’m feeling out the potential for an ongoing pages-by-pages analysis of Ender’s Game, and in general the energies I might otherwise use for blogging are not being spent on blogging right now, so things have been slow, but I had this sitting in the queue.  And I’m kind of delighted juxtaposing this with Ender’s Game, so here, have a this while I go back to structuring my ravings.

(Content: ranting, squares that you must click.)

So there was this argument, the exact subject of which doesn’t particularly matter (which is good, because it was something deeply meaningless about a video game), but it stuck in my head because it’s the latest place I heard a particular sentiment – a ghoul of a sentiment, a shambling persistent wrongness that should have long been dead but isn’t.  Someone was complaining about the idea of a runner-up prize when there’s a contest and the winner only makes it by a very narrow margin.

Their claim was thusly: in real life, second place is still a loser.  Second best means nothing.

Which is stupid.  If you realise that right off the bat, then you can spend the rest of this post, I don’t know, clicking the squares.  (Or come back to that after you finish reading.  But at some point you should definitely click the squares.)

If you are not fully convinced that this is stupid right off the bat, let me begin by assuring you that I’m not getting all participation-ribbon about this or saying that what matters most is that you tried.  (Trying does matter, but even if you think it doesn’t, the  italicised bit above remains incredibly stupid.)  This isn’t about comforting the losers.  This is simple fact.  The only ways one can think that second best is irrelevant is by being a narcissistic sociopath or completely unaware of how human society functions.

The second-best programmer writes elegant code that lets people transmit, process, and protect information better than we ever could before, saving time, bringing knowledge, maybe saving lives.

The second-best prosecutor makes sure that powerful criminals are still held accountable for their crimes.

The second-best surgeon saves lives like we change socks.

The second-best cook?  You would weep to taste their masterpieces.

The second-best astrophysicist?  Would blow your mind with the things they’ve discovered about the fundamental nature of the universe.

The second-best sprinter?  Already lapped you once.  Second time for me.

The second-best farmer?  Fucking feeds people.

This obsession with winning is largely born out of sports, because, near as I can tell, the only point in being at the top there is to be at the top, so if you can’t get everyone to agree that is super-important, it starts to feel kind of pointless.  I like the Olympics, I like the athletes, but the medals are the least-interesting possible part of the system to me.  Every last one of those Olympians would kick all of our collective coccyges every time.  Hell, the people who didn’t even quite qualify to compete would devastate us.  The only ones who were good enough to beat them were freaking Olympians.  Have you seen what those people can do?

The next time you hear someone opine that second place is first loser, I’d appreciate it if you could ask them for examples and then relay those on to me, because I am pretty stumped.  Second best is amazing.