Which nations citizens are the nicest
We are all losers
I have a weakness for losers - invalids, foreigners, the fat ones in class and everyone with whom no one dances. Peter Høeg, Miss Smilla's flair for snow
The earth is a planet of disappointment. We are pursued by bad luck, shaken by fate, avoided by luck in the lottery, ripped off by fellow men; we fail, we embarrass ourselves; in the rat race of all against all, it is our lot that we run under "further ran". While the species “human” struts through evolution as a lonely victor, nothing happens more likely to the individual earth inhabitant than failure. Of course, there are also winners. But their share in human society - always small - has shrunk dramatically in the last century. We still know it, the duel in which only one loser meets a winner: in boxing, in chess, in Wimbledon, in the election of Chancellor or President. One can speak of a halfway balanced world order, however terrible the fate of the vanquished might be: when Achilles pierced Hector's throat before Troy, he pierced Hector's feet, pulled thongs made of bull skin through them and dragged the corpse behind his chariot Whipping the horses to pace (Homer reprimanded the "shameful outrage" and described it with delight). But the fact that only two share triumph and shame has long since become the exception: Today, a victory usually produces many defeats. On the one hand, this is a mere calculation example. The three medals for the best in the 100-meter run are currently fifty times as many Olympic fighters as in 1896, but three medals have remained. A country may have five times as many inhabitants today as in the 19th century and a hundred times as many citizens who are well educated enough to govern it - but the country cannot afford five prime ministers or even a hundred. On the other hand, and much more serious: The proportion of those who suffer from the fact that they are not winners has multiplied since the competition has dominated our working life, our thinking, our will, and has been praised as the elixir of life of a better world order. Up to the threshold of the 20th century, most people regarded it as the unalterable, often the divine course of things, to be poor, to be servant and to remain so. The poor did not see themselves as losers, but as part of a completely natural arrangement of earthly conditions. For us, however, the race for money, power, fame, honor and medal has become a mass sport, inevitably with a terrible majority of those who have lost their way and who have struggled with fate or consider themselves failures - whether they are instead of their hated colleagues To see honored or promoted, as once cheerful company founders stumble towards bankruptcy or as a cost factor that has been rationalized away, sneaking home unemployed. In all of this, a classic consolation has been knocked out of our hands: that the blame for failure lies in an incomprehensible world order, in a rotten society. Equal opportunity! we hear preaching - all doors are open to you, if you are just an expert and seriously want to get up! This results in feelings of inferiority that once hardly existed, and self-reproaches that no poor devil had previously had to make. We don't know anything about most of the losers on earth - except that they belong. Who are they all, those who submit without complaint, who are content with themselves and with life even after they have suffered the usual blows in their necks? Where do they live, the many who don't even know what they're missing out on? Certainly there are innumerable talents slumbering in the Third World who lack any chance for development - for example little Mozarts who never compose because they were not born as the son of a conductor in Salzburg, but as the child of a Chinese rice farmer. There are also the innumerable who suffer their failures in secret from the outset: the spurned lovers. The wallflowers who wait in vain all their lives for the one they want to pamper. The brilliantly trained opera singers who thirst for Bayreuth or Milan, but are only allowed to sing in the choir of the Darmstadt State Theater or who ruin their throats on the Jungfernstieg. The busy writers who never find a publisher to finally discover them. The countless people who dream of more radiant partners, more successful children, fancier cars or of becoming a star, boss or at least chief accountant. And finally there is the multibillions of the collectively humiliated: the oppressed and battered, the Indians, blacks, Aborigines, the hungry, cripples, pariahs of this earth; the beaten women, the persecuted minorities, those harassed by despots - all the labored and burdened ones whom Jesus promised to refresh. The big losers stand out from this mass of anonymous suffering primarily because we know them. Ferdinand Lassalle, for example, who founded the first workers' party on earth in 1863 - but he wasted his life in a duel for the sake of a love affair, and Karl Marx cheated on him for world fame, for whom Lassalle was "a curly-haired nigger Jew". Or Mikhail Gorbachev - celebrated in the West as the great liberator, perhaps even the savior of the world from nuclear war; despised in Russia as the one who slipped an empire between his fingers. Or Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, who as a young poet and playwright was compared to Goethe, even mistaken for it - for which Goethe persecuted him with cold hatred; Lenz died in Moscow in the gutter. Or Lise Meitner, who first had to explain to her partner Otto Hahn that what he had discovered unsuspectingly was the splitting of the atomic nucleus; but Hahn and only he received the Nobel Prize for it. So the losers don't have to be more sympathetic to us. If they are angry, if they are dogged, what they have in common with the winners is that we usually find them intolerable in private. We like those who don't even struggle to get to the top; but good losers are perhaps the nicest people around: they smile. Winners grin. Or is the good loser "one of those noble characters who should be suspicious to us", as the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in its "Streiflicht"? Most of the time he is a boring person! “Such people play tennis to be in the fresh air, not to destroy their opponent.” The ridicule makes it clear to whom the prize is due. In the circus the good loser is institutionalized, in fairy tales he enchants us. The clown makes a show of the fact that everything fails for him, that he is mocked and duped - and that he either endures this happily or makes us laugh with his tears. "Hans im Glück" exchanges a lump of gold for something less (gold for horse, horse for cow, cow for pig, pig for goose) until it ends at a whetstone; and when he falls into the well, Hans is glad that he doesn't have to carry anything anymore, yes he thanks God in tears: “There is no one under the sun as happy as me.” With a new category of losing In 1992, after Gorbachev's overthrow, Hans Magnus Enzensberger came on the scene: He recommended honoring Gorbachev as a “hero of the retreat”, as one of the “demolition specialists” who had received too little thanks so far. Clement Attlee, British Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, because he liquidated the British colonial empire, and Charles de Gaulle, because he liquidated the French colonial empire. It would be a nice excess of the imagination to imagine an Abraham Lincoln who would have simply let the southern states go instead of forcing them to stick with it with blood and iron! Saving the unity of the Union was his declared aim - "with or without slavery," writes the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Without the terrible civil war, slavery would soon have been reduced to absurdity (Brazil was the last Christian country to abolish it in 1888) - and 620,000 soldiers would not have died, millions of families would not have been destroyed, flourishing countries would not have been devastated. And today's area of the USA would be shared by two nations; one of them possibly one of the most pleasant countries on earth. Nothing would be worse than a world full of winners. It is the losers who make life bearable. The author is a journalist and language critic. His new book “The Big Losers” will be published by Rowohlt in July
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