If No One Can Win, Everyone Loses
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 1, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
The last time I was in Ipswich, Mass., I had one of the tastiest plates of fried clams imaginable. They were fresh, full-bellied and cooked perfectly. Try getting something like this outside the Bay State.
If it weren’t for the bizarre political culture, which ranges from the Kennedys on the left to the Kennedys on the far left, Massachusetts would be a wonderful place to live, if only to enjoy the superlative seafood. I’ve thought about this a lot, and have concluded that it’s unfair. Yes, it’s not right that this little mom-and-pop place should have an advantage over restaurateurs who serve mediocre food. It’s especially unfair to restaurateurs in landlocked places such as Iowa or Nebraska, where fish sticks pretty much rule the seafood scene. To even things up, the Ipswich eatery ought to dump its clams and start serving something you can get anywhere–say, a greasy burger. Then, everyone will feel better.
I gleaned this idea from the principal of the Ipswich Middle School, David Fabrizio, who recently canceled the school’s tradition of Honors Night. That’s when top students are recognized for their scholarship. I’ll let Mr. Fabrizio explain, from the letter he sent to parents:
“The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade-point average,” Fox News reported.
In other words, because not everyone wins, no one should win. This is the liberal mantra of “equality,” which, taken to the extreme, results in regular assaults on common sense. Any parent with a child in an organized sport knows what I’m talking about. Regardless of merit, your kid can rack up a whole shelf full of trophies just for showing up. Who needs to win? The problem is that the world does not work like this. When feminists, trying to cheat nature in the name of equality, insist on giving their daughters trucks to play with and encourage their sons to find their inner mommy, they’re not preparing them for real life. When the children are directed toward games where winning doesn’t matter, they are being set up for disappointment when their boss finds their work ethic lacking.
Enforced sameness for the sake of equality breeds all sorts of unnatural outcomes. Strong-arm edicts issued under Title IX to make sports participation exactly equal for men and women on campuses, has produced a striking result: Colleges are dropping traditionally male sports as fast as they can.
“The total number of athletes, the gender ratio of the athletes in your athletic department must mirror the gender ratio of your undergraduate student population,” said Eric Pearson, chairman of the American Sports Council, which works to reform Title IX. Since female students now make up 57 percent of undergraduates, but only 43 percent of student athletes, sports such as wrestling are getting the boot.
Like children, many progressives live in the present, fixated with “equality,” and oblivious or resistant to historical norms. Even the idea of “norms” is offensive to some. The very existence of norms challenges the paramount importance that liberal culture places on self-fulfillment. Plus, it was once the norm in parts of America to own slaves and later, to put Jim Crow laws on the books, not to mention denying women the right to vote or own property. All points taken. The civil rights movement, however, created to right profound wrongs, has been hijacked by people engaged primarily in expanding government and creating dependency in the name of equality.
Along with the obsession with equality, progressives tend to embrace change, any change, that is, unless it’s toward traditional or conservative ends.
In his new book Return to Order (on which I consulted on an early draft), author John Horvat II coins a phrase to summarize our culture’s dizzying, fast-paced and increasingly unstable core: “frenetic intemperance.”
The term describes a spirit of lawlessness combined with a frantic drive to satiate desires. The result is an inability to distinguish the important from the trivial, and to surrender to “a bland secularism that admits few heroic, sublime or sacred elements to fill our lives with meaning. “Mr. Horvat, who heads the Tradition, Family and Property Commission for American Studies, says, “We do not think it is caused by our vibrant system of private property and free enterprise as so many socialists are wont to claim … . Far from promoting a free market, frenetic intemperance undermines and throws it out of balance and even prepares the way for socialism. “One manifestation of our culture’s becoming unhinged from its heritage is the recent creation of homosexual marriage. People contemptuous of the past and who yearn to evolve to some imagined ideal actually argue with a straight face (pun intended) that marriage was invented to exclude homosexuals. That was the basic finding of U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who struck down California’s voter-approved marriage amendment. Judge Walker, who has his reasons, wants the option of marrying a man instead of a woman, so he dismissed 6,000 years of history, the state constitutional amendment process and the idea of self-government. He declared that “animus” toward same-sex relationships was the reason that men have been marrying women since time began.
If you’re living solely in the present and are obsessed with faux equality, it’s necessary to deconstruct marriage, plucking it from the rich soil of kinship and making it strictly about individuals’ feelings.
However, living only in the present has some odd advantages. You can spend trillions of dollars that we don’t have and not worry about the next couple of generations who will have to pay for it all. We’re busy creating equality.
You can turn over the world’s finest health care system to the government and hope that it won’t evolve into a giant Department of Motor Vehicles with Band-Aids.
As for future generations, well, pass some clams, will you? That’s still OK for now in Ipswich.