Sunday, February 07, 2010


As quoted from my favourite author:

Living (conjugally) with someone whose first language and culture is not your own has a lot to commend it as a life experience. Assuming you have the sensitivity--and you'd better!--to learn that other language and culture to a decent level, the gains are enormous. With your newly acquired fluency comes a whole extra cultural space, a new room in your mind into which you can step sideways and view the commonplaces of your life through other eyes. In my case, the life partner is my wife Virginia and the other language is Spanish, and it was through both of these that I took a long, hard analytical look at what has to be one of the most obnoxious words in the English language--the word loser .

"Luck is variable, ephemeral even, and success depends upon it more than we can generally bring ourselves to admit."--Richard K. Morgan

Loser translates into Spanish easily enough--perdedor . But if you ask Spanish people (of my generation, anyway) to say what a perdedor actually is, you'll get some blank looks. Perdedor , loser , means, well it means someone who just lost, someone who came off worse in, for example, a game of chess. As with most games, there's a winner (ganador ) and there's a loser (perdedor ). But that's it, it depends on context--the word perdedor can't be attached to someone as an epithet, a sort of intrinsic quality that follows that person around for their whole life. The guy who loses the aforementioned game of chess may then wander off and beat someone else at tennis. The guy who loses that tennis match might just have landed the promotion of a lifetime. And one of the other guys whose resume didn't make that particular grade may be a superlative sax player in his spare time--as well as also beating our original loser at chess.

There's an intrinsic humanity in this view of things that I like, an understanding that life is chaotic and not at anyone's beck and call. Some you win, some you lose. Some days you can, some days you can't, and everybody has those bad days. Luck is variable, ephemeral even, and success depends upon it more than we can generally bring ourselves to admit. And the word loser , with its sneering assumption that we are somehow divided (Genetically? Socially? Ecclesiastically?) into those who will always win and those who are condemned forever to lose, and worse still that the recipients of these labels somehow deserve them--this word is anathema to such a human (and humane) outlook on life. Woven into the cultural fabric of a society, it promotes arrogance in those who succeed and self loathing in those who do not, it makes every competitive moment into a measure of personal worth, and it makes competitive success the only measure of worth. It blatantly ignores the fact that in order for there to be a winner--at anything --there has also to be a loser, maybe many losers, and that statistically we are all likely to find ourselves in the ranks of the latter far more often than we are among the former. And, finally, it--the epithet and the philosophy behind it--flies in the face of the humbling hard fact that one day in our future we all, each one of us, inescapably, lose everything and forever.

Loser--don't use it. Because one day it'll be you.

--Richard K. Morgan , 2005

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1 comment:

  1. Soy un perdedor
    I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?


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