Thursday, August 28, 2008
Too Good For His Own Good
Ah, America. We have such good intentions at times. We want people to earn equal pay for equal work. We believe that people should be free to speak their minds in a public forum. We give more foreign aid to impoverished countries than any other country in the world, and encourage our citizens to follow their passions. When Jimmy Carter was done being president, he set about building houses for those in need.
These are great things.
Unfortunately, sometimes our social idealism can go a little too far. According to this story, a nine year old boy named Jericho Scott has been told that he was no longer allowed to pitch because he was too good at it, and was making players on the other teams feel bad.
If officials want to pretend that no one is keeping score in pre-school league sports (they are) that's fine. There's an argument for that kind of easing into a competitive environment. There is no good argument however, for preventing a young and talented boy from honing and enjoying his God-given talent in a forum that is there to teach the virtues of healthy competition, personal endurance, hardwork, and teamwork.
It reminds me of the classic Vonnegut story Harrison Bergeron, which begins thus:
"The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal.They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else.Nobody was quicker or stronger than anybody else.All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th ammendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General."
In the story, the strong are forced to wear weights to equalize their physical superiority. Skilled dancers must wear sandbags around their legs, over-intelligent people are fitted with collars that set off sharp noises in their heads from time to time, and beautiful people have to wear ugly masks.
I have no beef with multiculturalism. Whether you prefer our country to be a salad, with distinct ingredients, or a stew with a more homogenized flavor, so be it. If you would like to ease children into a competitive environment by teaching pure love of the game first, that is fine also. But children will have to compete eventually. Perhaps instead of teaching them the ills of competition, maybe we should teach them how to be good sports, and how to accept a challenge. Our kids will grow up in an economy based on capitalist principles. They will have to compete for jobs, mates, and parking spots. Why not teach them how to be good natured about it?
We are still animals, us humans. We're not too far out of the trees, you know. All animals compete. Young lion and bear cubs compete in ways that may appear violent to outside observers. Young humans test their mettle against each other, and eventually against authority figures, just to see what it is that they've got inside of them.
Instead of telling kids no, competing is wrong, why not answer the question they're asking with their competition? Yes, you've got it inside of you. You matter, and you have something to offer.If you don't get the result you want this time, keep trying. There's nothing wrong with getting a black eye from time to time.
Jericho Scott isn't the only one being punished by the decision to ban him from pitching. The kids he pitches against are missing their opportunity to possibly send one of those little leather missiles right back at him. Can you imagine, hitting a home run off the best pitcher in the league?
No doubt giving up a few home runs would help Jericho sharpen his own game as well.
We're not going to outpace evolution. We will always be what we are, and should feel no inclination to be anything else. There may be habits and inclinations and actions that we would be better suited to curb, but largely whether or not we should do so is up to us, individually. To all of those out there who would call people to forsake themselves and aspire towards some higher ideal by fully disconnecting from our true nature, I offer this quotation:
"...No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. There is an obvious retort to this, but one should be wary about making it. In this yogi-ridden age, it is too readily assumed that "non-attachment" is not only better than a full acceptance of earthly life, but that the ordinary man only rejects it because it is too difficult: in other words, that the average human being is a failed saint. It is doubtful whether this is true. Many people genuinley do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human."-George Orwell, from his essay, "Reflections on Gandhi".