The win-lose society
Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” poses a few interesting questions, but one that sticks with me is: Who do I think society’s “losers” are?
Loser. The word is an enemy to us as early as elementary school, or once we learn to crave social acceptance. In the movie, it’s thrown around by almost all of the main characters, each time targeting someone else: the rich widow uses it against her sister’s emotional, working-class boyfriend while the boyfriend uses it against the widow’s financially crooked husband. So who’s the biggest loser? The poor guy or the rich? The one who doesn’t work hard enough? Look pretty enough? Have good social standing? The definition depends on who’s talking. Actually, it only reveals more about the accuser – what they think makes someone less and, by contrast, what makes them more.
I left the theater thinking about how I judge myself, and subsequently how I judge others. This past year, for example, I learned how deeply I can resent myself when I feel my work performance is low. My self-respect dipped dangerously low a few times, suggesting I value people based on productivity way more than I thought. I’d never consciously say bad workers are “losers,” but if that’s how I view myself…? What are the consequences of that? Can I assume hands-down I accept everyone on their inherent value – as God’s children – when I can’t even accept myself that way? Dubious. It’s all been very eye-opening about how much I accept grace and how much more I need to give out. I imagine I’ll face this issue for years to come, as long as I live in a society that says it loves all, but tends to love certain kinds of people the most.
“The Great Gatsby” and “Great Expectations” are other works of fiction that I recall examine social structures, how people are valued, and judgments of society’s “winners” and “losers.” It’s not the prettiest picture, to say the least, but it ultimately points us back to the only truth that loves us regardless of what we do. I think it’s written at the bottom of all In-N-Out cups – John 3:16, I believe? (Maybe I need to confirm with a visit to In-N-Out soon, hehe.)