Every year Fredonia gives a Male and Female Athlete of the Year award at its end-of-year gala. It’s similar to the ESPY’s, the Oscars, or any other award ceremony. The style is made for TV, and it works.
It works because we are the most individualized culture to ever exist. We each have a resume, a Twitter feed, and some of us even have websites in our name.
I want to be clear: There’s nothing wrong with this style of culture, assuming it’s making you happy. But what if it isn’t?
Consider the Bushmen of the Kalahari in Africa, one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes in the world. If a tribe member goes out hunting and comes back with a large antelope to share for dinner, rather than being praised, that member gets put down.
“That antelope isn’t that big!”, “What took you so long?”
This ritualized form of expressing jealousy is a way to remove status from the hunter. Over generations, the tribe has found that its people are happiest when no one tribesman has more status than another. They are happiest when they live in community.
Yes, we live in a culture that prizes winning, a large Twitter following, and the Valedictorian. If it makes you happy, great, but if it doesn’t, stop playing the game.
Change the culture instead.