‘I learned that you always lose. Only the rascals think they win.’ This is quote from Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. ‘Rascals’ has become a cute word for a villain; but, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as ‘a mean, unprincipled person’. It’s a rather pessimistic view of life – that everyone loses; only some people don’t see it. Or perhaps Sartre is saying that if you are successful then it’s not as a result of your own efforts but of the efforts of others around you and the opportunities that come your way; so, if you think you won then you must be mean and unprincipled.
I was puzzled by the always losing until I read an Op-Ed by Lilliana Mason in the New York Times on June 7th, 2018. She explains that as individuals we hold multiple identities, as a partner, parent, employee, feminist, etc; and that some of these identities are more important to us than others. She says that, at any one time, the most important identity tends to be the one whose status is most threatened. This could make you feel as if you are always losing. In other words we tend to focus on the negative – our brains are wired to blame rather than praise [see ‘Depressed by exams‘ on January 31st, 2018 and ‘Happenstance, not engineering‘ on November 9th, 2016]. Or as my editor commented: ‘we tune into the threats in our lives – it’s a matter of survival’.
Lilliana Mason, The President’s ‘winning’ is our loss, Op-Ed, New York Times, June 7th, 2018.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea, translated by Lloyd Alexander, New York: New Directions Pub. Co., 2013.
Bruek H, Human brains are wired to blame rather than to praise, Fortune, December 4th 2015.