February 3, 2019


Which ones are worth winning?

Lael Caesar

Races come in all dimensions: fast and slow; high and low; long, short and middle; Black, White, other, mixed, economic, and none of the above. Some are lost on all sides even in the presence of recognizable standards for identifying winners and losers.

Jamaican giant Usain Bolt won on land with charisma off the track and speed on the track.

Jacques Mayol won in water, the first person to reach 330 feet (100 meters) below the surface of the water without supporting equipment.1 Austrian Herbert Nitsch eclipsed him, setting multiple free diving records, including the free diving depth record in June 2012 of 831 feet (253 meters).2

Back on terra firma, there are those who compete to be the slowest on wheels, manipulating bicycle brakes and pedals to be stagnant without losing balance: the last person standing—better, sitting, on their bike—or the one farthest back from the end of the track when time’s up wins the race.

Winning at everyone else’s expense produces too much losing.

In the socioeconomic “race to the bottom”  speed is facilitated by limiting the rules, as  governments strive to attract investment in their territories by requiring a minimum of taxes and red tape within the business environment. At times, in these races to the bottom, corporations and environmentalists are seen as each other’s nemesis, and not without reason. World economic history examples signal blunders committed while competitors pursued the financial prizes attained at the bottom: the Exxon Valdez giant oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 1989; the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, April 2010; the building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 2013, that left more than 1,100 dead, principally garment workers whose low-cost production generated vast wealth for others above them up the manufacturing chain.

Racing to the bottom may spur economic investment and growth, but it rings hollow—a race where my winning costs you too much losing. For whatever the differences between athletic, ethnic, economic, and political rivalries, the values of true success are hardly served by the evolutionary option of destroying vulnerable participants.

America’s long continuing race of races remains undecided in the presence of measures of socioeconomic status [SES] for determining race outcomes. Faith in the meaning of such measures may sustain our efforts to emerge triumphant, or fuel our gloating as we flaunt our medals gained. But SES as proof of human victory reduces to absurdity the reason for existence of the human race. Correcting the wretched imbalances between teams and individuals in that particular competition is not to be found in adjusted time keeping, length of track, or depth of water; or in some fantastic new age in which positions are reversed and the long-trampled become tramplers of their former abusers. Affirming such awkward answers would validate the lamentable spirit of humanity’s first unseemly rhetorical question—the contemptuous outburst of earth’s first murderer: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Is that the way to win?

  1. Nov. 23, 1976, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Mayol.
  2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Nitsch.

Lael Caesar, associate editor of Adventist Review, loves his brothers and sisters across the world.

Lael Caesar