Everyone Deserves a Participation Trophy
Emma Lindsay

I love this article because it’s taught me a new way of seeing an old thing.

I guess what you’re saying is we need to build a society that reflects our habit of giving participation trophies, when it comes to the shit we don’t really care about.

Because, to me, that’s the real problem with a culture of unconditional validation — it doesn’t reflect the way human society works, at large. We can give out participation trophies at marathons but in the office, no gives a shit if you simply turn up every day and do nothing special.

It’s nice to believe that society should reward participation (in the form of presence of mind and body)… but I’m not convinced our universe (let alone our planet) shares the same attitude.

We are animals who have found more convenient and pleasurable ways to exist, based on subjective value systems and the progressive actions of the best among us.

We create fake values/structures so most of us can live the kinds of lives we (apparently) consider to be “better”. Society saves its attention and rewards for incentivising the people who are best at helping us achieve that goal. And the better a person is at doing this, the more incentives they get.

This is, I think, the root cause of the tension between everyone wanting to be highly valued… and everyone bestowing high value only on people who drastically enhance their lives.

If we are to accept that reward (and incentivisation) shouldn’t be rationed based on a human’s capabilities, we must also accept that the fundamental driver of human society isn’t the desire to progressively become the best of its best.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing… I’m just not sure it’s something humanity is able to do, as a collective. It seems to clash with our primary evolutionary directive — becoming better, with each iteration of our species.

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