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Victory is a term describing success and dominance in a competitive environment, and generally denotes a state of being characterized by feelings of superiority and an attitude of derisive condescension. Those who have achieved victory are called victors, or, more commonly, winners, and the state of being presently engaged in achieving victory is called winning. Due to the origins of victory - that is, because victory is achieved through competition - it is always accompanied by a parallel state of being called defeat, the agents of which are called losers. The prevalence of victory is ever-increasing in modern society, though some have argued that this may not be due to an increasing aptitude within the human race, but rather due to an increasing tendency toward rewarding of mediocrity. Studies to this effect have been inconclusive, however, because researchers were awarded a gold star for conceiving them and decided to quit while they were ahead.
Victory as a concept goes back to the very dawn of mankind, when God created humans to win a bet he had made with Satan. As the product of victory, thus, humans have always been preoccupied with exceeding this victory that is at the very core of their being, thus achieving victory over God. In the earliest societies, all activity was run by the males; also in early society, all anybody had any proficiency in was fighting and fucking. Because no man can ever win at sex, the first instances of victory in mankind were achieved through warfare. The word "victory" itself comes from victoria, Latin for "Queen of England" (so named because, believe it or not, there was a time when England was quite successful).
As civilization took root, the principles of battle began to be applied to all human undertakings. Though the primary defining characteristic of humankind remained belligerence, artistic and scholarly undertakings began to be judged in the same terms as warfare, as evidenced by the following discussion of Greek philosophy by the great Roman orator Cicero:
|Socrates was the first who brought philosophy down from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil. In short, Socrates 1, Sophists 0. Suck it, Protagoras!|
—Cicero, De victor philosophia Graecis (On Ownage in Greek Philosophy)
Soon, Western civilization had fully developed, with judgement based on victory firmly established in its zeitgeist. Throughout antiquity, sports, religion, and government were all invented through the common principle that life could be measured solely through victory and defeat. It is a notion that remains unchallenged to this day - mostly because anyone that says otherwise is a fucking loser.
Victory in Religion
Religion is a peculiar institution because it has not even come close to wiping itself out despite its best efforts at self-obliteration. Because it has such a strong foothold in society, it is an excellent barometer for culture as a whole.
The very first religions were polytheistic, which means they celebrated many gods and showcased people's unfailing tendency to assume that everything that they are even remotely aware of is exactly like them in every way. As such, the earliest gods showcased the uniquely human traits of jealousy, lust, violence, anger, and, occasionally, virtue. As the ancient equivalent of Twilight with the uncanny caveat that nobody realized it was terrible, early religion was filled with victory and defeat. For example, in Mesopotamian religion, father god Marduk killed mother goddess Tiamat and used her body to create both heaven and earth - a victory for domestic abusers everywhere - and military conquests were explained as the victory of Assyrian gods over the gods of the conquered people.
This image of victory and defeat among the pantheon of gods was not only found within the temples of future terrorists; Ancient Greek and Roman mythology is filled with tales of how the Olympians defeated the Titans, how Jason and the Argonauts were victorious over a Golden Fleece (seems like a foregone conclusion, but hey, it was a different time), how Oedipus conquered his mother, and, of course, how Daedalus and Icarus escaped from imprisonment. Daedalus built a great labyrinth called The Labyrinth in order to imprison the minotaur, a half-man half-bull creature born out of a sexy sexy liaison between the Queen of Crete and a particularly attractive white bull (seems like it couldn't happen, but hey, it was a different time). Unfortunately, Daedalus' brilliance at architecture didn't extend to the always-important realm of not being a dipshit, and he himself got stuck in his labyrinth along with his son Icarus. In a moment of mad genius, he constructed wax-and-feather wings (seems like it wouldn't work, but hey, it was a different time) for himself and Icarus; with these they were able to fly over the sea and away from the hideous disgusting abomination at the center of the Labyrinth labyrinth. Icarus, displaying his father's inability to not be retarded, flew too close to the sun despite his father's warnings not to; his wings melted and he fell "like a stone" into the sea below. Thus, the story is a great tale of victory: the victory of the Sun over stupidity.
Jews have a bad reputation. Between controlling all finances in the world with an iron fist, giving us Jackie Mason, having simply absurd hair, and being dirty without exception, it seems as if they can't catch a break. Appearances, of course, can be deceiving. In this situation, though, they aren't; Jews really can't catch a break. In the 4000 years since Abram became Abraham which was apparently a big deal, Jews have been in and out of slavery and subjugation. From Egypt to Assyria to Babylonia to Persia to Germany, the history of the Jewish people has been filled with ephemeral victories (Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt) followed by a more permanent state of defeat (Moses leading the Israelites into a desert for forty years and then dying before reaching their destination). With the relatively modern advent of "tolerance," the anti-Semitism at the root of this state of being has decreased quite drastically, and now it can be said that being Jewish is NOT an impediment to achieving victory. Still, forty years is a long time...
According to about two billion people, the first Jew to win at anything was a man from Nazareth named Jesus. Jesus is the central figure of Christianity, who is traditionally believed to have risen from the dead three days after being crucified for sedition against the Roman Empire (or being the Son of God, but it's really the same thing when you get right down to it). To see how victory fits into this story, one need look no further than the Christian holy texts:
|Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.|
—Saul/Paul of Tarsus, First Letter to the Corinthians
The passage above is not just a good example of why thesauruses should exist, and it also isn't made up. It is, in fact, the work of one of the most beloved, respected, and oft-quoted theologians in all of Christianity, Saul, whose name became Paul which was apparently a big deal, of Tarsus. This conception of Christianity-as-victory is therefore an indelible part of Christian identity. Christians have a particularly easy time with claiming victory because literally everything can be called a victory if it is compared to Jesus' victory. So, a Christian can (1) renounce all his possessions, (2) be universally hated, (3) get arrested, and (4) die a horrifying and undignified death, all without having to concede defeat. The one blemish on this record is the fragmentation in the Christian religion caused by the Schism of 1054 and the Protestant Reformation, but it's cool because the final victory belongs to everyone who gets to listen to one sect talk about the other.
Other, less important religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Atheism also discuss victory in their dogma, but because it really gets repetitive after a while, they will each be dealt with swiftly. A very integral aspect of Islam is the concept of jihad, which means "struggle," and depending on how hateful a particular commentator is, can mean anything from a personal striving toward better faith all the way to the complete eradication of all those who refuse to be Muslim. Thus, the goal of Islam may be classified as winning at jihad. Please don't kill me. Hinduism and Buddhism are similar in that they both came to existence on the Indian subcontinent and deal with reincarnation; therefore, they are therefore almost one in the same. Their handling of reincarnation is their primary difference: Hinduism says that existence is essentially a cycle of reincarnations that may or may not eventually end in a reunification with the great spirit of the universe, while Buddhism says that existence is a cycle of reincarnation that must be escaped through asceticism. Hindu reincarnation is more focused on living a good life, thereby building up good karma and subsequently being reincarnated as a desirable being; basically, winning at life. Buddhists believe that physical life is something that can be escaped if one becomes holy enough, mostly through meditation; therefore, Buddhist victory is winning at meditation. Finally, Atheism is a belief that human intellect has won out over stupid dumb God believers - winning at condescension.
Victory in Sports and Politics
It may, at first, seem unusual to group sports and politics together under one heading, but consider the following:
- Both involve a large hierarchy of competition starting locally and ending on the national and international stages.
- Both require a certain amount of soul-selling to get to the top
- Both involve people giving the citizenry exactly what they want, or at least pretending to.
The only difference is that more people care about sports than politics, which is unsurprising given the relative levels of attractiveness of the participants.
Games of baseball are about three hours long, on a good day. During the course of those three hours, a baseball is in play for roughly ten minutes. The first victory, then, belongs to the team owners who make fans pay more than $10 for a ticket to see grown men spit on the ground - though the fact that baseball fans actually enjoy it means that this victory probably should go to whatever the personification of stupidity is. Along those same lines, the average salary of an MLB player is just over $3 million, granting the second victory to the players, who have won out over the millions of unemployed factory workers who had the audacity to choose a career path that wasn't a game. The third victory, of course, goes to whichever team wins a given game, series, and title. Baseball is a convenient scapegoat, but every victory mentioned here also applies to any sport imaginable (except the Lingerie Football League, obviously).
Many athletes, not content with simply winning at their game, have decided that even their own bodies are opponents to be defeated. This has led to the relatively recent development within sports is the phenomenon of athletes abusing performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids, human growth hormone, and Viagra. The problem that most performance-enhancing athletes face is that nature gave them a raw deal; when they were born, they were hardwired with certain limits that protect them from such trivial things as "having a body too massive for one's frame" and "losing the ability to feel" by preventing excess hormones from building up. Of course, what many would view as a mechanism that is, at the very least, imprudent to tamper with, many athletes have taken as a challenge; as a result, performance enhancing drug abuse is common. Side effects include acne, high blood pressure, violent mood swings, liver damage, and Small Penis Syndrome. This seemingly Pyhrric victory has attracted increased attention as more and more people have gotten caught, and while many efforts to ban these illegal substances from use, indifference has thus far won out among the public.
Politics is essentially the sport of competitive lying, so most victories that apply to sports can also apply to politics, though the only performance enhancing drug known to politicians is Protestantism (being white is also said to help). A further victory for politicians is over the truth, which is widely known to be optional. For instance, when Richard Nixon uttered his famous statement, "I am not a crook," he knew fully that he was, at the very least, a very smarmy and shady human being. When it was later revealed that he was, indeed, something of a crook, the shock and awe that rippled through the American consciousness was not because anybody was surprised by the fact that a politician had lied, but rather that he had actually been caught in that lie and that the truth had won. Truth's win-loss percentage is truly infinitesimal, partly because lying is necessary to protect a country's citizenry from the full horror brimming in the seedy underbelly of the world, partly because morally upright people have better things to do than get papercuts until maybe they're nominated for high office, and partly because almost everyone in the world is an idiot.
Victory in the Future
The world has become more and more victory-obsessed. What began as a measure of military success has proliferated so extensively that there now exists a game with no objective except to win and no rules except that one can never think about it. Studies have shown that victory has even entered into what was previously thought to be the most hopelessly lost realm in the world, nursing homes. Competitions such as most bingo games won, most hooligans reprimanded, and most hilarious grouchy outbursts have been noted by Old People Quarterly, the leading periodical in the field, with predictions that the elderly will soon engage in "fastest to die" competitions as well. Reality television has made even the most menial tasks into cutthroat struggles; already lined up for next season are such future hits as Everyday Life Island, Chu Choo, in which Asian opponents compete to create the slowest toy train, and The Apprentice.
Who is to blame for this bleak future? Experts still don't know, but rumors have surfaced that there is a $1 million reward for the first person to find the answer. One thing is certain: even if the solution is somehow unearthed, we will still live in a bipolar society that is enraptured by winning.