Newsplaining Just because someone is winning, doesn’t mean you’re losing

It’s been an outspoken and popular point-of-view for what seems like the last decade that if you see someone is winning, that must mean you are losing. Or, in other forms of the euphemism, if you aren’t making progress or consistently winning, then you’re losing; or, the appearance of favoritism towards another means that you are in disfavor; or, if you do not act now, then you will fail.

To summarize, all these positions fall under what economists, political scientists and sociologists call the “Zero-sum game,” which, in Game Theory, means that in an interaction between two sides, one side is winning while the other is losing.

As a practical example, imagine that you are sitting at a table with another person playing a game. The game involves you both putting a penny on the table. If both pennies end up being face up, then you get to keep both pennies. However, if both pennies end up being tails, then the other person gets them.

For the last decade or so, probably originating earlier then that, our country’s politics, and thus our culture, has been morphing into these zero-sum game narratives. That if you aren’t this, then you are automatically that, and if you don’t support this, then you aren’t a real this, or aren’t a real that.

And there’s a good reason that our points of view, and the narratives that we organize our lives in are formatted that way. Most importantly, they inspire immediate reaction.

If you live your life on the basis that every decision you make decides whether or not you “succeed,” that it’s do or die, you’re more likely to be more active in your decisions, more opinionated, more vocal, etc.

Living under that paradigm is good as it encourages you, in most cases, to be better at whatever it is you set your mind to. It allows you to accomplish huge feats as well as gives you ownership of your own “destiny.” Especially in the hyper-digital age of 2017, in an era where gratification is instant, and in which we are subjected to quickness and brevity (advertisements, news stories, videos, Twitter and Facebook posts, etc.), being able to reach the modern human requires inciting a quick decision. Buy this product. Read this story. Call this number.

Unfortunately, the long-term effects of living in a zero-sum game results in the cultural and political climates we are currently enduring not only in the U.S., but also across the globe.

With the advent of cable news as well as the never-ending news cycle (or I guess, lack thereof), we are constantly subjected to our realities existing as “if we don’t act, we lose,” or “if we don’t think this, then we aren’t that.”

Now, this isn’t an indictment of one political party, one religion, one social group, one business, one organization or one person. Our circumstances are the result of our economy, our ideologies, our passions, our political system and its loopholes, our families and our behaviors — all of which are not entirely our fault.

No pun intended, but both sides promulgate the zero-sum game, and there are those that try their best to be their best, on all sides of the aisle.

The “zero-sumness” of the game we’re “playing” isn’t real, rather a method of getting a certain response.

No, voting for Donald Trump doesn’t mean you’re a racist. No, supporting single-payer healthcare doesn’t make you a communist. No, supporting open borders doesn’t make you anti-American.

Doing one thing doesn’t make you anything. Supporting one thing doesn’t discredit you. Humans have developed this notion that their opinions are directly who they are, and changing those opinions or deeply held positions, means that he or she is no longer he or she. You can change your mind. Someone offering a better rendition of your reality doesn’t mean that you were wrong. Opinions should be seen as things you keep in your backpack that can be interchangeable.

Our political system is in gridlock today because of the zero-sumness of our politics. Our leaders and media elites have framed our world in such a way that depicts our lives as zero-sum games, in which any success by someone other than the viewer means that the viewer is failing. This is done on purpose, to insight a reaction that gets the viewer to either rally against the person succeeding, or to encourage the success of the viewer himself or herself.

When you boil it down, our points of view have been hijacked to turn out votes and to complete agendas. I’ve listened to radio shows where increasing diversity in companies, schools and government is taken as the demise of the American way, when that’s not true at all. Just because there are persons from varying socioeconomic statuses, religions and skin colors making progress in America, doesn’t equate to “Americans” are on the downfall.

I’ve seen Facebook arguments in which if there is refusal to criticize a comment or point of view as racist, then the person is a Nazi. That’s not true. The zero-sum game says it’s true, but the human psyche and understanding of the world around him or her is a lot more multi-colored than black and white.

No, tightening gun loopholes in this country doesn’t mean that the government is taking your guns. Just like corporate tax reform, if done correctly, could be very profitable to consumer, government and company.

We’ve become so primed and triggered to believe that every issue is the last fight, the final fight, the only fight, to keep America as America. That’s simply not the case. We’re so distracted by the newest deterrent, the zero-sum blame game, that we’re left actually scratching our heads wondering what the hell any of it means anymore. Think about it, most Americans hate congress, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or Independent, according to the last Gallup poll in August. Most people don’t like the current administration. Most people, honestly, have no idea what’s going on. But there’s Fox News, there’s liberal Facebook activists, telling you that even if you don’t know what’s going on, you need to pick their side or you hate America.

That’s not true.

Just because someone appears to be winning, doesn’t mean you’re losing. Just like, just because someone posts they’re at a Green Bay Packers game, doesn’t mean that your life sucks because you aren’t at that game. Just like if your neighbor gets a new car, then that doesn’t mean that you aren’t driving a decent ride without monthly car payments.

Politics, media, religion and society are all clamoring to be the right side, when in reality, this isn’t a zero-sum game.