i have issues
March 18, 2002 10:50 AM

The If Project: What if life were a competition?

I struggled a little thinking of something to write in response to this month's "if". First, the If Project site uses an anti-right click script which seems contrary to the collaborative spirit of the project and the web. And this very script not only irritated me, but also prevented my irritated self from copying the topic verbatim. Hence my paraphrasing. Ironically (or perhaps not), a similar script actually talked me out of shopping via a web catalog this weekend.

Why complicate the lives of your non-offending users, shoppers, readers in a meager attempt to block people from what they should be on their honor not to do in the first place? And then, if the theft you're worried about continues anyway (which it may, as there will always be ways to subvert the anti-right click script, the anti-view source script, and the anti-everything else script, if such a thing existed), what do you do, then? I don't know.

It worries me that the web has become too competitive, no longer built of communities of people who agree on rules without writing them.

But then. There's my life. And the other thing that made me struggle to write this: life is a competition. What do you mean, "if"?

In high school, I never placed an emphasis on grades. Mine were simply better than most. I'm not sure the placement of my grades amongst the stars of all grades ever was particularly important, but being known as smart. Smarter. Or better still, smartest. That mattered. Lacking better, more consistent evaluative measures, smart, smarter, smartest were important (as were their nebulous friends, cool, cooler and coolest).

And I'm still smarter (most of the time I think so, and think I dwell on it more than I should). And it's still not all that great [as mentioned previously]. But it still matters, because its part of my definition.

My own definition of myself has much to do with how I'm doing against the curve. What I am more or less of. The simple, vicious curves of adolescence have been replaced with success, power, even (for the odd person like me) idealism.

I grade myself on a scale of leftism. I wonder how dedicated others are, and if their causes carry more weight than mine. I grade on who knows us, on our cars, on the number of shoes in our closets, on awareness of technology and familiarity with modern art.

I adjust the scales to make me come out best. I adjust the scale to compare my car to yours; weighting anti-consumerism higher against that Lexus, gas mileage higher against that SUV, newness against that Dodge Dart. Symbolic curves, like grade point averages, are always weighted. They're statistics; they can be adjusted to give any result I need.

I'm entirely too extraverted. This is a problem. I can't evaluate myself independent of others, without competition.

But I'm working towards grading myself like an elementary school student. Comparing to my last grades, letters that represent concepts rather than numbers that represent letters that represent numbers that represent performance against everyone else.

Not 4.0. No, "Needs Improvement."

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