Losing, floundering, getting defeated, they are synonymous with failure, the side of the disagreement that goes home with nothing. It lowers heads as self-esteem is buried under the realization that the fight was all for nothing, and on the macro-level, this self-deprecation can lead to further conflict that results in atrocities that scar the face of the earth and human history.
The best example of this downward spiral is Germany following their humiliating loss to the Allied Powers in World War I. The Jewish people were assigned as the scapegoat for their problems, resulting in one of the most inhumane events of all time.
After all, losers are looked down upon. They are not worthy of our time and effort because they simply cannot produce at the same level as the victor.
This focus on winners is a common theme found throughout modern society.
For example, some professional athletes are defined by their ability to win. When sports analysts examine whether a player is truly deserving of merit or a high scouting grade, they go into arbitrary metrics such as whether or not they have the “clutch gene” or a “winner’s mentality.”
However, this cynical approach to losing is far too extreme because after all how is one supposed to learn if they are not ever proven wrong. As a result, the same can be applied to larger communities across the globe who have faced terrible losses in wars and other conflicts, creating a culture shock that allows for growth, maturity and progressivism.
Following defeat and humiliation in World War II, Japan was not too worried about cultural introspection as it needed to rebuild its shattered infrastructure and meet the needs of its starving population. However, in the years following the war’s end, men like Osamu Tezuka intertwined Japan’s despondency with their culture.
With the growing success of cartoons in America, Tezuka used comics as a method of expression, creating an industry that reflected the loss and humiliation of Japan during the 1950s and 60s. This introspection became engrained in Japanese culture as both the younger and older generations during the time were able to relate to the themes of loss as Japan struggled to find identity and direction for the future; hence, anime became a central fixture of Japanese culture.
In contrast, the workings of Walt Disney, during a time of great resurgence in American culture as the Great Depression had begun to fade in the background and the United States had just helped save the world from German and Japanese imperialism, underscored the success and revival of America.
American cartoons were filled with songs, happy-endings and themes of being yourself, staying happy and other childish tropes that one sees in modern cartoons. They reflected a thriving culture while Japanese anime highlighted a culture shrouded in regret but also hope for a brighter future, one separated from the corruption and violence of the mid 1900s.
Furthermore, the effect on culture can be much less obvious. In a paper for the Journal of Economic Perspectives, it was concluded that war united communities through increased trust and a willingness to be more generous to their neighbors.
Following tragedies in countries like Sierra Leone, Nepal, and Uganda earlier this decade, the citizens became more involved in politics and became committed to altruism over selfishness. Thus, the habits of those stricken by the effects of war will likely pass on their tendencies to future generations, creating a culture built upon humility and community.
In this way, obligations to generosity and community-building appear not to be rooted in selfishness but rather a need to unite and meet the desires of the collective. In turn, it is important to recognize that sometimes a war-torn nation does not need the help of outside forces to rebuild its culture and social tendencies.
In the case of Japan, the creation of anime helped provide hope to a culture that had lost its identity, highlighting a need for change and maturity. Moreover, following the end of recent conflicts, communities have become more civically active, generous and trusting.
Hence, sometimes losing might just be the best remedy for progressivism.