Borderline sociological alert. I’ve posted before about America loves an underdog. There have been countless books, movies, and plays of where the underdog wins, or at least gets close enough to where it is a measure of success, uplifting, and often transformative. In modern times, there is no better example of a movie than “Rocky”, the “underdog” movie for ten Oscar nominations as well. Even though the running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum as the theme song soars is the most famous scene, there is a particularly poignant one the night before the infamous fight is to take place. Rocky is in bed with Adrianne. He admits he thinks he can’t win, but he wants “to go the distance” – as in making it all fifteen rounds. “No one has ever gone the distance with him,” he says. That, he recognizes would be a measure of success – not the win, but an acknowledged feat nonetheless. In the brutal last rounds both boxers have their own understanding of why they won’t allow the fight to be stopped.
The difference in the underdog and the individual who clings to victim status is the willingness to endure difficulty because of a belief one can “win” in whatever term that is. Maybe not the “big prize”, maybe instead something lesser, yet notable. I do not for one moment make light of those who are genuine victims – and sadly, there are so very many. Those, however, who hold they can’t overcome odds or they can only be successful if they quickly attain a status they define are not the same. In the work I do for the community paper, I interview a wide variety of individuals who begin life under terrible circumstances or encounter unforeseen and tragic situations that upend their lives. Often, not only do they persevere, but they then establish non-profit groups to help others. On the opposite side of the coin for example, are those who are regulars at food kitchens for years, unwilling to seek help that is available.
If one wishes to help and make the world “better”, recognizing the difference is important as a starting point.