We are the champions – my friends, and we’ll keep on fighting till the end. We are the champions. We are the champions. No time for losers, ‘cause we are the champions – of the world. Who can forget the words from Queen’s 1977 power ballad.
Yesterday in London, Florida’s Ryan Lochte won the first Olympic gold medal for team USA. Hopefully, this will be the first of many medals for team USA, and as the London Olympic Games go forward, it is certain the Americans, as well as citizens of all of the 205 countries and territories sending teams to the games will take pride in the achievements of their athletes.
But will everyone root for these athletes? Honestly, even the competitor who comes in last in the Olympic Marathon, or touches the wall last in the 200 meter freestyle, or throws the shortest shot put will be one of the top one percent of those who participate in their particular sport – and they are sure to be one of the top one percent fastest swimmers, runners or throwers in the world. I would think that the kids who were getting stoned and sleeping in Zuccotti Square while they “occupied Wall Street” would despise these competitors – after all, Olympic athletes are the embodiment of the one percent?
I would hate to live in a world without the one percent. Think of basketball without Wilt Chamberlin, or Kobe Bryant. What about baseball without Derek Jeter, or Lou Gehrig or Jackie Robinson, or football without the Manning brothers? I know it would not be much fun to watch me running hurdles in the Olympics – ok it might be funny but not all that exciting.
Ok, so the stoners occupying Wall Street might argue that sports is different. I mean, these people have god-given gifts don’t they? Well of course they do. You can’t win 16+ medals in swimming like Michael Phelps if you don’t have a cardiac system that is much more powerful than average. But the one percent is not just important in sport. Think of Stephen Hawking and Peter Higgs in theoretical physics, Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall in economics, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in political philosophy, Leonardo Da Vinci and Pablo Picasso in art, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Pete Townsend in music or Sam Clemens and William Shakespeare in literature. Are not all of these people part of the one-percent, and would not the world be worse without them?
Yes, the occupiers might say, but again, these are special people – they have god given talents as well. Ok, I agree they do but even in the most mundane of occupations, there are always the one-percenters:
– Politics – Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Moynahan.
– Military – Dwight Eisenhower, Ulysses Grant, Cincinnatus.
– Business – Steve Jobs, Thomas Watson, Andrew Carnegie
– Food – Auguste Escoffier, Julia Child, Alain Ducasse
– Invention – Thomas Edison, Willis Carrier, Edward Lowe (cat litter)
– Architecture – Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Imhotep
We are fortunate that all fields, all businesses, all endeavors have their one-percenters, and that we do not have to live in a world of mediocrity where everyone is the same, and where the ideas, inventions and accomplishments do not exist. It simply terrifies me that a political movement, or for that matter a political campaign, can be based on the denigration of accomplishment and the celebration of mediocrity.
Would it not be better to celebrate champions, and try to live by the Olympic motto hendiatris Citius, Altius, Fortius, “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”