The Trophy Generation Revisited

Consider that the rise of the Trophy Generation mentality has coincided perfectly with the repression of conflict between children as evidenced by anti-bullying and the expansion of gender and racial equality campaigns.

Maybe you have to use trophies the way the Romans used bread and circuses.  The purpose of trophy giving is not to make everyone a winner. It’s to keep anyone from feeling like a loser.  This is important because resentment is the root of violence.

The healthy loser becomes motivated by admiration for excellence and is at best a booster for the establishment.  This move, however, requires a transcendental perspective which elevates interpersonal relationships beyond the present moment, such as religion.  Most less successful individuals historically resent other people, segregating into separate groups and classes and rejecting the values and cultural practices of others by developing preferences of their own – work with your hands instead of your mind (or vice-versa depending on your historical epoch), or become scholastic if sports aren’t your thing, mutatis-mutandis.

Affect research and theorists such as Jones (Affect as Process) and Lichtenberg (Motivational Systems Theory) have pointed out that the human motivation for hierarchy and competition occurs most powerfully in latency children (~5 years to puberty), at exactly that time period during which the trophy phenomenon is most pronounced.  Could it be that the discomfort adults feel with competition is causing them to disrupt a developmental milestone?

The best criticism of this factor, adult narcissism projected onto children, is of course made by the now dormant  His critiques, however, often result in blaming baby-boomers for the problems  they themselves blame “kids-today” for.

I think a deeper perspective can be gleaned by considering that the other-hatred and powerful identifications of the latency period go underground if not allowed to develop naturally, turning into the narcissism of adults who either deny (and project) or symptomatically over-express (and deny) those most natural of human emotions – interpersonal present-moment hatred, jealousy and resentment.

The only rejoinders to this position of accepting “crass” emotions I see are the religious one, for which gods get the credit, or the neo-liberal one – for which you get a trophy.


8 thoughts on “The Trophy Generation Revisited”

      1. Well Alone picked the Last Psychiatrist because he was “the psychiatrist to the Last Man.” So what specific reason did you have behind picking your pseudonym?

        1. First, I was reading too much Nietzsche at the time I started this blog. Second, I was inspired specifically by the section called the three metamorphoses in Zarathustra – particularly that phase of the moral journey which the lion represented: “To create new values—that, even the lion cannot yet accomplish: but to create itself freedom for new creating—that can the might of the lion do. To create itself freedom, and give a holy Nay even unto duty: for that, my brethren, there is need of the lion.” Finally, I thought it was a strident and catchy name for a blog which explored some of these issues.

          1. Is there ever such a thing as ‘too much Nietzsche’? Rhetorical question, of course. I’ve been reading Nietzsche for over 25 years and have never grown satiated. To understand the world, I find no need to stray beyond Nietzsche and Heidegger. The world could use a good dose of Will to Power note 910 (‘Types of my disciples’)

            I agree with commentators stating that your style is very similar to TLP’s. Your post on the Revlon commercial is almost a mirror image of TLP’s assessment of the Dove campaign. But, regardless, as you say, identity is over-valued in today’s society.

            When will you become the child? For me, it happened after reading, and understanding, Heidegger’s 4-volume Nietzsche lectures.

  1. Alone pointed to the baby boomers as the root of the problem, but you’re suggesting they themselves could only have developed this kind of behavioural pattern by having their own natural patterns of identification supressed.

    Who – or what – surpressed them?

    Was it their parents’ generation, reacting to the effects of the second world war on culture and economic reality? Or was it – somehow – culture itself?

    Some half-assed research shows that the prime years for the Boomers was the first period in modern history to have a subcultural millieu that was based primarily on /things you buy/ rather than /things you participate in/. (Of course everyone signals to everyone forever – but it seems like this was the first point at which signalling became the primary objective rather than a side effect of doing things for another primary effect.)

    Is this shift – from authentically expressing emotions and identity through actions to inauthentically expressing ‘authenticity’ through purchase decisions – what’s behind all this? Or am I missing something?

    1. You definitely follow my thoughts and pose a great question. I don’t have my own final answer yet. I think the guys over at Generative Anthropology have pointed to the holocaust as a transformational event. Group identifications = nationalism = holocaust = nuclear war, etc. which I think is compelling. Every argument about fighting seems to lead to “because apocalypse.”

      The has pointed out many times how modern westerners seem to be trapped in binary thinking. Either we’ll have progressive eyverybody-get-along utopia or else we’ll have apocalypse – ignoring the whole range of possibilities in between.

      A good anthropological book on buying vs doing is Debt (Graber) and on economics The Making of the Indebted Man (Lazaretto).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.