Success without honour

by Nalini Haynes

‘Success without honor is an unseasoned dish. It will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.’ – Joe Paterno, 1973

This is an interesting quote from a disgraced icon of US college sport. I would tend to disagree with this in that there is no satisfaction of hunger to those without honour. I remember many years ago being told that my former step-father was going to ‘have to sell a piece of one of his properties to make ends meet’ during a downturn in the abalone industry. My response? ‘Maybe he should just stop staying in 5 star hotels.’ This is only one example of many that could be cited to show that successful people are often dissatisfied, hence the analogy of success not satisfying their hunger.

On the other hand, success with honour is satisfying and is a dish that tastes good. Some people speak up when others are backstabbed at work, even when that is to their personal detriment. The result? Being able to look at yourself in the mirror, being able to sleep well at night in the long-term (even if the short term is somewhat stressful). Several years ago, someone shared technological information in a workplace that tended to be secretive and competitive. The team of which he was part developed a good working relationship of sharing. Later he stood up for his supervisor who was being used as a scapegoat. He was the next scapegoat, but that was ok – he got another job elsewhere. He offered to stay with that employer but the boss wasn’t interested. He moved on, but stayed in contact with his colleagues at work. They had such a good relationship, they invited him to join them for lunch from time to time. What is this if not success that not only satisfies but also tastes good?

Life is like a roller coaster, with its ups and downs. One of the themes I have found is that you can care for your community (friends, neighbours, colleagues) and your environment, creating a better world for you to live in. Or you can choose to compete, be divisive, climb the greasy pole over the bent and bloody backs of others. And as they say, the people you meet on your way up the mountain are the same ones you meet on your way back down. Our choices have consequences, both in the short and long term.

How does this relate to science fiction and fantasy and art you ask? I enjoy SF/Fantasy and art that delves into life issues, with choices. The protagonist doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s better if he/she isn’t, but, at least occasionally, makes poor choices, and suffers for those choices. I’m not perfect so I don’t want to read about people who are apparently perfect. I want to be taken on a journey, not just an adventure, but a journey of self-discovery and growth. I want heroes who inspire me and conspire with me to learn and evolve. This makes the most far-flung or far-fetched story real and immediate.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 6, November 2011.  This blog post has been pre-dated to reflect the original publication date.