Change the odds
Not every defeat, in love or in politics, is unfair. Sometimes we need to face up to our failures, move on and do better next time, writes Assem El-Kersh
In love and war, in business and politics, defeat is a cruel but potentially helpful teacher. In football or elections, we have to have winners and losers at the end of the day. And everything depends on how we react to victory or defeat.
The worst thing is when losers begin challenging the verdict of the court, the count of the polling stations, or decision of the referee. A loser who blames everyone but himself, who sees nothing but conspiracy and intrigue all around, has no hope of learning anything.
In the first round of Egypt's presidential elections, 13 candidates entered the race, with 50 million voters to decide their fate. Of those 13, we all knew in advance that only two would make it into the run-off. These were the rules and everyone was clear about them. No one objected to them.
No one mentioned a presidential council, as three losing candidates later on demanded. Before the elections started, the rules of the game were never in doubt. Now, after the game is over, some of the participants want the rules changed.
In the Arab world, and in other parts of the Third World, we don't seem to learn from defeat. We don't spend any time looking into the reasons others moved ahead while we lag behind. Our history is strewn with victories that didn't happen and catastrophes that went unrecognised.
Instead of admitting defeat, we prefer to live in denial. We'd rather pretend that our defeats haven't happened to keep leaders unperturbed and the people quiet. The fact that this is the shortest way to another defeat doesn't seem to disturb us.
History is full of lovers who went mad rather than admit that they are not loved in return. It is full of politicians who'd rather die in infamy -- like Gaddafi -- than admit to the error of their ways.
Africa was the last continent in the world to embrace democracy, and yet it is still victim to military coups, civil wars, and pointless land grabs. Its fate is not going to improve unless its leaders know how to step out of the way gracefully when the time comes to do so, just like France's Nicolas Sarkozy did in the recent elections.
Congratulating his socialist rival, Sarkozy said that the defeat was his fault alone and that the nation should welcome the new president with open arms. This is the spirit of fair play, the spirit that keeps some nations ahead irrespective of the differences in their ranks.
In the West, leaders step down when the time comes to do so. Generals resign when they lose in battle. In Japan, it used to be that officials would suicide when things went wrong on their watch.
Europe, we all know, has its share of sore losers, but mostly in football, and it isn't a good sight. But as a whole, people are willing to play by the rules and accept the outcome of the game.
Losers must learn not to burn bridges with their opponents, because it is not uncommon for yesterday's enemies to turn into tomorrow's allies.
Conceding defeat to Barack Obama in 2008, John McCain said that Obama would be his president from then on and that he bows to the will of the voters.
This is something we should all remember these days. We have to move on and learn from our mistakes. We have to look into the reasons for our defeat and try to reverse them. Our adversaries win because they are faster or smarter or stronger. It is our duty to do better next time, not to fight the last battle. Only then we stand a chance of beating the odds.