As someone who was recognized in 2006 as Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, I know a lot about the importance of awards highlighting people of significant accomplishment. Here on JPGB we have the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award, but I’ve noticed that “The Al” only recognizes people of positive accomplishment. As Time Magazine has understood in naming Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ayatullah Khomeini as Persons of the Year, accomplishments can be negative as well as positive.
(Then again, Time has also recognized some amazing individuals as Person of the Year, including Endangered Earth, The Computer, Twenty-Five and Under, and The Peacemakers, so I’m not sure we should be paying so much attention to what a soon-to-be-defunct magazine does. But that’s a topic for another day when we want to talk about how schools are more likely to be named after manatees than George Washington.)
Where were we? Oh yes. It is important to recognize negative as well as positive accomplishment. So I introduce “The Higgy,” an award named after William Higinbotham, as the mirror award to our well-established “Al.”
Just as Al Copeland was not without serious flaws as a person, William Higinbotham was not without his virtues. Higinbotham did, after all develop the first video game. But Higinbotham dismissed the importance of that accomplishment and instead chose to be an arrogant jerk by claiming that his true accomplishment was in helping found the Federation of American Scientists and working for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. I highly doubt that the Federation or Higinbotham did a single thing that actually advanced nonproliferation, but they sure were smug about it. Here, I think, is a video of one of their meetings:
I suspect that Al Copeland, by contrast, understood that he was a royal jerk. And he also understood that developing a chain of spicy chicken restaurants really does improve the human condition. Higinbotham’s failing was in mistaking self-righteous proclamations for actually making people’s lives better in a way that video games really do improve the human condition.
So, “The Higgy” will not identify the worst person in the world, just as “The Al” does not recognize the best. Instead, “The Higgy” will highlight individuals whose arrogant delusions of shaping the world to meet their own will outweigh the positive qualities they possess.
We will invite nominations for “The Higgy” in late March and will announce the winner, appropriately enough, on April 15. Thanks to Greg for his suggestions in developing “The Higgy.”