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Why I yearn for the days when ‘losers’ ruled and ambition was un-Australian

The word “ambitious” is one of the most loaded in the English language. It can be a term of approval, but it can also be weaponised as a put-down. A lot will depend on the company you keep.

When in the 1960s I was a student in the hothouse of a selective high school, ambition was a core value. We were being educated to join a complex of governing elites and treated to regular exhortations to strive, to aim high and to make our mark.

But this kind of talk tended to leave me feeling uneasy. Strive for what, and why? There seemed to be an implied goal, something to do with “proving yourself”. But what part of yourself needed proving? And to whom?

And then there was the question of what could be argued to constitute proof and – this was crucial – who decided?

Applicants for jobs are asked where they see themselves in four…


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