The insidious, odious, and consumptive practices of competition have infiltrated every nook and cranny of our culture and is spreading its diseased and degenerate fingers into non-western (read: third world) culture very quickly. This statement alone should give you a hint about how strongly I feel about competitive traditions throughout society, however, as you probably guessed, I have plenty more to say about it.
From the moment we are born and rated on the APGAR Scale, we are in a race to be the most popular, most beautiful, richest, fastest, strongest, sportiest, smartest, blondest, thinest, most creative, or most --- fill in the blank. We are trained from our earliest moments to be all that at the expense of everyone around us. First we learn to step on our siblings, then our classmates and peers, then anyone out there who happens to get in the way of our potential accomplishments.
Life has become a blame game and a constant battle to attain attention and gratification through artificial measures.
Education has become a rote exercise to gain inconsequential knowledge to pass exams instead of a joyful experience that fulfills curiosity and feeds the natural delight and desire to learn. A self-directed learner understands that the act of knowing the correct answer to a question on a quiz, trivia game, or crossword puzzle is not the end game --- it is simply the beginning of an exciting journey toward further knowledge.
Earning a living has become an unending struggle between personal moral standards and self-serving, winner takes all societal messages.
How then can we engage this overbearing, aggressive bully that has infiltrated our lives and culture?
Many would say we should not even try. After all, our economy is based on good old capitalistic competition. I will not hesitate, however, to point out (tongue in cheek, of course) how well that whole system is working for 99% of the population ....
To take on this ingrained practice, I believe we first have to acknowledge its presence and recognize its harmful impact. Understanding that competition detrimentally influences every relationship can bring awareness and cognition to our interactions with others. Positive communication is a powerful tool.
A conscious effort to eliminate rivalry to produce inviting, welcoming, and cooperative environments, where sharing of ideas and resources is common place, is essential to generating this new culture of collaboration.
As I write this, I realize that I have once again circled back to the all important concept of free-will and choice. We all get to choose how we interact with others. And when we are aware of outside, unconscious influences such as competition, we are better able to make decisions that will have a positive impact on our own lives as well as others.
If you choose to compete, make it a competition to improve your own skills, instead of deliberately trouncing someone else. In the end, you will feel better about yourself knowing that you have not intentionally destroyed another person's sense of self-worth and dignity. We are all bettered by your efforts.
Celebrate each other, your individual and group accomplishments. Find joy in interdependence and connectedness while reveling in your unique, personal contributions to the whole.
In this way, one relationship, one business deal, one interaction, one conversation, one project, one program at a time, the learned behavior of competition loses to the new cultural tradition of community.