I often say that I don’t like competition. I don’t like what it does to other people, and I don’t like the way I feel when I am a part of it. I don’t enjoy winning when other people feel bad for losing, and I don’t like losing, no matter how gracious I may act about it.
However, now that I have a son, my awareness and distaste for competition is growing.
A few months ago I was listening to some speech (state of the union, perhaps?) in which President Obama stated that our schools, and our children, need to be able to compete with China. (I can’t find the exact speech, but apparently the theme is common enough in his rhetoric that a simple search showed several other examples).
Immediately, that word dug under my skin and what little faith I had in the American government crumbled. Why do our children need to focus on competing with the students in China? Why shouldn’t our students focus on cooperating with those students? Why shouldn’t we invest all of that ‘better-than-you’ energy in understanding each other and building cultural bridges? Why the hell is the president advocating the creation and fear of the other?
Because that is what competition is; fear. Competition is based on the theory of scarcity. There are only enough resources for the stronger, smarter, or quicker person. There can only be one winner. It is hierarchy and scarcity. There are other ways to view the world though. To approach it from a theory of abundance and try to figure out how to share and create more rather than hoarding what there is.
They say that competition, especially academic competition, increases development, creates new ideas, and generally improves the world. Maybe it does. But do you know what else does the same thing without depending on fear and scarcity? Cooperation. Curiosity. An emphasis on creativity.
The world has become trapped in the competition of capitalism, and people actually believe that it is fair and good. Competition doe not inspire any sort of fairness, though. It is a system in which someone always has to lose in order for other people to win.
I feel this often when I am ghostwriting articles. I know that my writing is being used to, ultimately, sell a product. The businesses that have ‘helpful’ blogs out there don’t care about their customers. They care about the sell. The money. They care about surviving, and conquering, and I have become a cog that is helping them compete.
My sweet baby boy had a rough night. He is lying on a pillow in the middle of the living room, completely asleep. He looks so angelic and innocent. I know that when he wakes up he will be all smiles and love. He is filled with joy. He doesn’t care that others can do more than him. It doesn’t make his world any smaller. Yet.
I hate to think about sending him to school, where he will learn that to survive he needs to compete. I hate to think about those first games he will play, whether he wins or loses, and how they will slowly eat away at that internal flame of joy. I hate that he will eventually have to regard people with suspicion, and realize that competition is not about games but how our messed up world actually works.
I wish I could change the world for him. I just don’t know how.