Yesterday, we saw how competition dulls our abilities and makes us operate at a low level.
Today I want to discuss how competition is the source of a host of vices, and how it just isn’t the fundamental fact of life that many people think it is.
Competition breeds vices
Another reason why the Myth of Competition has become so poisonous derives from its being so universally accepted. Too many people have come to believe that competition is the matrix of all human activity. When reinforced by uncritical acceptance, competition begins to breed vices. Once you see the world as a vast boxing ring in which you are called on to fight against everyone every day for everything, you begin to take the metaphor of competition far too seriously. You begin to think that you really are fighting others, and that others really are fighting you. And you begin to suspect their motives. And if you suspect their motives, you may also begin to think yourself justified in attempting to trick them, cheat them, even kneecap them. After all, wouldn't they do that to you if they had the opportunity?
Competition, once it is no longer seen as one choice among many, begins to play along with the fear inherent in the Myth of Scarcity and the Myth of Self-interest. And fear, as we have seen, is the source of treating others badly. Thus, as we have already pointed out, the Major Myths are like different vignettes depicted on a immense tapestry—but the whole is woven from the single thread of fear.
Competition not the fundamental fact of life
Despite this drawback and the negative aspects of competition pointed out yesterday, many people not only believe that competition is the matrix of human activity, but even that it is the fundamental fact of life.
This is doubling down on a terrible mistake. In fact, it’s pretty easy to see that competition cannot be fundamental; it is derivative, dependent on something else for its very existence. And because it is a dependent activity, it sucks independence out of those who invest too much of their lives in it.
The thing that competition is dependent on—believe it or not—is cooperation. Cooperation is more fundamental, more important, and more empowering than competition could ever be.
Basic corporate behavior confirms this fact. Corporate types and entrepreneurs are all excited to get out there and compete to win the big prize. Yet what is the first thing they do when preparing to enter the fray? They get their people to cooperate. Without cooperation, there could not be any competition. If an uncooperative bunch of people were to engage in competition, they could produce only chaos. If their competitors could cooperate even a little, they would crush the uncooperative bunch.
This is true of any competitive activity, whether in business, in sports, in social conflict. Without cooperation, no group can take on another group with any hope of success.
What about one-on-one competition? Surely here we are reduced to the most basic human reality: competition without the need for cooperation.
But a closer look shows that even individual combat requires a form of cooperation. If a competitor’s internal resources are not cooperating—if, for instance, his fear is not kept in check by his ferocity—then again there can be no competition. The person whose internal resources are aligned will win.
Thus the Myth of Competition, the conviction that competition is necessary for survival, is not the Great Secret of Life that many of its adherents think. Since it just isn’t true, those who believe it are deluded about the most basic thing in life: The Great Secret of Life, the secret on which competition and everything else depends, is cooperation.
Those who belief in this Myth is so deep that they treat every life situation as a competition are terribly weak compared to those who can navigate all situations. Most life situations are not competitive. To treat them as if they are is to falsify reality, and to create strife where there need not be any.
Like the other Major Myths, the Myth of Competition poisons life unnecessarily, and generates a great deal of needless pain and suffering, both for Mythers and for the people with whom they interact.
After the weekend, we will dig a bit deeper into the topic of cooperation. We’ll see why it is the real secret of social activity, and we’ll see that it could replace competition if we chose to make it so.
Until Monday, then.
23 November 2012
by Alfred George filed under