Posted by: Scott | December 22, 2010

A Real New World Order, in Three-Part Harmony – Part III: Co-operation Over Competition

We are told over and over again that competition is good, that it is necessary and that it brings out the best in us. We are told that companies, countries, communities and individuals must become and remain competitive, or… what?

We fall behind, that’s what. By this logic, being competitive therefore should translate into getting ahead. Now that all sounds good in theory but what are the consequences of ‘getting ahead’ or ‘being competitive’? Where do you start? Stress, breakdown in family and social cohesion, ecological destruction (to produce more of whatever widget will make some company or country more competitive), to name but a few I can think of without really trying. The nagging questions that enter my mind when I think of this insatiable need to be competitive are: a) by whose standards are we being compared, and how relevant are those standards, and b) is there an alternative, less harmful way for companies, countries, communities and individuals to act?

Standards – if you can call them that – seem to be illusory. The goalposts are always changing. And what’s worst is that those standards are not genuinely focused on improving the lives of the vast majority of humanity. Instead, they are crafted mostly to suit the insatiable need of the speculation-driven: stockbrokers, corporate CEOs, and the deluded politicians who give in to this false paradigm. In terms of relevance, almost seven billion people cannot endlessly compete with each other for the planet’s scarce resources in a perpetual game of keeping up with the Joneses. If we continue down this path, war and social destruction are the only possible outcomes.

If you, like me, believe there has to be a better way, there’s good news. There is a real alternative to endless competition, and it’s called co-operation. When you look at things closely, accomplishing anything of importance takes co-operation, even amongst the competitive. Think about it. Competition may be necessary among individual athletes to get on the team, but once on that team, everyone has to be on the same page or that team will never win a game, much less a championship. Remember the phrase, “There is no I in team?” It’s true. It’s just the same for actors. They compete (okay, audition) for parts, but once cast in their roles everyone is expected to contribute their part. If they don’t, the play or film likely won’t be a success. Co-operation is the only way you get the whole that’s greater than the sum of the individual parts. It doesn’t matter what being attempted – staging a play, winning a hockey game, or building a house – without co-operation, nothing would be accomplished.

National governments in Europe figured this out after World War II: if they wanted to avoid another disastrous war, they had to figure out a way to co-operate with each other. The European Union is far from perfect, but even with its limitations it demonstrates that even self-interested national governments can learn to trust each other, share resources, and co-operate on important matters –most of the time, anyway.

If we really want a safe and stable new world order, the old spirit of fear, greed and competition must be replaced by one of trust, sharing and co-operation. We can learn from the past, if only we choose to.

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