This is what comes out of Google Image for ‘relentlessly competitive’ : a bored Scottish band sitting in front of a badly-wound hose!
I have been thinking about competitiveness this week : I dunno, maybe being bombarded with sporting events starts to have an effect after a while!
As a parent, you quite often come across people who make you question, and ultimately shape, your core values. We went swimming yesterday, my child and I, with the most relentlessly competitive family I know, so while me and my son were playing sharks in the shallow end, messing about with floats, chatting, and having fun, the kid who could swim already was being exhorted to swim widths for 20 quid, while the one who couldn’t was anxiously trying to make a similar bargain, and being told he’d have to learn to swim first, and to stop touching the bottom with his feet. Now, I’m all for bribing children, if it’s the only way, but something about the crass way this poor child was being made to bargain for some self esteem in the form of cash made me have to go right to the other side of the pool immediately.
Anthropological studies have shown that people in ‘natural’ hunter gatherer societies, will not do more work than they need to, in order to eat. There are other things to do : play, chew hallucinogenic leaves, have sex, snooze, chat, eat : all very fine, you might say, but no one ever built an empire on that basis, eh? Our system of late capitalism works by removing our innate sense of well-being and self-esteem, and replacing it with an anxious feeling that other people have more than us, and are therefore better, and we should work longer hours to get more stuff so we can wave our cash in their faces, and then we will feel good about ourselves, or they will feel bad, which is more or less the same thing.
There is a part of me that knows that fear of failure is a powerful driver of success : many millionaires speak of feeling that nothing was ever good enough for their parents. Would you rather be the mother of a millionaire tortured by self-doubt and low self esteem, or a contented underacheiver?
Only people living under capitalism would even recognise this as a legitimate question.
Interestingly, capitalist economics is based on the premise of a constant line of growth, stretching into infinity : ever increasing markets, with ever more of us having as much as we want of everything for ever. In nature, however, there are no lines, only cycles : growth and decay, reaction and reaction, expansion, contraction, breathe in, breathe out…