Thoughts on competition – is it healthy?

We are told by science that life is based on the survival of the fittest. The assumption seems to be that the strongest will survive while the weak go to the wall, that the strong will dominate the weak and therefore spread their genes. This leads us to believe that life is a competition and that those who dominate will win. Perhaps there are other ways of looking at it.

I am not a religious person, for me religion and sectarianism is responsible for much of the world’s suffering, though I would own up to being spiritual. For me God is made in man’s image yet spirituality, or the original energy of creation is always there. It would seem that the unlimited expression of logic and the bloody obvious is that we all come from a common source, common route. Though some like to call this energy ‘God’ in quantum physics they call this ‘source energy’. Pick whatever word or concepts serves you best, the point is that if we all come from the same source and are therefore all the same thing. So, what exactly are we competing against?

I get it that human consciousness is, as yet, pretty un-evolved and that in the fullness of time we might learn to look after each other and be supportive rather than killing, fighting, warring and allowing others to go hungry or lack water to drink. But not just yet! Is it a human competition that some of us survive and some of us do not?

The world of sport is also the world of competition. To have a winner you have to have a loser. If nine people run a race there will be one winner, who we assume is happy, and eight losers who probably are not. Doesn’t seem like good odds to me.

Does it have to be competition?
The idea that evolution has to be driven by competition could be turned on its head. What about if evolution was driven by co-operation.

When you look at the relationship between an insect and flower it seems that they have evolved symbiotically to meet each other’s needs. Just look at our own bodies. According to the BBC…

…humans are teeming with bugs, including tiny spiders,
lice and microbial colonies. Far from being a hazard,
however, they are the making of you.

Bugs are all over us and inside of us.

Every square centimetre of your face houses one or two tiny spiders.

From your head to your toes, your body is a veritable jungle of flora and fauna. Some are visitors, some are permanent residents, but all are enough to make the average person queasy. Whether we like or not, our bodies are perfect environments for the creepy and crawly. For hundreds of thousands of years, these animals have called our bodies home—or at least “food.” This list isn’t comprehensive, but it will give you a taste of the pests that are having a taste of you.

The relationship between us and these bugs, creates both illness and health. For example your gut flora. Experts are discovering the powerful role these tiny bugs might be playing in our lives. The 1,000-or-so species of microbes that live in our guts control digestion…

…so that when we rip out our gut flora with antibiotics we are encouraged to take probiotics to put them back. We and the bugs that live within us have evolved together to our mutual advantage.

Just as there are bugs that live on us and with us in a symbiotic relationship there are also bugs that harm us, those that do not serve us well. These bugs are not involved with co-operation but competition. They challenge us for our health and perhaps even for our lives. This is not co-operation.

Bigger than bugs
Human beings have lived with, and evolved with, rats, mice, pigs and dogs. We all have grown together. Rats helped clear up our mess, good effect, but they also carried the fleas that led to the Black Death, bad effect. We kill rats because we see them as in competition with us rather than seeing our relationship as a co-operation.

Having discussed this issue with a good friend, I have come to the conclusion that competition and co-operation exist in balance and both compliment each other. We discussed how the competition of war creates co-operative collaboration that leads to breakthroughs in technology that maybe both medicine or weaponry. Many such breakthroughs were brought about by the Cold War.

Competition will always be with us, we can’t avoid it. But, we can choose to develop greater levels of co-operation. Perhaps we can create less war, more caring and more sharing. If I see my fellow human beings as people that I might like to look after rather than beat then the word might just be a happier, safer place to live in.

Take care

Sean X

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