The Endless Fight

Throwing our energy away

From early childhood we are taught that life is all about competition. We see competition all around us so we copy it and emulate it. We compete with our siblings and neighborhood kids and with our parents.

In school competition is constantly reinforced throughout the day, day after day, year after year. We are pushed into sports to refine our competitive abilities. We compete for grades. Socially we compete for status. Eventually, boys fight each other over girls and girls fight each other over boys. We are told we must come together in order to fight other schools. We are taught to pledge allegiance to our country over all other countries so that someday we would be ready and eager for war. We are taught that winning is everything and that the goal of life is to come out on top over others.

We enter adulthood and compete for jobs. We compete for acceptance. We compete for spouses. We compete for wealth. We compete for status. Once in our jobs we compete for position and we compete with our co-workers by gossiping and by denigrating them and keeping them below us.

In church we are told we must compete for numbers with other religions, to be dominant over those who think or believe differently. The church with the most followers is the winner and we are taught that we should always strive to be on the winning team. We are taught that rewards come only in an afterlife to which we must constantly compete to get into.

In politics we are conditioned to vigorously fight any opposition to the faction we align ourselves with, even to the point where we forget what it is we want accomplished. Elections are all about winning and beating the opposition and the real issues get lost in the competition. To hold onto the power they won, leaders keep the people fighting each other so that they don’t notice how they are being screwed.

Media is non-stop competition; fighting for people’s attention as advertisers fight for people’s money. TV stations compete for ratings and websites compete for eyeballs. News outlets compete to see who can break the most grizzly story. And everywhere you look there is sports; people competing with each other and teams competing with each other and leagues competing with each other. There are boxers and wrestlers and football players beating each other’s brains to a pulp. And all the successful movies are those which portray car chases and explosions and guns and people killing each other and beating each other up. And then there are video games, essentially all of which are competition-based.

No one is more competitive than corporations. Every corporation competes ruthlessly for a total monopoly. CEOs and billionaires duke it out for the highest position on some Forbes list. And every business school teaches quantity over quality and that winning over others and amassing astronomical wealth are the only true virtues. They teach that success only comes at ‘scale.’ Words like ‘cooperation’ and terms like ‘small is beautiful’ are anathema. They teach that we must never, ever, ever be idle lest we lose our competitive edge, that we should wake up an hour earlier each morning so that we can get an extra hour of fighting in each day.

We fight traffic to go to work in the morning, we fight and compete all day at work then we fight traffic to come home exhausted where we flop down on the couch and passively watch competition and violence on TV. Or we go online to read all the fighting going on at social media sites. We might even engage by writing and competing with other writers for eyeballs, applause or even money.

And then sometimes we’ll fight with our spouse or our children or our pets or our neighbors. We’ll fight all day long and then go to sleep and sometimes we’ll even be fighting in our dreams. And we wake up the next morning to do it all again.

When are we going to get tired of this? Is this really the best way to spend our energy and attention? Is life about winning or is it about living? Are the ephemeral rewards of competition what truly bring real joy into our life? Have we been hoodwinked into thinking that competition is the end-all and be-all of existence?

Or is there a better way?

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