The Problem of Competition in Modern Society
What are we teaching our children?
By Frank Clarke
Nov 11, 1999
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
We tell our children that The Golden Rule is the way to live our lives, then we send them out onto high school football fields to ‘play’ under rules which are very different.  We tell them not to hurt others...  unless it’s Rugby.  We tell them to share their toys with their playmates and then we encourage them to choose as playmates only cheerleaders and members of the varsity football team.  We never tell them ‘this is different than real-life’; indeed, we tell them that it is real-life, or preparation for it.  By our actions and by our inaction we condone a violent tribalism which excludes far more than it includes, and then we wonder why some students in Colorado went off the deep end.
It is said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.  What a slam against Eton!  I wonder if the headmaster knew his students were ‘in training’, or did he think he was providing ‘recreation’?
The pull of competitive sports is so all-pervasive in 20th century American society that it has spilled over into areas we normally...  that is, formerly...  did not associate with recreation.  How often have you heard someone brag on the morning after the first Tuesday of November in exactly the same terms and tone of voice used the previous morning about Monday Night Football?  Politics has become a competition not of ideas but of muscle, usually financial muscle, and it no longer matters whether those ideas have merit, only whether a particular candidate wins or loses.
Politics is not a horse race, and it’s not a football pool.  We’re not better off having ‘backed a winner’ if that winner is not what we want representing us.
Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying: "Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing", which shows he wasn’t thinking any more clearly than the rest of us.
Ideas have consequences, and the idea that ‘being in the majority’, ‘being on the winning side’ is all that matters has consequences that we must soon pay attention to...  or lose our souls.  If, in fact, we truly believe in The Golden Rule, we must start teaching our children by our example, especially our example in the voting booth.
If, in fact, we truly believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’, we must start teaching our children that we believe it even when the subject is Politics.
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© Frank Clarke, 2001
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