The Competition Curse

Our society is one based on the principle of human-to-human competition

What I like to refer to as a dung heap society. Especially in the U.S., we are indoctrinated as children in our schools that this kind of competition is natural and good; however, it is neither. The instilled motto of “getting ahead” (at other people’s expense, of course) exclusively serves our oligarchs in maintaining a system of internal strife, a materialistic pyramid scheme which benefits those at the top.

As a result, many American adults, who have swallowed the narrative of “good competition,” find nothing wrong with a system built to have the rich get richer and the poor and middle class get poorer while it has all of us ignore the urgent challenges the universe throws at us, challenges which require our working together rather than against each other.

The myth, which this pyramid scheme narrative has us all believe, is that human life is a zero sum game, where a limited amount of wealth must be fought over. In reality, our science and technology put us in a position to produce enough prosperity for everybody and no-one need be denied a life worth living.

And while we continue to fight each other over a limited wealth cake – limited in size only by our self-made competitive society – cosmic challenges loom over us which guarantee us all defeat, no matter how well we do in the clawing up on our dung heap, or how high we were born on it.

These are challenges like disease; the ravages of aging and a short life-span; as well as natural disasters like earthquakes; tsunamis; pandemics; global climate change, with its ever increasing hurricanes; and giant meteorite impacts, such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs, just to name a few. If all your life you have focused on money-making or on the my team versus the other guys’ team party politics, can you now – for a moment – pause and realize that we are all sitting in the same boat when it comes to nature’s challenges and realize that we should stop our internal quarrels so we can work together to meet them?

Can you realize that wealth and income inequality are unnecessary man-made problems that distract us from the cosmic problems which threaten us with grief, gruesome suffering, early death, or even extinction? Can you realize that life isn’t just about money or political power, but much more essential things like health, friendship, and… well… living? No matter how rich or socially privileged you are, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, or many other horrible diseases, which pop up increasingly with advancing age, as well as the inevitable early death of “natural causes,” can turn your life and the lives of your loved ones into sheer hell. Shouldn’t our primary focus be on fighting those horrors rather than refining ways of exploiting and suppressing each other?

One of the reasons I was once blown away when I read a translated compilation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, is that this oldest of humanity’s works of fiction (about 4,000 years old), at least in that version, stressed the most central themes to the human condition: friendship and mortality. It’s as if back in the beginnings of recorded time, when humans for the very first time could free themselves from a non-stop daily search for food to have time to compose humanity’s first ever literary work, they made it a heart-wrenching cry for help into the emptiness of the universe that had so betrayed them from their very conception.

Sadly, in the four millennia that followed, we have made little progress in the matter of tackling the universe’s challenges, despite impressive scientific and technological progress which puts us at the verge of being able to solve many of them. None of this progress does us any good, though, unless we finally come to realize where our real challenges lie (as did the old Sumerians, who composed the Epic of Gilgamesh) and then join forces to solve them, putting aside our ridiculous, self-defeating quarrels.