How does individual interpretation and application of the concept of competition affect the Western world as a collective whole today? And does the modern emphasis and understanding of competition turn individuals against each-other, blindsiding them to the potential of working together as a cohesive whole? Both of these issues are discussed in Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon and The Myths of Independence and Competition by Mary Catherine Bateson.
Bateson argues that humanity will only survive by cooperating instead of competing and recognizing its role as pieces of a larger puzzle, (a mentality which contributes to the issue of climate change). On the other hand, Hutcheon focuses on how competition has shaped the academic world. The social materialization of competition that is most evident in capitalist societies has taken root inside of classroom walls and shaped the way we think about academics and success today. A zero-sum game, as Hutcheon brings into evidence, is what becomes of this distortion: either one’s ideals are supported and go along with the norm, or they are shut down by non-constructive criticisms. Competition has distorted our conception of academia in that it creates pressures that rewards those who are successful in their studies and leaves behind those who are not to dissolve into mediocrity. We should be celebrating the diversity of intelligence and its different applications, not condemning different point of views.
I agree with Hutcheson’s claim that competition has become too focused on the success of the individual to create what were originally positive traits for competition: a sense of community, and a healthy competitive drive to reach new and better conclusions. I also agree that an individualistic mentality is shaping our industrial and political fronts. I would even say that this mentality has infected previously democratic societies, pushing them further towards elitism. This has been seen in America’s government as presidential candidates compete by oppressing one another in an unprofessional and winner-take-all scenario. This concept of individualism has not escaped the American public. Extreme patriotism is less of a “let’s embrace our differences and work together to better our country,” and more of an individualist “only our (white) ways belong in this country.” In this sense competition in democracy has shifted from a means for the public to gain attention for their needs to a skewed and unfair war between authority figures for more power. I would also use Hutcheon’s argument to form a parallel between the dehumanization of minorities that we are constantly witnessing in modern politics and the notion that competition must result in a winner: we cannot progress to improve the treatment of minorities and embrace diversity when the individualistic ideals of competition in America are adopted by white supremacists to reach their own goals. In this manner, our conception of competition has become warped, and “the real victor is always violence itself” (Hutcheon, p. 45).
Both authors stress the concept of individual independence and integrate the effects of individualism into their arguments, showing that they agree on the basis of competition and recognize its prevalence in a world that fears collectivism.
I believe that competition is coming to polarize the Western world and that humanity is becoming increasingly blind to their potential as they move away from working together and contest is valued above progress.
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