The idea of interdependence and cooperation versus competition is incredibly multi faceted as it arguably seeps into almost every aspect of our existence. As Bateson claims in her article The Myths of Independence and Competition, we are all part of one greater system solely functional because of a series of relations, dependent on each other’s prior existence at the very least in order to sustain. Collaboration and partnership is in our cellular makeup. In Linda Hutcheon’s journal article Rhetoric and Competition: Academic Agonistics she takes this concept a step further than it’s core by presenting to us concrete proof of it’s inevitable existence, more specifically within the world of academia, one we know all too well.
In her article, Hutcheon brings something up that I find interesting that relates back to the fundamentals of competition vs cooperation, and that is the idea of duality, of “both/and” as opposed to “either/or”. Rather than a clear-cut argument favoring one over the other, as Bateson seems to do in her paper, she brings forth a third option, that of not only the acceptance of both ends of the spectrum, but also a variation on the way we approach “otherness”. She argues that in order to truly be able to understand why you are who you are and have the thoughts you do, you must also be able to put yourself in a position to understand opposition. I find this not only to be true in academia, but in every aspect of life. Total acceptance of duality is a challenging thing to do because it forces to you face evil, look it directly in the eyes and give it a rightful place. For example, a student wrote a response to an article pertaining to competition and deception in the realm of social media in which they discussed how we see ourselves in such a hierarchical fashion that we devote an impressive amount of energy to creating false personas. When you think about this, there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently good about sacrificing a large part of your individuality for the sake of a false sense of superiority. Why should we accept something that enforces such destructive patterns? But if you see that the world does not function without duality, you are forced to consider that perhaps there is something to it. It seems as though this type of behavior could be a natural response to something deeply rooted in our psyche and maybe this is an opportunity to learn about our consciousness. Thinking this way means giving competition of all kinds some form of credit, and within this, giving opposing opinions/ideas a place as well. It seems as though Hutcheon does just this, which I believe is why she is able to see competition in a less rigid manner and turn it into more of a malleable concept.
It would be unrealistic, I believe, to think that it is possible to get rid of competition completely, just like it would probably be impossible to get every single person to think that exactly who they are is enough to not have to create an online persona for the sake of approval. Life is balance, there is no one thing without its opposite. That is why it seems like the only way to experience any real change is by first and foremost accepting the existence of the other end of the spectrum, the opposing argument, the challenging idea. Rather than resist and repress, we can accept and then adapt. There is a quote in the text by Rene Girard that comes to mind: “The more men strive to curb their violent impulses, the more these impulses seem to prosper.” I’d like to note also that acceptance is not synonymous with passivity. I am not implying that we sit back and let the universe play out. But as Girard’s quote suggests, it seems as though denial and violent opposition simply do not do the job, and rather when we do just the opposite, we open up the door to a plethora of possibilities that we were too clouded by judgement to see before.