Friend or Foe: Cooperation Creates Friends -Competition Creates Foes
By Lionel Anet
20 October, 2014
The political-economic system has overridden our genetic makeup, the result of that combination determines all our relationships, and it’s also the greatest influences in the way we think, evaluate our life and nature. If we could see the way people interacted before the end of the ice age we would probably find a very similar behaviour of the many hunter-gatherers of a century ago. Those people of the arctic, the tropical forests of Congo and Amazon, also of the Deserts of the Kalahari and of Australia, related to one another cooperatively and fairly. Their relationship was due to the political-economic system they had, that system also helps to give those people the feeling of being a part of nature. Best of all is, it’s the way of life our genes evolved for hundreds of thousands of years, therefore that political-economic system suits our genetic make-up, and furthermore, it was very successful. That system was what enabled people, with the most elementary tools and material, to live on all continents, except Antarctica. It was efficient; it allowed plenty of time for social and artistic pursuits. Today with those attributes we would have the advantage of our technology, countered by the greater disadvantage of overpopulation.
The overpopulation at the end of the ice age forced those people to increasingly get their food from agriculture, which gradually introduced private property. That private property gave an opening to the warrior class to seize properties; it also reduced cooperativeness and increased competitiveness. To deal with competition within our human social needs, a class structure appeared starting with chiefs then proceeding to more complex hierarchies based on hereditary. Fairness for present and future people no longer dominated decisions – they were increasingly based on power of violence and believe.
This hierarchal system produced civilisation, that’s centralised control, with objects being more valuable and important than relationships, resulting in continual oppression with periodical slaughters in wars. To hold society together it required both a brutal domination by a hierarchy and a fervent belief in it and in a deity all the more sacred as it was inscribe.
Capitalism’s “brilliance and success” is its use of fossil fuel energy, which sustained a chaotic growth for a little over two centuries. But fossil fuels are finite and the use of energy to extract and process oil the primary fuel has been gradually increasing at an accelerating rate for decades adding to its cost. Relying on technical advances will prolong the illusion of plenty, but the end must come and the more we prolong that illusion the more severe the disaster will be.
However, that depletion of fossil fuels will have negligible impact compare to the outcome of its use. The unstoppable warming of the planet is already causing minor disasters, but the carbon already in the biosphere will keep on increasing its heat for well over a century. More emissions will increase the danger of extinction for all of today’s children.
The reason we don’t readily see the danger we are involving ourselves in, is we see life in fragmented segments. Each bit examined in isolation and detail looks easy to manage. But life isn’t like that. It’s highly interconnected, and it’s that inseparability that has produced and maintains our wonderful divers living planet.
Competitions in a social setting, is either overt or covert violence, if it’s physical it will also be psychological violence. Its extent of its potential hurt is proportional to its competitive intensity. The exaltation of winning is counter balance by the pain from other people’s loss and at times of many people. This is so between nations, companies, individuals, and sport people in boxing or playing chess. The intensity of the gratification or distress is dependent on the intensity of the competition.
Furthermore, winners in capitalist societies gain more power due to “their” wealth, which creates the unseen link to power. This gives them a competitive advantage, over the bottom section of the wealth hierarchy of capitalism in a “classless” unpredictable world.
That unseen link, which controls the capitalist economy and therefore its political direction, is what ensures its evolution to more unfairness and insecurity. It may be a major cause of many mental problems currently experience
Competition is tolerable if the economy can grow; its tolerability is due to human adaptability and nature’s toughness. However the capitalist system cannot tolerate nor adapt to declining resources and at the same time increasing demands from the effects of global warming and a growing population.
To survive we must gradually but quickly change from a growth economy of capitalism to an economy that can manage its shrinkage until we reach a sustainable life. This can only be achieved by progressing from the unfairness of a competitive economy to the fairness of a cooperative one. This would also improve our physical and mental wellbeing.
A competitive economic system increases the disparity of wealth as shown by the finding of the Global Wealth report by the Credit Suisse Research. Yet most pundits advocate more competition, even many scientist are hooked with rivalries. Although our need of knowledge must be unquenchable, it’s not today’s dire needs, it’s our failure to use the vast knowledge we already have, and that’s a social-economic problem that needs to be solve urgently.
The competitiveness turns potential friends into enemies and that has detrimental effects on people’s psychic, which is becoming obvious. Those emotional dilemmas are largely caused by the necessary loneliness of competing. Even when one is in a team, the ideology of competition creeps in, so relationships are still chancy. Solitary confinement can have a permanent injurious outcome according to the time of aloneness, but one can feel alone in the midst of a multitude of people that competition creates.
Competition is a factor that produces that overwhelming multitude of people, it’s the most serious problem we will have to face when or if we come to our senses. The competition is spurred on by religious, economic, and military needs, of the necessity to have the greatest number to be the strongest.
The present course we’re on can only be extend at the cost of today’s children of whatever social and economic strata they may belong. Therefore it’s in everyone’s interest to change course as quickly as one can. The reality is we have a common interest of survival, but we believe we have divers interest. Therefore we see a need for a competitive advantage over other people, which overrides the knowledge of the planet’s depleting resources and global warming. Namely under capitalist philosophy, we see people as opponents, even enemies instead of potential colleagues and even friends.
What should we do? Or what can we do?
Obviously the outlook is disastrous, with present socio-economics that encompass agroindustry, high energy use of high-rise living, a throw-away consumption, a wasteful transport, and a perpetual manufacture and use of military equipment. It will be disastrous for one and all, for the poorest African to the wealthiest billionaires.
Those few billionaires are no more or less intelligent than the average poor African, but they do have illusions. Furthermore, the worst one of those illusions for them and everyone is that global warming’s dire effect will be felt predominantly by poorer people. That illusion is constantly reinforced by environmentalists who see the calamitous consequences for some of the poorest people, but somehow are not concerned with the wealthy few who they see as the culprit. But no one is guilty; we all have to live under a faulty system, we do the best we can. Change the system and people will change to live under it. People are extremely adaptable if given accurate information we will respond to it. And even the wealthiest of us as a survival instinct and will therefore also respond.
Lionel Anet is a member of Sydney U3A University of the Third Age, of 20 years standing and now a life member
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