Competition or cooperation. Which creates discord and disharmony and which fosters peace and well-being? The answer should be obvious but appears not since the world at every level is full of competition-produced misery.
Vying for top spot on the list of destructive forces is the “me-first” attitude. “Me” being my own personal self, my family/clan, my ethnic group, my country . . . ad nauseum. From marital battles to family feuds (i.e., the 19th century West Virginia/Kentucky Hatfield and McCoy war) to wars between nations, the ruling dictum is self-interest. “I’m better,” “my clan is more important,” “my country is preeminent” are all products of a me-myself-and-I attitude. Competition due to this foundational mindset most often results in world-class suffering.
Competition by nature has winners and losers, the attitude toward the latter often being somewhere between apathy and antipathy. As one adage states: second place finishers are just first place losers. When the operative principle is the law of the jungle, dog-eat-dog, king of the mountain, survival of the fittest, et al . . . most often someone gets hurt. Some die.
Cooperation – working together with the goal of well-being for everybody – nurtures the common good and leads to peace and security. Competition per se is not bad, but the key is cooperative competition. There are cooperative games (such as Pandemic) that have all the players as winners; players must cooperate in order to win. The players are motivated to assist one another for the good of the whole.
When everybody wins – whether the context is a board game or family relationships or the next-door neighbor or international relationship – there is obvious benefit to each individual (self-interest). But the difference is that the underlying concern of the “players” is for the good of all, not just the self.
A competitive concern to be the greatest, the best country is not constructive. There is nothing wrong with appreciating a union of citizens and striving for societal well-being within artificially constructed borders. But people can embrace such while at the same time affirming the same for all countries within the world community. For any country to think and claim that it is the “greatest” is to demean all others. America is a great place to live, but so is Canada and Norway and Argentina and Bhutan.
I say again: cooperation – working together with the goal of well-being for everybody, for all – nurtures the common good and leads to peace and security. Competing together at every level for this is what will lead to the sought-after minimization of conflict and abolition of war.