I do not feel competition is a bad thing. In fact, conversely, I feel as though competition often drives people to succeed in whatever endeavor they choose. Personally, competition provides me with a constant “kick in the butt”. It forces me to get out of bed when I am tired. It motivates me to do an extra set when I am working out. It compels me to prepare thoroughly in the work that I do and perhaps most importantly, for me, it energizes me to continue to combat discrimination, hate and violence even when I am discouraged. However, can the concept of competition be spun around and used in a negative way?
When I first started thinking about this idea, my initial reaction was “not a chance”. But, as I thought about the work I do, I realized that along with several other factors, competition is one of the driving forces behind discrimination and violence. I began to think about the idea of respect and how interesting it is that today getting or gaining respect in many social situations entails disrespecting other people, when traditionally in order to be respected, one had to respect others. Competition works very much in the same way. By definition, to compete is to strive towards an objective. Well, what if that objective is a negative thing? A lot of the violence that takes place out there in the communities we live in is a function of one person or a group of people competing against one another to demonstrate who is the toughest and “baddest” of them all. People carry guns and other weapons for protection in some cases, but often people arm themselves to assert their dominance over others.
One of the most interesting aspects to think about is competition among students in various educational settings. Walk into any middle school in the country the day test or quiz scores are given to the students and you will be bombarded with comments like; “psst, what ya get on the test?” or “I did better than you!”. This type of competition can certainly lead to low self esteem among students who did poorly, but on the other end of the spectrum, it can contribute to some students feeling a sense of entitlement or superiority. These feelings are very real in classrooms across the country. Supplement these interactions with more traditional forms of bullying, hazing or abuse and the potential for violence increases. So how can competition be a healthy and positive thing then? Leadership! We need to stimulate a whole lot more leadership than we are getting from people in our society.
We need both adults and kids to realize how much power and influence they have over others. We need adults to realize that they can not just SPEAK about issues, they have to BE about issues. Enough with the mindset of “do as I say, not as I do”. People need to start teaching and demonstrating others how to be responsible and accountable. We need to start engaging eachother on issues and not shy away from the uncomfortable feelings we get when speaking about race, class, gender, violence and sexual orientation. Now that is certainly an objective to strive for! Sometimes being a leader is difficult. Actually, most of the time being a leader is difficult. But just because something is difficult does not mean people should stop trying. Isn’t that what competing is all about anyways?!
Monday, August 27, 2007
Wanting safety, security
For the place we love
For the people we love
Reflecting and praying together with dear friends
There is comfort in the unity
We cherish the memories, the place, eachother
The collective brings peace and warmth
To our hearts
Let us keep lifting and supporting
The spirit of Olympism
To help eachother, our minds, our tears