Wednesday, November 16, 2020

The Mania for Competition

In 1889, Andrew Carnegie wrote: "While the law [of competition] may sometimes be hard for the individual it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department."

This is still the prevailing view of many people 116 years later. But it's a view soundly challenged by Peter C. Whybrow in his book "American Mania: When More Is Not Enough." In a chapter called, "The Time Trade" he writes:
"For many Americans the "free moments" that once glued a busy life together have almost disappeared. We cut corners where we can — with fast food, fast service, fast banking, fast cars, and fast communication — but as the demands of the workplace have increased and family time has eroded, Americans have been forced to invade those hours previously reserved for sleep. As a result, the nation is now significantly sleep deprived. A survey conducted in the winter of 1997 by the National Sleep Foundation found that during the work week the average American borrows up to two hours each night from his or her sleep bank. For individuals living at the leading edge of our manic society, a chronic sleep debt, driven by sixty- to eighty-hour workweeks, is nothing unusual and sometimes boasted of with pride. And for the majority, the traditional eight hours of sleep — commonplace in the agrarian economy of a century ago — has been replaced by fatigue, an alarm clock, and a desperate hope that the weekend will bring relief."
Whybrow tells the story of a woman who fled from Vietnam and found success as a corporate attorney in the USA—until she ended up in a hospital in Paris suffering from an anxiety attack caused by exhaustion. Aided by a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, Whybrow dissects her experience and shows how she began trying to escape from the Darwinian aspects of that same American Dream she fled Vietnam to find.

The notion of survival of the fittest is widely misunderstood. It isn't about naked competitiveness. Nor does it suggest the toughest, most ambitious, most driven people and organizations will succeed. What it points to is the need to adapt to prevailing circumstances. It means fitting the needs of the times, not being physically fit or mentally aggressive. Part of it is balance, for anything unbalanced is poorly adapted to its task. Competing may be natural, but the basis for successful competition is complex. In our mania for instant, black-and-white answers, we've lost sight of the competition rules. And that's why people feel lost and uncertain. They're playing one game and the universe is playing something quite different.

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starbender said...

I feel it is fueled by greed!
Greed seems 2 B running the
world currently!!!

7:26 AM  

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