Friday, January 20, 2012

When Cooperation Becomes Competition

Even in a commune, there is a hierarchy of order.  I wonder what happened to these folks?

As I noted in a previous posting, Tom Shadyac made a movie called I Am in which he explored, among other things, the different aspects of human nature - Cooperation and Competition.  He seemed to posit that our Western society is too enamored of Competition and has shunned Cooperation.

But I think he has simplified the matter too much.   Often Cooperation becomes Competition, in short order.  As I noted in the previous posting, even organizations, such as communes, religious communities, the Amish, or socialist countries, quickly devolve into competition for power, resources, favor, and status.

In the hippie commune, there is a definite hierarchy, even if it is unstated. There is usually a charismatic leader or leaders, and usually there is jockeying for position by the members as to who is most favored by the leader or leaders.   And often, there are spectacular splits or power struggles, even amongst the hippie-dippy.  I've seen it happen.

Many religious communities fell victim to the same problems.  In the 1800's many such communities flourished, such as Quaker communities and the Oneida community.  And struggles for leadership, among other "competition" issues, often ended up sinking such communities.

Every single major religion has developed sects or rifts or split-offs over the centuries - to the point where people are willing to kill each other over something as silly as, well, who had the proper succession for power after Mohammed died.

Even the peaceful Amish have their share of issues, and violence in the Amish community happens - but is often covered up - making outside police investigation difficult, if not impossible.  Some fellow right now is running around assaulting his fellow Amish and cutting off their beards, and since no one presses charges, nothing can be done about it.   What does he want?  Power and control - that messy old competition thing.

And of course dozens of countries have tried to experiment with socialism or communism, with disastrous results.  The fabled dictatorship of the proletariat never materialized, but instead devolved into a dictatorship of the dictator or dictators.  And often, this has devolved further into an almost monarchy-based government, such as we have in North Korea, where power is handed down from Father to son, two times now.

Even in your daily life, cooperation often devolves into competition - it is our human nature.  You go out to dinner with a friend and your other friend gets jealous that they weren't invited.  Everyone jockeys for position even among something as innocuous as friendship.

It's in our nature, people!  We can't help it.

And that is why when people wave signs saying "Give Peace a Chance" or "War is Not the Answer" I have to laugh at their naivety.

You see, even if you could get all the billions of the people of the world to live "in peace" and equality, all it would take is some idiot - just one - to punch his neighbor in the face and take his wallet.  And right off the bat there, is the end of world peace and the beginning of war.  From schoolyard bullies to Adolph Hitler, it is all the same thing - people will push to see what they can get away with, and if you let them, they will take it all.

So is Shadyac dreaming here?  Well, he did make the movie after falling off his bicycle and landing on his head.  Perhaps that explains much.

But for better or worse, I think both Cooperation and Competition are with us and part of us, and both work together in our psyches.