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The Lost Art of Cooperation

Although competition seems to have taken the central point of life within the American context, it is still possible for the two to co-exist productively. The feeling that Competition has totally eaten into cooperation, posited by Benjamin R. Barber in his article, “The Lost Art of Cooperation is overly pessimistic.”  This is how the two can co-exist:

Competition allows discovery and in turn cooperation: - Whenever there is competition, people consider new ways of surviving. In turn, new things are discovered and adopted by masses and the standards of living eventually improve. This in turn begets cooperation, and this is the very place that Barber fails to see beyond. His ideas go only up to the far that there is a winner and a loser. In his works, Competition and Cooperation: Helping the Youth Strike a Balance, Hinton (fact sheet 93-86) says that “competition becomes more effective when winning is not stressed.”  He further says that when used well, it can realize personal improvement. In this case with cooperation we can get the best from a competition.

We can also set up protective policies to control undue competition and promote cooperation. Barber borrows from Charles Darwin that there must be competition in nature and adds that…”only when we conceive of nature as a jungle” (pp 57). The “jungle” represents the vacuum we have in terms of policies that regulate the level of our engagement in competition. In this case, competitions which are meant to leave the losers adversely disadvantaged, to a point of no recovery at all should be checked out. This can be applied in areas such as education systems where the best student in exams is deemed as the best and therefore considered for better opportunities than ignoring those who do not pass their exams as such but have other relevant abilities which should be considered with equal weight just like the exam results for similar opportunities.

We can also achieve cooperation amid competitions by relenting when the competition is uncalled for. From Barber’s point of view, some competitions are only meant to determine who the winner or loser is. When he says that Michael Vick admitted to sponsoring dogfights (pp 57), we get an idea of a society that gets pleasure in winning at the expense of the natural order. He further describes the scenario with these words:

“The real dogfights are football games he played where injury and even death are unavoidable costs…” on the same page. This is a misinterpretation of the essence of competition. Unnecessary competition therefore is seen as breeding hatred and derailing cooperation which should have not been the case if we would just compete only out of necessity or for enjoyment. Here competition is being misused to push heinous ideas and thoughts, and for mere egotism.

In the world of economy competition and cooperation are the order of the day. Fashions hit the market day in day out. Business people talk ill of others’ products and create attractive advertisements to lure customers. Amid all these, business amalgamations still sprout and booming economies erupt. From such, competition becomes a healthy tool through which opportunities to unite arise. People can no longer engage in cooperation during opportunities because of the stiff competition they tend to be involved.

In conclusion, competition cannot stand aloof. There is always competition to complement it. The reverse also stands true. Competition should therefore be adopted as a bench mark of success and ability but not a determinant of what or who is the weakest. Competition would always prevail in the minds of many as long as some resources remain scarce in society.

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