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Winning is hugely exciting. It means you are the best of whatever group is competing. It tells you that you have ‘beaten’ the others, you are someone special, distinguished, unique. We all want to win. Unfortunately our definition of winning is predicated on the basis that others must lose. So, ‘no gain without pain’ becomes a mantra that spreads from babies and the old. It dominates children’s lives, student’s lives, military service lives, work lives, business lives, political lives and the lives of those heading for whatever happens when we die. Even religions, those bastions of neighbourliness and eternity, compete with each other to be prima.

Winning becomes a trademark of the arts. The applause at auctions is not for the artist or sculptor but for the record price. Records of all kinds become more important than the reasons for them. Deaths and injuries from natural disasters are often reported as “likely to rise” with an anticipatory glint that, yet again, records may be broken. We have become so number based that ‘small’ is trivial and ‘not measurable’ has become irrelevant.

How stupid when an immeasurable kind thought can rescue a constellation.

Competition is good. It has been the driver for much of the world’s development. We are somewhat competitive by nature and there is plenty of evidence to show that those who compete within reason enjoy a fuller, healthier and more purposeful life. Like everything in this world, excess is bad. Too much water will kill you. Aquaholics are not fully understood yet but they run as big a risk as alcoholics. Too competitive is also dangerous, especially in today’s environment. The cause of most wars and conflicts is excessive competition. On an overcrowded planet where tempers flare at the slightest thing, being over-competitive triggers violence easily. The present Middle East situation is a classic example.

The urge to develop, to transform the environment into climatic sustainability, to ease the burden of heavy or tiresome and unrewarding work, or just to make life a pleasanter event, is both understandable and desirable. But the structure of the world is that countries compete because their politicians’ duty is to protect the citizens first. That is inevitable whatever sort of political system you have. So now we see the escalating problem of immigration. The half of the world that lives securely and comfortably is understandably eyed – largely through the social media – by the poorer neighbours as a place of refuge and light.

The world is one massive, seething, transforming place. We do not know whose it is but we do know that it is beautiful, and that, as short-term tenants, our first and principal duty is to maintain that beauty. We can develop and enhance it, too, provided we don’t destroy it in the process. At present we are destroying it and we know we have to stop doing so. One of today’s pop jargon words is pivot. Misused in about 90% of cases, it does have a place in our behaviour towards our home.

We should now pivot our competitive behaviour towards more cooperation.

We cannot expect the United Nations – or, indeed, any of the world organisations – to immediately start running the place. The bureaucracy that would precipitate would be totally overwhelming. But we can insist that there is increasingly greater international cooperation on issues that affect us all. Migration is one, water is another, waste yet again critically important. Food, health and shelter should follow quickly. To work, all these international objectives must desist from destructive conflict.

Neither Israel nor Hamas can come first. Russia and Ukraine can only be credible when both cease fire for good. China and the United States have an obligation to stop arming for the inevitable end product of what they’re doing now. We do not want World War III.

We certainly will have it if we don’t learn to cooperate.

And start to do so pretty damn soon.

Good morning
John Bittleston

Do tell us if you agree, please. An email to [email protected] will reach is all.

9 January 2024