Today I am thinking about international cooperation for a better and more peaceful world. With President Obama crashing the Canadian Parliament yesterday just before Canada Day, the celebration of nationhood in all its diversity and through adversity, you have to wonder what it means. The media highlighted how Obama crooned about civil rights (LGBT) and sing romantically about the supposed benefits of globalization. Addressing the latter, this topic is ironic because the kind of globalization he is talking about and representing undermines regional nationhood, autonomy and economies in favour of a global economy run by a few of the worlds richest and most powerful elite and organized criminals, which constructs a very socially negative worldwide culture.
Globalization seeks hegemony and operates mainly by force. Here I counter that content and spirit with references to discussions on the importance and possibilities of international cooperation with the aims of social betterment and peace.
Article by Benjamin R. Barber in The Wilson Quarterly
"Government and co-operation are in all things the laws of life; anarchy and competition the laws of death."
—John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1862)
Competition is as American as apple pie. It announces American individualism and marks the American market economy with its characteristic rivalries. Not just for neoliberals such as Milton Friedman and quasi-anarchists such as philosopher Robert Nozick, but for Americans of all political stripes, it reflects a distrust of the “government and co-operation” dear to cultural critic John Ruskin. We are a nation of winners (and, yes, losers) where, in the wonderfully perverse turn of phrase often attributed to one of America’s “winningest” coaches, “Winning isn't everything, it’s the only thing.”
Yet we need not be readers of Ruskin to know that competition also has a pejorative sense, even in American usage. It may be nature’s way, as Charles Darwin proposed, but only when we conceive of nature as a jungle. Whatever we make of it, today competition dominates our ideology, shapes our cultural attitudes, and sanctifies our market economy as never before. We are living in an age that prizes competition and demeans cooperation, an era more narcissistic than the Gilded Age, more hubristic than the age of Jackson. Competition rules.
We need only look at America’s favorite activities—sports, entertainment, and politics—to notice the distorting effect of the obsession with competition. Sports would seem to define competition, as competition defines sports. But beginning with the ancient Olympics, sports have also been about performance, about excelling (hence, excellence), and about the cultivation of athletic virtue. It is not victory but a “personal best” that counts. In the United States, however, athletics is about beating others. About how one performsin comparison with others. Ancient and modern philosophers alike associate comparison with pride and vanity (amour-propre), and have shown how vanity corrupts virtue and excellence. When Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar protests, “Such men as he be never at heart’s ease/While they behold a greater than themselves,” he captures what has become the chief hazard of a hyper-competitive culture. No wonder ours is often an outer-directed culture, unreflective, grasping, aggressive, and cutthroat.
It is, ironically, a culture that tries to pin on the animal world responsibility for human viciousness. Michael Vick, one of our great gladiatorial football competitors, recently admitted to sponsoring brutal dogfights. The real dogfights, of course, are the football games he played in, where injury and even death are not unavoidable costs but covertly attractive features of the sport. Where steroid use is forgivable, or at least understandable, on the way to a winning record. And where dogfighting itself (like bullfighting and cockfighting) is justified by an appeal to the “laws of nature,” though it is men who articulate those laws to rationalize their own warlike disposition.
Why, as a nation, are we so obsessed with competition, so indifferent to cooperation?
It is much the same with entertainment. Our most successful shows, themselves in a competition for survival with one another (sweeps week!), pit on-camera competitors against one another in contests only one can win. The eponymous show Survivor is the Darwinian prototype, but the principle rules on all the “reality” shows. On American Idol, singing is the excuse but winning the real aim. In the winners’ world of television, nothing is what it seems. Top Chef is not about excellence or variety in cooking, but about winning and losing. Project Runwayturns a pluralistic fashion industry that caters to many tastes into a race (with clocks and time limits) in which there is but one winner. The competitive culture hypes winners but is equally (more?) fascinated with losers. “It is not enough that I win,” proclaims the hubris-driven American competitor, “others must lose.” And Americans have shown themselves ready to become big losers in order to be eligible to become big winners—however remote the odds. We are a nation of gamblers willing to tolerate radical income inequality and a large class of losers (into which we willingly risk being shunted) for the chance to win.
American politics too is founded on competition. Contrast electoral politics in our representative democracy with citizen politics in a participatory democracy, where the aim is not to win but to achieve common ground and secure public goods—a model of politics in which no one wins unless everyone wins, and a loss for some is seen as a loss for all. The very meanings of the terms “commonweal” and “the public interest” (the “res publica” from which our term “republic” is derived) suggest a system without losers. How different from this the American system has become. As each election rolls around, we complain that ideas and policy are shoved to the background and personality and the horse race it engenders are placed front and center.
The Art of Co-operation
Why is the world perpetually in crisis, on the brink of self-destruction? Essentially, says British author Benjamin Creme, it is because we do not yet realize that we are one global family sharing a common planetary home. Upon that recognition, and the new approach to living it will engender, rests the destiny of the world.
In his tenth and latest book, Creme emphasizes that co-operation among people and nations is not optional if we choose to survive. It is the very foundation upon which a brilliant new civilization can be built.
Steeped in the 'ageless wisdom' that substands all the world's spiritual traditions, Creme traces the origins of the competitive spirit and shows its gradual replacement by co-operation as humanity advances. He describes the illusions that hide our fundamental unity and explains how ending our sense of separation will lead to a great leap forward in human evolution. He further reveals:
- Why competition―rooted in fear―is never 'healthy'
- Why a 'war'―on anything―is counter-productive
- What the atomic structure of the universe has to do with the desire to join a group
- How the simple act of sharing resources would immediately ease tensions worldwide
- How the 'American dream' impacts the rest of the world
While solutions abound, it will require extraordinary leadership to guide their swift implementation. To help us in this task, the World Teacher―Maitreya―and His group, the Masters of Wisdom are now taking Their places among us, Creme says, ready to work openly again after many thousands of years behind the scenes.
For more than 27 years Benjamin Creme has traveled the world raising public awareness about the Masters of Wisdom. "Without the presence of the Masters," says Creme, "I believe we would not achieve the sharing, and therefore the justice and peace, which is required. It takes Their galvanizing spirit, energy, and wisdom to create the conditions to lift humanity, to inspire us; and also to show us what will happen if we do not change."