PUTTING COMPETITION IN ITS PLACE

By William Markiewicz

Recently I talked to a gentleman who praises competition as the supreme value because it ensures the survival of the fittest. As a result, he deeply despises "tender sentiments" which he considers an aberration. So, if we prefer Abe Lincoln to Adolph Hitler or Ghengis Khan, Jesus Christ to the goddess Kali, it is an aberration. Still, if there is such a thing as a scale of values for evolutionary characteristics, then empathy, altruism, compassion, certainly rank higher than the competitive drive. The higher the level of the society, the more those sentiments are appreciated. In fact, they are considered as the ultimate expression of humanity. In opposition, the universal disdain and even hatred for the "brain-only" character is expressed in science fiction where the alien invaders are mostly "mechanical insects" with superior brains and technology but still inferior to humans precisely because they totally lack "human warmth." Generally, those stories turn out to have a happy end for humans because in one way or another the brain-only characteristic becomes a handicap for the invading monsters.

We can't design the trend in evolution because evolution depends on conditions and conditions are often the fruit of chance. But we still appreciate some characteristic over another and the reason we appreciate empathy over cold competition is perhaps that competition shows us "how," while empathy answers the question, "why." Competition hones the ability to survive while the sentiments offer a goal in life. Our ultimate values are of an emotive nature; we direct ourselves toward what we "like" and not toward what is "good for us," what we "must" do, or what we "understand."

In response to this trend toward empathy, we heal the sick rather than exterminating or sterilizing them. In history, competition did not necessarily culminate in the extermination of the defeated; the ancient Greeks released their prisoners after a battle. The conquerors usually, sooner or later mixed with the population; sex was stronger than competition.

I don't think I take an anti-intellectual stand when I say that the sentiments, not the brain, are the ultimate weapon against savagery. 


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