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Saturday, April 7, 2012

How we’ve been trained

Most modern humans are pretty bad at cooperation. It should be natural. We all need each other to survive and thrive.

My guess is that, to a large extent, it’s been trained out of us.

All our lives we’ve been divided up into different teams and told to compete with each other. As school kids we are taught to hate the team from the next town. Everyone is trying to do better than everyone else, be it at school, in sports, at work, or just about anything.

Most of our games have winners and losers. The winners are better, of course -never mind how they went about winning.

I’m as bad as anyone else. Just ask anyone who’s played games against me. I’m in it to win.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are activities without winners or losers. Ever put together a puzzle with other people? No matter who finds the next connecting piece, we all are happy about it. The goal is problem solving. The activity is simple enough, but it is one way we can work together for a common goal. There are some board games that do the same. As a kid, I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. (Yeah, I was a Geek sometimes.) It takes all the talents of the group to have a successful quest.

The quest of life needs a team. Wouldn’t it help if we got more practice working together?

I’ve got to ask myself: who benefits from our disunity? Is there a reason we have so little training in working together. Have we been divided so we can be conquered?



  1. Just watching the ads for all the competitive shows (Survivor and the like) makes me twinge with dismay. Basically rewarding the idea of cutting each other out makes me want to beat someone bloody.

    I don't like games. Not since winning became "all" and the fun stopped.
    I'm up early, working on cinnamon rolls making to try helping a local coffee shop stay in business. If we don't cooperate, we will all soon find ourselves embattled w/o any exterior help.

    It may be silly and out of style, but I could force feed "It's a Wonderful Life" to folks for a while.

  2. I like competition, if it is friendly. I can not stand for anyone to let me win. That really deflates me and makes me feel really inferior. The winning isn't the fun, it is trying to win that is the fun. How many people enjoy playing with someone that does not give them any competition? I sure don't.

  3. Most of the games we had when we were little had a winner and a loser. Nowadays they have softball leagues where both teams win or games where everyone wins a prize regardless of who won or lost. People are being trained that no matter what you do in life you get the same reward. Is it any wonder why we have kids demanding jobs without trying to compete for them? Or that governmental payouts for welfare are at their highest level since Eisenhower. If you ask me America could use more of competitiveness instead of this sit on your butt and expect a handout malaise.

  4. Did you know, Darwin actually recognized that environmental challenges led to cooperation among species? Not competition. His nephew was a social Darwinist, and went around giving speeches for Rockerfeller and the like, extolling the idea of "survival of the fittest". This planet is screwed if we continue being every-person-for-themselves, and forget all the other living beings. I mean, our goal is to dominate nature, but as Satish Kumar says "Even if we win, we lose." If you wanna play life like it's a game, think about the end goal, think about the effect on the losers, and where does that leave you? If it's not worth it, don't play the game.

  5. You might enjoy Ed O'Sullivan's book "Transformative Learning: Educational Vision for the 21st Century". Written in 1999 and it's eerily accurate in some predictions, mentions trends I wasn't aware of then (as a self-centered teen, no duh!), and very much in line with this train of thought. It's more about society than education, honestly.