6. Competition is a defining feature of who we are as human beings.

Dominion over the earth and each other is the global ethic: if we don’t get on board with this, we’ll be left behind. Look no further than the Bible: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”  This otherworldly, top-down, anthropocentric narrative runs deep within the modern psyche. Yinon M. Bar-On and colleagues (2018) assert that humans constitute a mere 0.01 percent of all life but have destroyed 83 percent of wild mammals. The influence of humans has been so profoundly negative in recent history that scientists have noted that the Holocene is being eclipsed by a new epoch called the Anthropocene, where human influence will be the dominant and perhaps terminal influence of planetary well-being. The American educator Alfie Cohen in his book Competition Is Ruining us! There Is a Better Way (1994) notes the unspoken rule we are subject to from our earliest school days is “For me to win, you must lose.” Still, competing with the planet, and everything on it, is not a defining feature of who we are as human beings. The neuro-biologist and primatologist Robert Sapolsky provides fascinating evidence from his study of Savannah Baboons of East Africa––which have the highest rate of aggression of any variety of primates––and notes what we can learn from them as humans. His findings challenge the idea that aggression is innate; rather he proves it is inculcated, and most importantly that we can change the culture towards a more empathic, community-oriented way of being.  


Cormac Russell

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