Competitive energy

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Being competitive is a useful skill or trait to nurture, when it is tempered with moderation. An old friend told me he was brought up without a father figure in his family and he felt he didn’t learn how to be competitive for this reason. I’m not sure that I fully understand the train of thought that led him to such a conclusion, but this is what he believes about himself.

When I was a youngster, the world superpowers were competing against each other to send people to the moon and to other planets. They also built up arsenals of nuclear weapons, ostensibly to keep the other side in check. It seems to me that there might have been simpler solutions to the trust issues that prevailed at the time, but huge amounts of money and human skill were invested in the arms race.

The dismantling of the Eastern Bloc led to an era of triumphalism in the West. Many of the key players of that era are no longer on the world stage, but one or two, such as Gorbachev and Yeltsin are probably still around, living in relative obscurity. I believe that Gorbachev was one of the most important political figures of the last century, but he wasn’t thanked by his people for having the wisdom to give up the futile competition with the USA.

I remember excitedly telling a woman of Russian heritage that I was going to New York to work on a project –this was over a decade ago and I had a different perception of the world to the one I have at present. She commiserated with me and suggested that this was an unfortunate development – much to my bemusement at the time.

Nowadays, the competitive streak is manifesting itself through blackmail, mind control and cyber warfare. The fact that we don’t have CND campaigners or Greenham Common protestors doesn’t mean the energy has been contained or channelled into anything different. Right now we are struggling with the repercussions of that impulse to undermine, destroy or dominate each other. Subverting the practice of democracy is the new frontier of the battle.