Our Competitive Life Views

Mar 08, 2011
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Ours is a culture that values success in any venue. Competition and the ideal of ‘winning’ are key in any type of competition and every area and aspect of life is one in which we believe competition takes place. For example, in the arenas of beauty, attractiveness, music, making money, size of house, amount of money, disposable income, talent, athletics…it is clear to all of us that winning is the only acceptable goal. We heap riches and praise on winners, we ignore or ridicule losers. Even being the “most pitiful” is rewarded over being merely “pitiful”. Being America’s Most Greedy is rewarded over being simply greedy. It is almost impossible to engage someone in a conversation about an artist, athlete or other prominent person without comparing their performance to that of another person in the same field- with the clear task of deciding which is better.

Given that value system, the process of creating space for inclusion for disability is an “add on”, not a true aspect of our generic societal belief system.

Assuming then, that what we are looking at is a competitive life view (it is a win or lose dichotomy) perhaps an interdisciplinary group could study the following questions, as they relate to disability, physical activity, sports and inclusion:

Q1: What role does this win/lose dichotomous model play in our society? (For example, How does it fit with our simultaneous and opposite belief in the values of beneficence, tolerance, diversity, a fair playing field, and neighborliness?)

Q2: What would have to change in order for competition to be softened or removed as a key central component in the physical activity arena?

Q3: If we did, as a culture, soften the focus on competition- what would be left? What deep change would we see in our national community and would it be a positive or negative change?

The belief that we must win is so deeply engrained, it must serve some purpose. What is that purpose, and how can we keep the benefits of that cultural phenomenon (if it turns out that there are any) without keeping the part of competitiveness that excludes and devalues some of us.

It is clear that access can be legislated to some extent- but a true shift in our values may be the key to moving from the ‘lip-service’ status to meaningful inclusion on a continuum. I would be very interested to hear other’s thoughts on this topic.

Author: Tanya