The Competitive/Spectator Mentality Reflects Shallowness

American society is hugely competitive and overly obsessed with spectacle or viewership. Some find this to be benign but the truth is far different. It reflects a shallowness of being which cannot be denied objectively. More than that, it reflects an emotional distance, a lack of empathy in each case, more so when competition and spectatorship are combined.

Americans to a high percentage are especially fond of violent competition. Football, MMA, etc. Being given to mindless attraction to violent competition, it is no coincidence that most of the same Americans view other forms of competition in terms of barbaric displays of dominance. To include political races, international affairs, etc. What should be understood and conducted as the highest forms of diplomacy and negotiation instead have become the most disgusting displays imaginable of Neanderthal chest beating, hand size comparison, insult-spewing, trailer trash, uneducated drivel one can conceive of.

Much of the time the rhetoric passed about sports and competition is that it builds teamwork. I contend very much the opposite. All one need do is look at the mentality of the stereotypical “jock” and you find what can only be described as narcissistic, even sadistic personality traits. Sports are riddled with competition not only as team against team but player against player. MVP being an example. I’m not a sports fan, so I’m not sure- can a player be an MVP for their own team yet still be on a losing team? I have seen many activities which build teamwork yet do not include attacking other teams or your own teammates. I’ve worked in restaurants where the staff had flawless teamwork. I’ve been on teams of mechanics who could almost read one another’s minds. I have been on medical teams where we saved lives with barely a word spoken yet had more precision and camaraderie than any sports team in existence. No testosterone needed.

The competitive mindset has the tendency to cause a disconnect, an apathy regarding the suffering of opposing teams or competing players. Possibly even taking joy in that suffering or hardship. Being a spectator also leads to a distancing from those being observed. Major injury, maybe a wince for a moment, then the attention is back on the game. Cheering for “our team”. In each case, the opposition is dehumanized, turned into an object, “less than”, a focus of animosity and hate.

People convince themselves that it is about community. However, if a player is not up to top standards, you hear the calls to evict them from the team. “Victory” is more important than the player. If a team is losing, it can be perfectly fine to replace the entire team and keep the name. Just a logo, a franchise, a corporate entity. The team is not a group of human beings, a part of the community, they are seen as property. You may see a short moment of human interest here and there but only for the top players. It’s PR, advertising, marketing, a means to sell more tickets, give a false sense of connection. When they stop winning, they will be replaced. People use phrases like, “We won!” Really? What did YOU win? As a member of the audience, do you get to take home a trophy? Will you get a pay raise? What do the members and audience of the losing team get? If all players, all audience members are not winning in some way, how is it about “community”?

As indicated earlier, too many people transfer the competitive and spectator mindset to other aspects of human relationships, from the personal to the global. In politics, the players are players. They play for the “team”, who profits. You don’t. You get to cheer when “your team WINS”. You won nothing. The ones who profit are the logos, the franchises, the corporate entities. You are probably not part of the “team”. Just another spectator in the stands, watching TV or reading the scorecard.

In sports, taxpayers pay taxes which fund sports programs in schools, so parents can pay money for uniforms and equipment. Tax and consumer dollars build stadiums, so corporate entities can play games, so spectators can pay for tickets to the spectacle. You go home with nothing but a spectacle and less money in your pocket.

In politics, consumers pay increased prices so corporations can “donate” large sums to campaigns. Tax dollars go to political campaigns, so candidates can ask for money, so parties (franchises) can win. You go home with nothing but a spectacle and less money in your pocket.

I fail to see where all this mindless competition benefits our society in any meaningful way. Cooperation is far more valuable than competition, whether domestic or global. Our society has completely lost any sense of cooperation. Most people have been desensitized to the consequences of our decisions, even to ourselves, conditioned to the IDEA of “winning”. Not thinking of what we “win”, what we lose or who pays the cost, who gets trampled in the turnstiles, who cleans up the mess after the game, whose homes get leveled for the stadium. For decades, this country has had a “win at any cost” mentality. What we are seeing now is the “cost” side of that equation because all the cost has been run on credit.

I’d say it’s time to stop thinking in terms of competition, step down from the bleachers, pick up our own garbage, walk out of the stadium and into the real community. There’s a lot to see and a lot more cooperation to be found when you realize the game has been played on YOU. If you want a sense of community, walk down the street, talk to your neighbors. Try building an actual COMMUNITY. Because that is what winning is really about.

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