Competition should not be considered a dirty word

A poll showed that 62 per cent of young people would “not be bothered” if the business of winning and losing was subtracted entirely from the sporting event

Share

Competition often gets a bad rap these days. All too often it is seen as divisive, gladiatorial and aggressive – the credo of alpha males on the rampage on Wall Street. It doesn’t help that the 19th-century philosopher who waxed most enthusiastically about the importance of the competitive spirit to humankind was the Nazis’ favourite thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche.

A spirit of revulsion against competition is clearly gaining ground among young people in Britain, if a report by the MCC and the cricketing charity Chance to Shine is to be believed. A poll it conducted showed that 62 per cent of young people would “not be bothered” if the business of winning and losing was subtracted entirely from the sporting events in which they take part.

One suspects that the response to that, especially on parts of the left, will be: hooray! Predatory capitalism, they tend to say, thrives on society subscribing to a kind of bastardised Darwinian ethic in which winning or losing are deemed the only things that count. If the younger generation is starting to say no thanks, we’d rather co-operate with one another than compete, that must be all to the good.

The problem with that view is that it is a jaundiced take on a particular type of competitiveness. Critiquing the cult of winning, especially when it is taken to grotesque excess, has a long and august pedigree. Xenophanes did that 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece, when he lambasted the society of his day for heaping – he said – far too many honours on sportsmen and for ranking winners of games above thinkers such as himself.

Xenophanes had a point, but it shouldn’t be taken too far. We mustn’t forget that without that competitive spirit, we would have missed out on a lot of towering works of art and scientific breakthroughs, none of which came about via a committee.

Not all competition need be aggressive and unpleasant and losing does not have to be seen as shameful. Of course it is fun to win but it can also be fun to lose and fun simply to take part. We should celebrate the competitive spirit, not condemn it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Hilary Mantel in 2003 - years before she released a short story, in which she fantasised about the death of Margaret Thatcher  

In what universe is Hilary Mantel's imaginary assassination of Margret Thatcher worthy of police investigation?

Matthew Norman
Noddy Holder must be glad he wrote 'Merry Xmas Everybody' as he'll earn £800,000 this year from royalties.  

Noddy Holder: A true rock ’n’ roll hero, and a role model for sensible people everywhere

Rosie Millard
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam