The word ‘competition’ comes from the Latin competere and literally means ‘seeking together’ or ‘choosing to run on the same track’.
Unfortunately this word has become disassociated from its original meaning and now suggests the exalting of individual achievement. Following the belief that competition gives incentives for self-improvement, our current socioeconomic model divides people into winners and losers, rich and poor, First and Third Worlds.
We compete in almost every area of our lives, whether it be for attention, wealth, prestige, power, or fame, and when we have time for recreation,
we compete at sports or watch the increasingly extreme reality-TV game shows … We seem to be bombarded by the message that ‘if we don’t win, we are nobody’, and so we strive at any cost to maintain our self-respect. And we can feel the tension rising: an estimated 12 million people in the UK alone are on antidepressants.
We are not only individualists, however, since – as demonstrated by the explosion of social networking sites – we also want to belong. Could it be that a shared purpose is needed in order for us to ‘seek together’ so that more of us can come first?
As Adam Smith claims in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ‘For a free-market system not to collapse, those at the helm have to see also to the public interest and not merely their private benefit.’ As proven by ancient Greek and Roman societies, civilisations that are incapable of combining efficiency, equality of opportunity and empathy eventually erode.
The opportunities for leading a richer life, creating organisations that are inspiring to work for and societies in which more people have a genuine chance of realising theirs dreams have never been greater. Isn’t it time that we ‘blessed’ our efficient market machine with a soul?
In this issue we are inviting everyone to enter the ring, to fight the good fight and to revive the debate on what makes for good competition. Having come so far, we are perfectly capable of rewriting the rules of the game to provide a new model in which efficiency and empathy go hand in hand.
Laura & Damian Santamaria