One word that really troubles me, and which is trotted out at every opportunity, especially by the U.K.’s present Coalition government, is ‘competition’. The prime minister uses it as if it was a talisman and the means of solving all problems, but primarily national economic ones. He and a retinue of business men have recently been on a visit to China, apparently fixing millions of contracts which are to the countries advantage – and presumably China’s. Cameron saw the visit as a fillip to European and Chinese business connections, and himself as an ambassador for the E.U., which is odd considering his much publicised distaste for the E.U. But anyway, it was all done as an exercise in successful competition.
The main political controversy in the U,K, at the moment is rising energy prices. Again it seems the answer to this is more competition. The six main energy firms need to be more open to this way of business they are told, and the householder needs to find out which one of them offers the best deal by ‘shopping around’.
This theory ignores the fact that firms can change their offers to maximise their profits, so that what they organise for themselves this week may well be a bad deal for their customers next week. It also assumes that householders share the competitive spirit and have nothing better to do than search the internet for a new deal that is better than the last one. The system also ignores people who are not computer literate (horrible phrase) and are likely to include those who are most in need of reasonably priced energy such as the poor and the elderly.
Nelson Mandela’s funeral cum celebration today in the presence of nearly a hundred of so called international statesmen and despite appalling weather, reminds us of the extraordinary calibre of the man. He came out from all those years of confinement with a belief in the possibilities of people working together, whether friend or enemy.
Competitiveness, setting people against each other not for the common good but by turning people into adversaries and dividing them into winners and losers, was not in his nature. He saw the future for South Africa in terms of a commonwealth.
‘ Consensus’ and ‘cooperation’ are better words than competition and better intentions. They have a meaning which assumes that people can work together for the common good. They are creative, liberating words and might be the means and focus of a united purpose. We should try it.
See related links: Unexamined Words