On Competitiveness

The idea of the survival of the best/the most competent has certainly been normalised in contemporary society – as opposed to the pre-Thatcher era when there was more (but not much more) emphasis on equality rather than the equality of opportunity which compresses our outlook now, which began to take hold under Thatcher here in the UK.

This is even more so in our “current economic climate” (another phrase which has been normalised to the extent that we no longer question why it must be this way) when there is a distinct lack of jobs. I’ve stuck with the same, not very well paid job for 4 years now – it is not a ‘career’ job, a factor that makes a 4 year spell at the same place an oddity in modern times. I don’t even attempt to be a confident career aspirational, and my lack of confidence in my ability to stand a chance in the job hunting world has both made this refusal to partake and has been influenced by it from then onwards.

I only have to hear about my friends’ and family’s attempts to find work (work well within their experience and skill levels) and being rejected because there’s so many people from all over the land competing for the handful of jobs going in this “current economic climate” (stop fucking saying that!), to find myself seething with aimless rage about a world that is grossly unfair under the normalisation of extreme competitiveness.

This normalisation pressures us to live our entire lives trying to be better than others. Of course, many people believe in being good to other people at the expense of, or at least as well as, personal triumph. Nevertheless, they are always on the back foot. And they know it: they know that there’s enough of a force out there, made by social conditioning, to kick them down for trying to be fair with people, and they know that unless they adopt some part of this attitude that they are in for a life of strife and hardship.

We’ve all heard the sayings “you can’t go through life thinking like that” and “you’ve got to look after number 1 in this world mate”, well, it isn’t human nature which makes these ways of behaving rule over all others, they are ways of behaving which supersede all others because the systemic structure has normalised them to be so.

Once the word ‘brainwashed’ is used people turn away, presuming they are listening to a deranged conspiracy theorist. But there’s no need for conspiracy, the truth is laid bare that a system conditions people to think in certain ways, to act in certain ways, instead of other ways – isn’t that brainwashing?

It is a ‘design for life’ (as the Manic Street Preachers put it) and I feel a great pressure to adopt it in many conversation patterns I have, which roughly run like this

Me: “I don’t want to drive, it’s just adding to the problem (of too many cars)”.

Other Person: “But you need to learn how to drive if you want to get anywhere in life”

Me: “well, I don’t even earn enough money to learn how to drive”

Other Person: “Well, you need to start looking for a better paid job then. You can’t just work in this place forever!”

Me: “I’ve got no family, no girlfriend, no mortgage to pay, and I don’t want a job that takes up my life, because I want the free time to spend on my art work”

Other Person: “Yes, but you don’t even try to market your work or get yourself out there more. Surely you want to be able to make a business out of it?”

Well, never wanting to fall out with people, I usually shut up at this point, when what I would want to say is “well, actually NO, I don’t want to make a business out of it, I don’t ant to reduce it to a fucking business. You say you like my work, but do you even take any notice to work my work is actually about?

This is when I hit the brick wall, unable to challenge this normalisation of the idea that competitiveness, thus business, should rule over all aspects of life.

 

About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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