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By Joel Sangronis Padrón
The inhabitants of contemporary society are immersed since we are born in the trap of competitiveness, of the accumulation of things and material achievements as the only way to happiness and the full realization of life. Possessing is the obligation imposed on us by the social model in which we live; From our first steps in life we are forced to compete and possess as ends in themselves.
Life is long if it is full; and it becomes full
When the soul has regained possession
Of his own good and has transferred to himself the
The Colombian author Gustavo Wilches-Chaux tells in his book “And what is that, Sustainable Development?” the anecdote of an “expert” in productivity and efficiency who observed a fisherman reclining in his hammock in front of a river; At lunchtime the man threw a hook into the river and after 10 minutes he took out a large fish; When he brought the fish to his wife, he cut one from the plantain plant next to his house that his wife fried for him along with the fish for lunch. The expert approached the man and began questioning him:
"Friend, if in 10 minutes with a single hook you took a fish, with 10 hooks you would take 10 fish, right?" "That's right!", Replied the fisherman. "And in an hour?" "Well, sixty fish! "" And in 8 hours of work? "" Four hundred and eighty fish, "our fisherman calculated.
Calculator in hand, the “expert” continued explaining to him: In three hundred days of work a year he would take out 144,000 fish and if he asked for a loan to buy one or two boats and digging trucks to transport the fish in more or less 20 years he would have a large company with many employees who would work so that he could afford to lie in a hammock all day. And why am I going to wait 20 years and take so many jobs, asked the fisherman, if that is precisely what I am doing now, besides, it is most certain that with this rate of exploitation in 20 years there will not be a single fish left. in the river". (one)
The anecdote of the Colombian author illustrates quite clearly one of the traps in which, since we are born, the inhabitants of contemporary society are immersed: the trap of competitiveness, of the accumulation of things and material achievements as the only way to happiness. and to the full realization of life. Possessing is the obligation imposed on us by the social model in which we live; From our first steps in life we are forced to compete and possess as ends in themselves.
Family, school, games, the media, social norms and goals that this cultural model forces us to impose on ourselves, push us into an endless race to possess, to accumulate, to compete and excel in each and every one of the facets of our existence. We are taught to despise or ignore the pleasure of doing things solely for the pleasure of doing them, for the intimate or shared satisfaction of a job well done, or for the effort put into practice, always that work, effort or achievement will be measured in terms of better or worse with which another has obtained or performed. Solidarity, cooperation and lack of aggressiveness are delegitimized and labeled as obstacles that will hinder or prevent being "someone" in life.
Already as adults, success is measured, or rather, it is accounted for, almost exclusively by the share of power, by the purchasing power or by the individual fame that the person has managed to obtain, regardless of the means through which they have achieved those ends.
The dynamics of capitalism itself generates an individualistic, utilitarian man, driven to compete and sustained by ambition, because in this model, we already know, having is equivalent to being.
The true and generally hidden drama of individualism and competitiveness is that it produces a single winner at the expense of countless losers.
Neoliberalism has come to serve in recent times as the philosophical support of the capitalist model. In neoliberalism, personal ambition (the engine of competitiveness) is legitimized and sacralized as a virtue and a value that generates wealth and well-being (although it would be better to say “well-being”); But the system itself means that personal ambition is never satisfied: if you have finally bought a used car, the system will soon create in you the ambition to acquire a new economic model. If you decide to go into debt with a bank to acquire that new economic model, very soon the advertising and your social environment will make you dream of acquiring a luxury model; If you, violating your economic possibilities, acquire that luxury model, before you know it there will be a new and more attractive model on the market and so on to infinity, turning existence into a rat race to acquire things, to have more than our brothers or childhood friends, or that our work or study colleagues or that our neighbors, in a lifestyle where the pressure to stand out, to excel, to show that one has not "stayed" in front of others has achieved that the Stress, strokes, broken homes, the intake of alcohol and other drugs and depressive problems are normal and common things.
Ethics is fundamentally about freedom: It is being able to decide “do I or don't I?”, “Do I act this way or this way?”, “Do I say yes or no?”.
The ideology (in the Marxist sense of the term) of consumerism, of competitiveness (totalitarian as few in history), completely nullifies that freedom. The person will consume so as not to feel excluded from their social group; will consume so as not to feel vulnerable and rejected; He will consume because his relatives, his friends or his enemies, his companions or his competitors, compel him to do so through the ostentation of what they have already consumed.
As well pointed out by Professor Julio Escalona, “society has become increasingly complex and social and individual relations are increasingly mediated by large political, administrative and technical apparatuses, which constitute a powerful ideological force, which is not supported simply in the dissemination of ideas, but, mainly, of practices.
The social norm, the value system and priorities are established according to the rationality and effectiveness of the social system; they are therefore external to the individual, they do not belong to him. However, he must identify with them and make them his own. Consequently, individual ethics and free choice only exist within the conditioning and logic of the market.
A highly competitive system has established a code of rewards, rewards, punishments and emulations; a whole system of individual progress and social advancement, which becomes a tremendous ethical, psychological and physical pressure on the individual and his family ”(2)
Most of us parents turn the school education of our children into torture, into a race against all their classmates and themselves, dotted with all the obstacles that in the form of English courses, creativity workshops, flamenco, computers. , baseball schools, karate, directed tasks, modeling and social behavior and vacation plans we managed to impose on them, dismissing as a horrible waste of time any attempt by children to socialize themselves and create or choose their own diversions, their free time, their games and their training processes, or discarding the opportunity to simply share spaces and quality time with their parents, siblings and friends, creating frustrated and stressed beings from childhood.
Our current civilizing model is a product (and a slave at the same time) of the analytical method and, therefore, of the logic of decomposing the whole into its different constituent parts. This method that allowed the quantitative and qualitative leap in science and technology that meant the industrial revolution, drags in its very nature the inability to holistically appreciate reality. He is not able to see the whole and know that the part is in the whole and the whole in each of the parts. Thus, in capitalism and Western culture, society is seen as a sum of individualities.
Individualism and exacerbated competitiveness produce an ahistorical, fractured, disjointed and dispersed social whole, which only has in common the media directives of the market.
In this model, man is understood as a separate part of the social whole, incapable of seeing himself as part of that society; to recognize others as part of himself. Capitalism presents the "others" as rivals, real or potential, as competitors that must be overcome, and the socio-ecological environment as a simple scenario where that competition or struggle must take place.
For capitalism and its ideologues, the impoverished countries and sectors of the world are so solely and exclusively through their own fault. The causes of this poverty and backwardness are metaphysical in nature, solely attributable to themselves (laziness, indolence, lack of initiative, little creativity, slowness, fatalism), without bothering to investigate (or accept the investigations that others carry out). Sociohistorical processes that have led these countries and sectors to these situations. Therefore, poverty, misery and exclusion are ethical problems, only attributable to each individual, without neither the material conditions of existence nor the history of the social relations of production, in each specific case, having the slightest interference On it.
The shadow of social Darwinism underlies these kinds of interpretations. It would only be necessary to modify the term “survival of the fittest” by “survival of the most competitive”.
The schools of administration and management that flourished like a plague in Latin American universities in the eighties and nineties, tried to give a certain academic and scientific veneer to the theses of competitiveness and social Darwinism imposed by the Washington consensus, directed from that same city and atrociously executed in our countries by brigades of technocrats under the command of the miserable "leaders" that we suffered in this part of the world during that time (CA Pérez, Salinas de Gortari, Carlos Menen, Fernando Henrique Cardozo, Alejandro Toledo, Rafael Caldera, etc). Even today, a good part of the faculty of our academies, hypnotized and cretinized by neoliberal preaching, insists on raising the banners of competitiveness and productivism as panaceas for underdevelopment. They persist in denying the socio-historical processes of exploitation, slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism, dependency and imperialism as explanatory elements of our backwardness and poverty, and they rule with stupid self-sufficiency that the only thing that differentiates us from countries like Holland or Japan is our personal attitude. In front of the work, seen which, it is perfectly understood that they impose as a bedside book of their respective subjects an editorial mess of the type "La Culpa es de la Vaca".
The Spanish Ecofilosopher Joaquín Araujo says that the first task of Environmental Education should be to discredit the myth of competitiveness ”. An arduous task is to fight against one of the columns where the current civilizational model is based, but which must be assumed as soon as possible by all of us who believe and fight for a different society and world.
Joel Sangronis Padrón, Professor UNERMB, Venezuela