Archive for January, 2009

Questioning Competition

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Philosophy, politics with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2009 by 99ppp

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with competition. I grudgingly admit that it is necessary in various contexts, but I question the level of importance that is often placed in our society. The ugly side of people often arises, and I believe the stigma of “losing”, keeps many of us from taking risks and challenging our conditioned patterns. We tread the same paths, follow formulas for “winning”, anything to avoid losing the game. I began this post with the intention to make a case against competition, but I can’t in good conscience. Competition can wean out poor ideas in favour of better ones, and also gives us the ability to test our skills against a worthy opponent. In the business sphere, competition allows us a range of products without a monolithic monopoly. Yet I wonder how much energy we waste upon defeating our opponents, and in the case of war and peace, at the cost of human lives. Cooperation seems to be more energy efficient.

Can there be competition without ego?

I’ve been an avid club level chess player for the longest time. I was playing a much higher rated opponent in an online correspondence chess site, and I was grateful since I often don’t get to play such an opponent. Wanting to test my skill, I made highly deliberate moves, always checking for errors, giving this game a greater amount of time for analysis, and seeing how long I could last before he would crush me. I found the game was fairly even after a substantial amount of moves. After a while, my opponent accused me of using a computer to cheat. I assured him that I was not, just giving the game a greater amount of attention that I usually would, but he insisted I was cheating. “Look at your rating”, he said. The game stopped being fun. I told him that and resigned in disgust. I stopped playing chess, a game I love for a few months after that unpleasant incident. I re-contextualized the game in my mind, as two people exchanging puzzles in order for me to have the stomach to play again.

If one wins a game, but loses goodwill, what is really won?

Dallas — The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper saying he will not apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”(LINK )

There is no honour or integrity in crushing one’s opponents, especially in this case where the losing team is a formed from a school that specializes in learning disabilities. This “victory at all costs” mentality is pervasive, and hard to shake as it even permeates foreign policy, as the pro-war propaganda machine often mocked the voices for peace and restraint as those who didn’t want to “win the war”.

Explorations into competition

I will explore further topics on competition, the next time on professional sports fans, and competition in the context of the Prisoner’s Dilemma,  business, science innovations, and ideas (intellectual property) in future posts. There are many examples and expressions when it comes to “The Game”, yet perhaps not enough on whether The Game is worth playing. I will also explore cooperation, and why the concept seems elusive to so many.

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Deciding to Decide

Posted in Culture, Economy, Philosophy, politics, Uncategorized on January 23, 2009 by 99ppp

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt” – Bertrand Russell (philosopher)

“I am the decider…” – George W. Bush

I had a difficult time deciding what to write about in the new year. There are so many topics that capture my interest but not one that overwhelmed me in importance. There is the economic crisis, the Obama inauguration , the conflict in the Middle East (although I prefer discussing ethics over politics), and the costs and benefits of competition. So I thought about decision, why we need to make more of them, who should make them, and how to make them.

Why is there a need to make decisions?

Eventually we need to act. Without making conscious decisions, we are simply reacting to circumstances, often out of fear. In my case, I couldn’t pick an essay topic, had many potential ones but I didn’t know if I had enough content in each to warrant a post, so I failed to write a full essay on ANY of those topics. I HAD to pick one in order to get anything done. Paradoxically, choice is pain, yet making a choice is freedom from that pain. Once I made that decision, that pain was relieved. So whatever variance there will be in quality, there WILL be content here every Wednesday at the very least. This one is late, but it is done.

If you don’t have a plan, someone has a plan for you.

This is why Bush said he’s the decider. Not A decider, but THE decider. That means all of us can’t decide on some important issues that affects us. And there’s a dark truth to that, as many of us don’t want to make decisions. This is associated to the word “responsibility” which I have previously written about. To avoid getting blame, or being bound by duty, we give away our power. We make others make decisions for us. This is why so many are so giddy about Obama becoming president. Many people see him as a saviour, and will keep us from making decisions for ourselves. Like this Monty Python clip, many need someone to tell them what to do. We are quick to blame the politicians, but we placed them on that pedestal, just to knock them down when they are wrong. Better that someone else be wrong. This is why politicians need to project an air of infallibility to get elected. They don’t admit mistakes, and the system relies on it. This is why during the Iraq War, they were so adamant that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. They couldn’t admit a mistake until much later, especially considering the human cost of such operation.

Obama seems like a thoughtful enough fellow but he (or anyone else) can’t be trusted with power over others.  It’s not because he’s mean or duplicitous, he may be perfectly well-intended. It’s because power over others is addictive and even I wouldn’t trust myself with it. It’s best for each of us to decide what we value, find consensus and explore disagreements among ourselves. Looking towards the peak of hierarchies keep us as perpetual children, avoiding responsibility, and looking to the Daddy-state to solve our problems for us.

To make a decision does one need to be “cocksure” and restrict your intelligence as Russell suggests? It is good to acknowledge our ignorance, we don’t know exactly what’s the consequences of our actions will be. This is when we fall on faith, faith in ourselves, or confidence. Many will embrace a faith that comes outside themselves, from some ancient book or archaic traditions. While some contain great wisdom, the self is the best arbiter to selecting principles. We can listen or read, consider, accept or reject.

How to make a decision?

There are a myriad of resources on how to make decision, and some very creative tricks to do so all around the internet, although I’d be cautious on those that seem too complex. Whatever the tool, guided by conscience and acted upon will help give us direction through pure trial and error. In these uncertain times, we have a great space to direct our actions, yet that won’t start until we make the decision to do so.

Wedding at Taco Bell? Why not?

Posted in business, Culture, Economy, Love, Relationships with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by 99ppp

While I remain a critic to marriage as an institution, I was pleased to see some of those do opt to marry are turning their backs to the wasteful, useless wedding industry, which happens to be in trouble, and rightfully so in these uncertain economic times.

The bride wore a $15 hot pink dress and the entire wedding cost about $200. Several dozen guests looked on as the couple’s friend, Ryan Green of Normal, administered the vows while wearing a T-shirt. He was ordained online.

“This is the way to go — there’s no stress,” said the groom’s mother, Kathy Brooks. (LINK)

Instruction Manual for Life

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by 99ppp

Well worth a peek, good food for thought. [Vid: 8:01min]

Animation by TheraminTrees and QualiaSoup

Ricky Gervais: “You just like eating, don’t you?”

Posted in Culture, Media, Vids with tags , , , on January 7, 2009 by 99ppp

Ricky Gervais, a portly fella himself, cuts through the bullshit and gives his thoughts on obesity. He’s also been critical of surgical weight-loss methods.

Vid: 4:50min