Meritocracy = Competition = Selfishness

As far as I can remember, when I was little, for some unknown reason I have always have this disdain for competition. The question that has always remained in my mind, even when I was going through school, was always “why do I always have to be compared with someone else?” And “why do I need to be better than other people?” The answer that was always given to me was that in order to get ahead in life we need to be better than the others around us. You need to be better than the others in your studies, than it will be easier for you to find a job because you are better then the others, then you will earn more than the others, and thus have a better life than the others. Being the top was the key, generally speaking. Unfortunately, there was one caveat. Only ONE can be the top. NOT everyone can be ON TOP, there is ONLY ONE.

Taking being the TOP out of the consideration for the moment, you’d still have to relatively better than others to make it. The heat is on to be near the top of the pile, so you can get better grades, get the interview that would land you the job, and hopefully make good money to have a good life. Meritocracy is a double edged sword. It is a good thing because it can facilitate many things in the society, and best of all it promotes racial/gender equality. For example, people can be hired for a job based on their merits and capabilities and not based on their race, nationality, or gender. However, it also encourages competition.

Competition, is not exactly a bad thing either, depending on how you look at it. As mentioned before, competition can facilitate meritocracy, but it can also hamper mankind’s progress as human beings. Competition can bring out the ugly side of all of us, or the best side. Some will stop at nothing to remain on top, and some will resort to anything to climb to the top. Yet for the few enlightened ones, these will realize being near or at the top would mean nothing to them if they have to trample on others to get up there. These are the few precious ones who realizes that competition promotes selfishness. In competition, one always has the mindset that “I have to be better than the rest to win.” In most cases, people would do almost anything to win in a competition. I am not saying that people want win regardless of the things they have to do to get it, but the definition of being selfish is thinking of nothing but one’s self. Thus, being in any competition to win would put one in the selfish mindset. Unfortunately for some, it would start their downward spiral into the dark side.

Competition in school is something that almost everyone can identify with. Your grades in school are decided not by how much you know, but how well your cohorts are doing in relation to you. No where is this more prevalent than in the grand national exams in Singapore such as the GCE ‘O Levels, the GCE’ A Levels, and most prominently in most prestigious universities around the world. Even the entrance exams like the SATs, TOEFLs, and other similar exams are graded based on the bell curve. Some students have also outright stated that they would do almost anything to get better grades.

No doubt, schools are tailored to help students to better adapt to living in the society as adults. It should be quite obvious to all that our society has been built on selfishness and greed (for example, everyone wants to be better than the person next to them, and they want to make more money to be able to live better, and enjoy more. Therefore the never ending spiral to accumulate enough wealth to achieve their goal/s). Our society has lost its way in humanity in our pursuit to enrich ourselves materialistically, neglecting our other aspects of humanity. Realize now that we as a society have lost our genuine concern for our other fellow human being’s well-being, and our responsibilities to our families by virtue of the titles bestowed upon us in a family (for example, a working mother will never be able to fulfill her responsibilities as a mother satisfactorily. This eventually affects the society with ill behaved brats.). Sometimes, it is through no fault of ours (survival reasons), and at other times it is a choice. It is time I feel that we should all wake up and realize this little truth on what we have become in our daily pursuit of a better life in the society. It is not always bad, but the biggest question of all that we should always consider – when will more be enough ?


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