Really? Every time I pass a sign that claims to have the world’s best anything I default to my copywriter-self. Good copywriters steer clear of “Best” and superlatives in general because, “Hey, how do you prove it - have you tried every burger in the world?”
But that’s what comes from living in a culture driven by one-upmanship and gamesmanship, where the, “What do I get out of it, I want the best,” mindset is only getting worse. “Keeping up with the Joneses”, which was bad enough, seems to have evolved into, “Bury the fucking Joneses.”
Humans are rarely satisfied with what they have.
Instead we’re hellbent to have more… especially when we compare ourselves to others. Which we’re always doing, consciously or not. Competing has become our default operating system and it’s not that hard to figure out how we became this way.
We do know that wanting to be on top of the hierarchy… or just believing the perception that you are, isn’t anything new. Archeologists discovered what they believe to be the first evidence of sociopolitical, hierarchal codes thirty-thousand years ago, and when the Agricultural Revolution took hold around 17,000 years ago, the beginning of land privatization and ownership (the start of capitalism), it further increased the us vs. them mentality.
When the framers of White Supremacy strategically, yet cavalierly decimated America’s Indigenous population and developed a capitalistic system designed to pit poor, uneducated White people against subjugated, enslaved Black people for their own economic gain - it was nothing short of sinister, strategic prowess.
They did this by framing self-reliance and the individualism mindset as the only path to becoming a real American. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the right way to become an American was to take on the values of the White American Self - to be independent, personally ambitious and focused on accumulating wealth.
To do that, we had to turn away from communalism, toward capitalism. And we have… helped along by the combination of social conditioning and the need for most individuals to grow developmentally… evolving their thinking skills in more strategic, complex, interdependent and systemic ways.
So how do we transcend this socially conditioned mindset and create another reality entirely? How do we inspire people to go beyond, “getting ahead,” and eventually, instinctively think and act like we are all in this together?
How do we make trophies inconsequential and make winning unimportant - especially when the powers that be utilize competition (pro and college sports, The Oscars etc.) to distract us and further our competitive nature?
And how do we inspire people to evaluate themselves on something other than what they have… their material accomplishments?
Well, not so funny enough, the solution is the same as what’s needed to end institutionalized White Supremacy. I know, that this isn’t anything new, but we must evaluate health, police, education, housing, employment, loans… all of our policies, through a lens of, “How do they work for everyone?” Not just how do they work for me?
And yes, a lot of us are working in it, it won’t happen anytime soon and it’s easy to say versus do, but that’s only because we live in such a competitive, siloed society where the majority of people abide by, “That’s how its always been and will be.”
We have to educate each other to where we are and how we got here if we’re to move forward. We have to have challenging conversations. So talk with people who might not share your views - don’t tell them what is right or wrong, ask them discovery questions so they can begin to figure it out themselves… coach them.
Seek to better understand them instead of insisting they understand you. And if you fail, find someone else and try it again, and again and again. We White people must be the ones that initiate these difficult conversations. It’s our responsibility.
And, we should all take a look at ourselves through the “material accomplishment” lens to better realize what part we play in this privileged, consumer world we live in.
You and I must encourage White people to relinquish their privilege and come to realization that it’s not a privilege to oppress others. It’s a crime.
Postscript: Please help me.
My intent in writing this blog about Racism and Oppression is to inform, instill greater awareness and potentially, generate action. The challenge: I believe most of my readers have similar ideologies… I’m preaching to the choir.
I need to get these thoughts in front of White people who are on the “Dissonance Fence,” between knowing that something is very wrong in our society that needs their participation to fix it, and their fear of upsetting other White people… family, friends, colleagues, who are either oblivious, unsure or content to hold onto their privilege.
How do I get this stuff in front of the fence sitters? Your ideas are most welcome.