Tuesday

Competitiveness

I got a beef with competitive people, just like I got a beef with drivers who do the Sydney Shuffle: you know, overtaking you meters before a red light.  

I suppose it's got to do with urgency and the gradual reduction of time allocated to people (especially business people) to do all the things not related to making money. Too much to do in too small a timeframe — and so I'm gonna edge in before anyone else and enjoy the fruits of my pole position.

But the real beef is with the mentality behind it, the unspoken social agenda which changes people's genuine human interactions. People complain of the supposed communications boom as facilitating greater communication-convenience whilst killing off genuine communication, whatever that may be. It's a kind of gadget mentality — the technological means has replaced the content it was meant to facilitate — like a generation of mobile phone users ringing up or messaging all their friends on their mobiles to reassure them they are now 'mobile'. The promise of "instant" communication has whitewashed our idea of communicating at all. The technology has taken over, it may well be true, it may well just be an innocent notion. These cheap technologies make us think differently about how we engage socially and build relationships — we now build them on convenience and accessability — and for the business world, on exploitability. Venture capitalism and mobile communications go hand in hand of course. And this has trickled down to the little capitalists making deals right down at the traffic lights, all the time.

But really, when you've sped to a red light and made that deal on the phone, have you achieved anything? You've beaten someone else. Woo hoo. Or, like those older women who push in the bread cue with their mean, pinched and bitter faces, they have the lasting satisfaction of ordering before anyone else, and looking triumphant, and still pawing the taste-samples with their discretionary, bloated fingers. I think it's plain old meanness blended with our triumphalist culture. I am the greatest. I have the power.

Consequently, you judge all other people on the competitive scale: are they on my level, do they pose a threat, do they have similar resources, are they better connected (technically and contact-ly) and so likely to get there sooner? Think back to the business card scene in American Psycho. The print is embossed! A habit of sizing up and gauging the potential relationship — the with or against. Again, blaming this all on capitalism is like calling the kettle black. In some ways these are basic human tendencies which flower under encouraging conditions — which could have us chicken and egging all night long. But what was that thing about genuine communication…

I suppose it's all about working together. But the question of basis is all-important here. Do you enter into a relationship because of shared goals and shared work, because working in groups saves nine, or because you really like meeting people; or do you work simply to stay on call, to keep people's numbers for future use and locatability? Sheer sociability in the guise of future management? The exact spice of my beef is those people whose criteria for interpersonality has become purely professional, for whom the meeting of people has become a technologised, compartmentalised event. The people in bank queues who've long forgotten the initial embarrassment at carrying out loud, detailed conversations in public places on their mobile. Let's face it: the majority of people who rely on cellphones use them as people-locaters ('I'm waving my arms now!') or as filofax extenders. I like people who make a-gadgetary, genuine efforts to communicate. I like the effort and/or inconvenience to show through.

Exit the Luddite.



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