By Amara Sesay
Humans are either inherently competitive or inherently collaborative. However, in Politics and Psychology, the dominant instinct seems to be that of competition. And here are some of its popular and not-so-popular by-products in interpersonal relationships and politics: envy, jealousy, excellence, mastery, victory, number-one statushood, presidency, globalisation, colonialism, populism and racism. For some of these, the nexus with competition is clear, for some, you have to move closer and look deeply.
What is however noteworthy is that even in the absence of apparent competition, it makes both economic and emotional sense to train your children to be competitive.
For a start, nobody goes about in search of the number two man. And in most sports and endeavours of life, that’s the best place for losers. It’s the top one per cent that eats the biggest part of the pie, makes the most critical decisions and controls the tools and infrastructure to engender the most harm or the most goodness as the case may be. You don’t want your son or daughter to miss that spot!
Being competition-conscious does not mean taking your children to schools where they are taught in American and British Curriculum, whatever that means. In fact, such neo-colonialist, low self-esteem attempts at putting your children ahead of the competition may be counterproductive in the long run. That is not to say there are no benefits attached to it.
Being competitive means being grounded in knowledge and the context of local factors of production. In our times, these go above and beyond the physical, to the digital and even the post-digital, if there is ever going to be something like that. In other words, let them compete both in the universe and the metaverse.
Note that competition, like charity, begins at home. Teach them to maintain a grasp of their native or first language as they may need that constituency later in life. Teach them the nuances of upholding and breaking the law for “good” causes. Teach them to eat last. And teach them to complete whatever they start, except they are sure that the preferred task is more beneficial than the abandoned ones. You should teach them to embrace feedback. With these traits and a deep mastery of one service or product that is of value to people, they can go places and perform wonders.
What is international competitiveness? Its local mastery is refined to suit many cultures and geographical territories. In the gig economy, this has become even more important. With 5G, it will be even more critically important.
So, whilst this generation may benefit from local content policies and other forms of structural violence that are meant to keep immigrants at bay. Populism, affirmative actions/federal character and language barriers may not prove beneficial in the future, as they are now for the less competitive citizens. Now is the time to build that sense of competition in your children. Now is now! Let the journey begin.
Amara Sesay wrote from Lagos.