If one were to seek a philosophical concept which defines America, many would point to so called rugged individualism- a commitment to fighting the good fight to care for oneself and one’s family without assistance, relying on personal effort and ingenuity. This view stresses a responsibility for self which necessarily demotes concerns or issues within a wider human family. Such a focus, to a degree, is inevitable and essential since individual survival depends upon it.
That being acknowledged, out of this basic philosophy of self help, we culturally have become progressively more and more obsessed with the idea that human competition, this endless striving for personal achievement, is more than a way to live; it is the very reason why we exist and live. It is, in effect, our divine purpose.
Our general obsession with human competition, individually and collectively, is actually just a subtle, nuanced form of the battle between “good” and “evil” initiated in the Garden of Eden. The concept of improvement and progress by competition is a philosophy right out of the Tree of Knowledge. The need for knowledge required to label and segregate humanity into groups is an inherent philosophical concept- a principal to live by. When humanity was introduced to a measurement of human merit along with a charge to subdue and exercise dominion over all creation, what was the anticipated outcome? I firmly believe that outcome was the world in which we live, where competition consumes us physically, mentally, and morally.
On this same subject, the Bible speaks again on the subject of competition in the story of the Tower of Babel. Therein the Bible states that human unity can achieve all it can imagine. For that reason, humanity was splintered into competing groups. This was simply a reinforcement of the damage sustained from the Garden experience.
America is one vast battle field on which we engage in metaphorical wars. Business. Politics. Religion. Sports. Education. Careers. As an overarching principal, competition has equally numerous negative consequences. Disunity. Incivility. Mental illness. Mendacity. Violence. Ruthlessness. Few would deny it. The evidence roils our minds every day we live.
Everywhere our culture screams the message that there are only two kinds of people: the best and all the rest. To a great extent the position of the best can only be occupied by very few, maybe a single individual. Thus singular honors and achievements become the strongest of competitive motivators.
In religion, the competitive labels are saved and lost, God blessed and the sinful, worthless rest. The moral majority and the heathen, apostate, secular, liberal, and humanistic- all the evil others. As noted above the religious best are always the very few, the divinely chosen ones in this case.
By contrast, Jesus and Paul taught the principle of unity and oneness across all humanity, a concept which flies in the face of principles established among humanity back there in Genesis. Why the church, as the supposed agent of Christ, cannot let go of what doomed humanity in the Garden should cause concern to anyone who tries to identify with Jesus. Yet, we continue down a road which leads full circle back to the Garden, not to reestablish paradise but to repeat endlessly our past mistakes.