Winning or Ubuntu?

The other day, my son had his annual sports day in school. He had won the heat and was selected for the final race. However, he was unable to secure any position and stood fourth (or maybe fifth, sixth, seventh) in the final tally. Obviously, he couldn’t step up on the victory stand and wear a medal. While coming back home he started crying that his friends won and he didn’t.  I tried to console him a lot but nothing worked and he kept crying and cribbing. My husband heard this and started motivating my son to work harder the next time, put more dedication and the usual pep talks that we give to those who do not win. Exactly then I realized that we put so much emphasis on winning. I tried to give my son examples from movies on sports but saw that probably with the sole exception of Creed starring Sylvester Stallone in all sports movies it is ultimately about winning. Our entire concept of sports is based on Jo Jeeta wohi Sikander.

Not only sports but in every sphere of life, there is literally no space for losers in our society. Be it our family, our workspace, our relationships, and everything. Homo sapiens are competitive and even Darwin said Survival of the Fittest. If anyone is aware of the writings of Michel Foucault they would know how he talked about the marginalization of the non-winners in our society.

Honestly I wouldn’t have thought about all these if my son had won, instead like a typical proud mother, I would have been busy putting up photos of him with his medals on social media with the hashtag #myheroisawinner or something similar because all of us are guilty of inculcating this winner-loser theory and boasting about our victories. At the end, all of us want to win because since childhood we have been trained and programmed by the society that winning is good and losing is bad and therefore at any cost, we have to win. We have to win a promotion, a lover, a house, a lottery, a game of ludo, Instagram followers, awards, trophies, medals, projects, blah blah blah. Our entire life revolves around winning. An entire industry of self-help books exists cultivating this tendency and desire of human nature to win.

However, think of a world without competition for a moment. Think of a life where we do not want to win. Think of a sport where there is no winning. Don’t you think life would have been simpler and stress-free if there was no competition? Don’t you think the world would have been free of jealousy and would have been so much more harmonious? Have you ever heard of the story of Ubuntu?

In an African village, a white man kept candies in a basket and asked few kids from the tribe to race. He said whoever reached the basket first would get all the candies. These kids were malnourished with hardly any good food to eat yet to his surprise the white man saw that all the kids held each other’s hands and formed a chain and moved forward towards the basket together. Then they all shared the candies happily with each other. When the white man asked them why they did not race and win all the candies. Then the kids replied ‘how could one be happy if all the others were unhappy’. They said that in their tribe they believe in the happiness of all instead of happiness of one.

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However, in our society, we believe that the fun in a sport is by deciding one ‘happy’ winner at the cost of seven or more ‘unhappy’ losers. We focus on competition and not harmony, we teach our kids to leave others behind and move forward. No wonder we are such an unhappy society by and large.  I wish I could have taught my son to practice the concept of ubuntu but unfortunately, I do not belong to the Zulu tribe and my society demands me to raise a ‘trophy kid’ who wins medals and not a happy kid who believes in sharing, compassion, and empathy. For now, let me go back and tend to my sour loser and stop daydreaming about a utopian world that is free of competition, jealousy, and stress.

Mondaymusings-1

Linking this post to #MondayMusings hosted by dear Corinne.

29 thoughts on “Winning or Ubuntu?

  1. AtticSister says:

    My son-in-law, a very, very type A personality says that our family celebrates mediocrity. Yes, yes we do. For starters, our family never put the emphasis on sports but on academics. A healthy brain is just as important as a healthy body. In the world of sports there can only be one first place and sometimes that first place is only a fraction of a second faster. How sad that the second place person did their best yet still didn’t win? In life, there are many first places; anyone can succeed. I have found that acknowledging small successes in everyday life encourages children to strive to be better. I believe even the most minute achievement should be acknowledged if the person put forth their best effort. Did your child get a B on their spelling test but got the 2 bonus words correct? That is a success! Did you child conquer her fear of speaking in front of groups and give her presentation to the entire class without any trouble? That is HUGE! By teaching our children to do their best they can feel accomplished with a less than first place finish. If we all just strive to do our best wouldn’t our world be a much better place?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Balaka says:

      I feel in my part of the world academic is as competitive as sports, if not more. But yrs I agree that acknowledging small success is important. It is true that we should all strive to do our best and our only competitor should be us. We should thrive to be the best version of ourselves. Thanks for this beautiful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aesha says:

    I would like to share an experience with you before I comment on your post.
    Once Mishti was attending a competition and during her heat , six swimmers had already climbed on to the diving board and were awaiting the whistle to take the plunge. That’s when result of the stroke conducted earlier was announced & it was announced that her competitor had broken a 10 year old record. Though they were on the stand and focused on their stroke they started applauding .
    Another experience is when all her friends who are also her competitors won medals except her & though she was unhappy about her result , she was the first one to be near the victory stand to applaud their achievement & all these friends took off their medals and put them on Mishti when they saw that she was cheering for them.
    So while sports is about winning it does teach compassion, empathy , team spirit and sportsmanship.
    I agree with you about competition , however sports develops the spirit of healthy competition in kids & it teaches not to dwell on failures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Balaka says:

      Such a beautiful comment Aesha. Ehat Mishti did is the sign of true sportsmanship. Yes, definitely sports teach us compassion, companionship but at the same time it is actually about winning and we even see many of our sports heroes becoming a sour loser. We see our heroes crying at failures. A true sportsman should enjoy the sport and learn and love it and be equally graceful about winning and losing but unfortunately we mostly emphasize winning. It was so nice talking to you today and I got such a nice insight into the life of a sportsperson’s mom’s life. I am confident Mishti will emerge as a very compassionate and nice human being, my good wishes to her.

      Liked by 2 people

    • AtticSister says:

      Yes sports should be able to encourage companionship and comraderie but all to often here in the US the biggest emphasis is about winning at all cost. Some children’s team sports even go as far as to say everyone is a winner because they don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt. In some ways I see this as a blatant lie to our kiddos. They know who made points, they understand who ran fastest, it is unfortunate that we cannot fine a better way to teach good sportsmanship in every aspect of the gsme. I do not know the answer except to say, we learn what we live with. It starts at home not on the competition

      Liked by 2 people

      • Balaka says:

        Not only US but all over the world it is the same. And I agree competitiveness starts at home. Some parents push their kids too much to win. However kids should be taught to enjoy the sport and they should learn to form a bonding through games.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. BellyBytes says:

    While I agree with you that collective happiness is better than individual happiness especially at the cost of others, competition is a great motivator. It also promotes meritocracy else the children just feel that it’s ok just to show up rather than try to excel. Most importantly, learning to face defeat and disappointment is essential to survive because we cannot be winners every day.
    I’m all for competitive sports as it brings out the best in people. Incidentally I always came last in everything physical and didn’t do too badly for it !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Sunita thanks for your comment. I agree that competitiveness help us excel or else we would become complacent. However I am not only talking about sports here but life in general. I feel that our world has become too competitive in every sphere and that is causing so much tension and stress all over. I wish we could be less competitive and more supportive in every sphere and that is why I mentioned the concept of Ubuntu where you think of collective happiness and not individual happiness.
      Btw, I was also horrible in sports and did not get a single medal in my entire life other than one Pinkathon marathon participation medal.

      Like

  4. neelstoria says:

    The world would have indeed been a better place without competition – ideal and utopian. In that situation would we put in efforts to be our best? Would there be any innovations or improvements? Just wondering. A competition with one’s ownself is maybe what we should encourage in our children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Yes..these are just introspection and speculation. We won’t be really able to assess the flipside of a world without competition because we have never experienced it. It definitely would have its own pros and cons. I guess Ubuntu could be experimented on a small cross section and see the impact and outcome. Thanks for the comment dear.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Antoinette Truglio Martin says:

    I vote ubuntu. My daughters were discouraged by sport competitions. Although they loved to play softball basketball and swim their place on the teams were never acknowledged since skills were not trophy level.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Balaka says:

      Yes.. only winners are acknowledged in our current system..no wonder parents are pushing their kids so hard to compete and win. I also dream of an ideal and perhaps alternate world where Ubuntu is the way of life.

      Like

  6. arv! says:

    The current race to win and claim the prize has been one of the reasons for unhappiness. We are not living in harmony – it is a lack of mental peace. We all have something unique to offer. Understanding this will help us to lead a better life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Parul Thakur says:

    Loved reading this post, Balaka and then the story you shared about Ubuntu. I am all in for Ubuntu. I don’t think I am competitive as well. I think in this debate and who we are as race, every individual needs to find a balance. The moment we find that, life will be better. Look at it this way – if I am competitive, I would want to win but then I would learn if I don’t win. If I win, then I will help those who did not and try to set the bar higher. If I am competitive but I don’t step on others to rise up – I would stay humble. But I also know that this is not easy. Like you said – we are conditioned to win and if we don’t, all hell breaks loose.
    Hope your son is okay now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shilpa Gupte says:

    I loved the story, B, and also agree with you about how our world should have been instead of how it is–competitive. At this age, I believe, we need to compete with ourselves–our old selves–and strive to be better at what we lacked, or where we need to improve. MAybe, if we taught our kids that, then we could have the kind of world we wish. However, the present generation isn’t at all about ‘fighting with ourselves’, but it is all about ‘fighting with the others and proving one’s greatness’. Sad.

    But, just a thought–will you be able to convince your boy to compete with himself? Do better next year than he did this year-not just in sports, but in every other area. Will he be able to comprehend your thoughts? Just asking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      Shilpa this is not only about my boy. This is about our society in general. My son will perhaps win another race and forget about this one.. but I need to teach him that competition can make you unhappy and stressed out. So he has to first practice compassion before competition. Competing with oneself is the best but most of us end up competing with others because that is how we are trained since childhood. Good to read your comment in my blog after looooong😍😍😍

      Like

  9. Modern Gypsy says:

    I quite agree with you, Balaka. We put a very strong emphasis on winning and often, children start believing that losing is one of the worst things that can happen to them. The Ubuntu story that you’ve shared is beautiful – we need more of this community spirit in our lives, rather than the highly individualised and self-centric society we currently have. I think it would make the world a much kinder, gentler place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      I am happy to read your comment as you got my point perfectly.we need to practice compassion and empathy in our lives and society instead of competitiveness and jealousy. However things are easily said than done.

      Like

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