by Harald Ehmann

This short discussion outlines the principle that at each difference of view or experience with others we need to seek out cooperation rather than confrontation, conflict, or competition. We need to give cooperation a much greater priority than competition. The evidence for and advantage of doing so is all around us in the long eons of all aspects of  the living world, from cells to whole ecosystems, from the Proterozoic to the present. Life on Earth could not have reached its present stage if cooperation were secondary to competition. Better ways of being and doing for essentially the whole of the interacting beings and entities is the product of true cooperation, with only a minor part being played by competition.

The preeminence of and preoccupation with competition in human activities from work to politics is at the expense of cooperation, and therefore our wellbeing and better furtherance. The dominance of competition is a flawed and dangerous fallacy that is out-of-context and contrary to the blindingly obvious evidence that immerses us. As a species we would not be where we are had we not given cooperation the dominant role in our evolution. We and many other species have highly developed cooperative behaviours to cope with the elements and the unexpected. Perhaps our current relative freedom from hostile environments has blurred our awareness of this.

Competition in nature is a minor yet sometimes important first discriminator between two or more options for finding an advantageous and also a more cooperative outcome. When competition exceeds its due role in nature it is mostly morphed into non-injurious combat or ritual to dissipate the negative potential of ongoing competition. It becomes a form of cooperation to test fitness!

We humans have a highly developed capacity for running competitions of ideas and policies before implementing them. Unfortunately we do not have a sufficiently well-developed capacity to evaluate the impacts of implementing an idea or policy before putting it into practice. We often do so far too quickly and at our collective peril e.g. weapons of mass destruction, refugees, coal.

In our recently evolved industrial, political and neo-social ways of being and doing we appear not to have yet learned when competition has exceeded its due role. We have put too much executive power into the simple voting method of scoring the success of the competition of ideas. Particularly in our political system we need to adopt more meaningful determining percentages than those which hover in the 51-61 versus 49-39 ranges. We do not have a sufficiently developed form of non-injurious implementation that serves to avert harm to our collective wellbeing and better furtherance, or to minimise the potential of ongoing and negative competition.

A narrow majority needs to become a restraining hand of caution and consideration of the consequences for the whole of the interacting beings that are affected by any implementation. Rather than forcing a narrow majority outcome onto a narrow minority it would be far better to take the idea back to the drawing board of discussion, debate and discernment. The same applies to any heavy-handed dominating approach to legislation by government departments.

Yes, there are some issues that need immediate responses: social safety and threats from the elements such as fire, storms and other natural disasters. There are other issues that need urgent responses: comprehensive and fair social security and health, the climate emergency and the current sixth extinction event. Responses need to be evidence-based.

However in a third group there are many issues that have no inherent immediate dangers, or lack sufficient good evidence, or which are in contention between significant minorities in society as a whole. We need to be mindful of the corrosive nature of a disregarded narrow minority. These issues require a far more measured response including to not change the policy directions until there is a better resolution of the issue and the solutions. Let them mature rather than letting them alienate. Take at most a minimal step. In the case of existing legislation that is failing or has failed the opposite response is in order, namely amend or repeal without delay.

Better resolution can best occur by taking the idea back to the pending stage for further development with additional information, and by discussion, debate and discernment. In this third group of issues are many political ones that seek to make changes to social, taxation, and economic policies that have disproportionate impacts on our collective wellbeing and better furtherance. Taking such a cautious approach is in keeping with the best interests of the entirety. This ought be the measure of real politicians-for-people and the governments they compromise.

Overlooking, ignoring and suppression of sound principles that serve the entirety of our collective wellbeing and better furtherance are counter to the lessons of life and are ticking time bombs.

So in our endeavours we need to befriend and engage our opponents for only together will we all together resolve our differences, recover together, heal together and move on together into a far more cooperative, peaceful and sustainable world for our collective wellbeing and better furtherance. Refusing to walk in another’s shoes, righteousness, political correctness or bureaucratic domination only hinder what almost everyone seeks.

Cooperation is actually easier and more likely to produce good long term outcomes, whereas conflict produces mere victories that only suppress for a time the discontent. Such suppression only festers and fuels future conflict, causes injuries, suffering and misery, and unnecessarily obstructs the ever rising tide of life.

With thanks to the core wisdoms of all Faiths, the known record of Life on Earth, and to Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.