What will you do to win?

What will you do to win?

The football coach being interviewed on Sport Today replied “We’re going out there to put the ball in the net”. Not, perhaps, the most creative idea, nor very aggressive. Not even boastful, but so clear that it must have been more motivating for the team members than all the hyperbole and rubbish most would have said. I’m sure many will have criticised him for not being tougher, rougher, nastier. I showed him a thumbs-up.

“Winning is everything” – but at what price? I once had a colleague who set out to win. In the process he destroyed several people and, eventually, the substantial business he headed. How much does the end justify the means? Is Philippine’s President Duterte’s ruthless killing of people suspected of running drugs justified? Are Donald Trump’s rasping claims about his opponent permissible? Is rough play on the football pitch acceptable as long as you don’t get caught? Can a Pope really mean “Who am I to judge?”

From one end of the spectrum to the other we see prevarication, exaggeration and even unbelievable modesty being use to convince, to sell ideas, to promote causes. Where does useful competition leave off and destructive conflict begin? How much colour can I add to an event to make a point? What doctoring of a photograph is permissible in order to entertain? If communication is ‘intention’, where does truth come into all this?

Businesses fight for supremacy, governments should be fighting for level playing fields though in many countries they don’t do that. Power emerges as the ability to be unfair. American politics, once lauded as the most balanced in the world, have proved divisive and corrupt in a way we would never have thought possible. Tax avoidance has become tax evasion. Mammon has taken over as the top of our societies’ values. We kill to get it.

Recognising this we introduce regulations to reduce unfairness. They began as locks to preserve our treasures and secrets. But every key produced another thief. Now every regulation and guideline produces a small army of attackers, often bent, it seems, on nothing more than simple destruction. Winning is now more about forcing others to lose.

When I was young we talked of behaviour that was “not cricket”- a very British concept. It was not an elaborate set of rules but, rather, a few simple ones which revolved around the concept “would I like that done to me?” Outdated in today’s world, perhaps, it had the advantage of making people personally responsible for standards rather than hiding behind laws and orders. I do not suggest we go back to that because I doubt we can. But as we ask what we need to do to cope with a substantially jobless world, might we consider teaching individual standards to fulfil personal need for achievement?

Might they be taught in the hope of happiness and joy rather than by the threat of losing?

If they could, it would be quite a decent step for humankind.