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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Rat Race

There are parents, who upon seeing their child's not getting A's in grades, bring out a stick and whack them senseless as punishment for low grades. The child is passing, but the grades are relatively low, so he deserves punishment. No no no, that is wrong.

Of two workers with the position, one gets promoted. The worker left in position chided by the boss for being uncompetitive and stupid, and believes that the employee should strive to be better than others. No no no, that is wrong.

A couple sees the neighbor bring home a Mercedes Benz, 50-inch TV, and five kids to feed. They think they should compete with this status in life. No no no, that is wrong.

This is called the rat race. Everyone who believes they should try to be better or greater at something, to put themselves above others, is part of this race. The race to prove they can earn more money, the race to prove that they are better in certain skills, even the race to prove themselves a better Christian. The latter is a contradiction in terms.

The rat race is a cause of people's suffering. Their pursuit to want to become better than the other can lead to people hurting the other. And this is not just suffering by winning in a competition or proving to be more productive in a skill. I meant intentional. In order to get a promotion at work, a person lies about his coworker to discredit them and claim the promotion for themselves. In order to ensure winning a game, an athlete threatens his competition or cheats. In order to gain someone else's wife, he kills that wife's husband!

There's nothing wrong with getting a commendation while others don't, or getting more money than others, or more awards or more of something. There is nothing wrong if an achievement is done with ethical means. The wrong is when you want to have more or be better for others for its own sake. That means that you are prideful. If you have pride, then you have the # 1 cause of sin and unethical behavior. The husband-killer is a good example. But the parent whacking the child for not getting A's in the report card is also unethical. If shows that all the parent wants is pride.

But there are other ways of rat racing. Corrupt politicians in the Philippines want a lot of money not just because it feels good; it gives them the "rat race" feeling of being above others. They buy expensive cars, jewelry and even illicit lovers to prove that they're better than others, when in fact they prove that they are worse than the basest insects on the face of the earth.

Some people believe that proving oneself better than others is a good goal of character. It isn't. It creates a false sense of inequality. It perpetuates the belief that people are not equal and therefore those self-provers will seek to impose their will on others. And that causes suffering. They seek to win the rat race in order to prove to be superior to the rest. All because of the rat race.

Stop joining the Rat Race.

Stop insisting that your child become one of the topnotchers of the class. Look at the statistics. The important thing is that the child finishes school... not to have A grades, although that can help. Remember, high grades don't guarantee a good job or a secure future. Other things are needed to guarantee those... including streetsmartness. But this shouldn't turn into a contest of being more streetsmart than anyone else. Stop trying to be higher in position or salary than anyone else. It's a goal of just knowing what is the right thing to do in life.

The Rat Race is probably the product of that bygone era of false prosperity called the 50s. In these times, people learned how to be too easy. Some members of the family don't need to work, so they could laze off. It also created a "keeping with the Joneses" attitude where you got to have what they have... or even better. Material possessions were the focus of family prosperity, and made people set the wrong goals. They even attached some morality to it, thinking that material prosperity should go with having good character. Very untrue.

And stop trying to make your child get high grades just so you could brag to co-workers about having a "wonder child." That probably started in the 50s too; grades define the person. Baloney. How you ethically behave in life is what defines you. But whacking the child for not getting A's is certainly a selfish act. Very selfish. Whack the child only for taking drugs on the street or stealing someone else's lunch. But not for failing to get A's.

I know. People want to advance in society. They want to be a cut above the rest. They want to be higher in status that others. Yeah, that's normal in society.

But it's not a noble goal.

This is one of the sins of people... to try and achieve superiority over others. They want to be better than others. They want to be more handsome, more beautiful, richer, or even of a better reputation than others. They think that's the right thing to do in life. To be superior to others. To coin it in sports or business terms... to be the best. To be on top.


People who are like this deny one basic rule of morality: equality. If they want to be superior to others, they deny equality. They deny ethics. They are hypocrites if they belong to a democracy and state that they support equality, yet they join the rat race. But they are tyrants if they belong to such a culture and supports this unequal culture. They are also selfish. People would not want to be superior to others if they were not selfish. Selfishness creates this superiority complex. And it leads to the rat race.

Get out of the frickin' rat race.

If you're in the rat race, then you show what you really are... a rat.


  1. IKA war associate8:12 PM, April 10, 2009

    nicely said, i totally agree.
    Nothing is wrong with wanted to be "accomplished" but when your doing it just because you basically want to be seen that's the wrong reason.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Are you a co-player on Ikariam?

  3. the trouble with living is that we are not hermits and we are bound by societal norms. these norms always exist, though they vary from culture to culture or place to place in different degrees. the life we know of involves a rat race we can't really escape, unless we shun all forms of interaction. whenever you interact with someone, you always open yourself to the possibility of engaging someone who's be willing to outdo you in whatever way, and you, having your own beliefs, may or may not engage. when you don't engage, you're either passive or just plain indifferent. if you're a principled person and you see so many things that are unacceptable in the society you live within, you cannot just let the bad guys win in gaining better social and economic standing while you dismiss the rat race altogether. letting them win worsens society progressively, and good people need to step up to the plate and stand up to them with voice, influence, authority. (on a personal note it's also why i get pissed off at wealthy/influential/powerful people who do nothing good to the society they feed off of.)
    like it or not, unless you're off the grid and financially free (which is very different from financially secure), there's no escaping the rat race. even otakus couldn't escape the rat race.