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OPINION

When competition becomes destructive

Does a fierce competitive streak undermine social values?

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The acclaimed Darwinian Theory of “Survival of the Fittest” states that organisms having a similar arrangement of assets compete with each other, those who fight better get a greater amount of the assets and it increases their chances of survival. Ultimately, the individuals who are more qualified to their condition and adjust to its progressions keep on living, whereas those who don’t perish.

This theory holds water even today. Like all other living beings, humans have had numerous competitions along the course of life. But the list has expanded astonishingly to this day and age, and has brought about ruinous challenge.

Earlier, it was fundamental survival needs like food, sanctuary, clothing and water that living beings competed for. With the world getting more industrialized and mechanized, rivalry additionally got entangled. The once basic physiological needs turned up to be determinants of lifestyle and success. For example, from food and shelter, it is now better food or fine dine and bigger and lavish shelter.

Family is one important unit which not only teaches children what is good and bad but also guides all their choices and mind set. In connection to the idea of rivalry, the effect of family weight is too extraordinary to be disregarded. We come across a number of situations right in the family where the societal inflictions come in, like parents pushing their children to the edge to do better than their fellows, their cousins and even their siblings, in all aspects of life; in academics, in sports, and all extracurricular competitions. This competitive attitude by parents is evident in them promising gifts to their children if they are able to score more than others. The emphasis to be ahead of everyone else adds an element of ill-will.

However, parents are not the only ones to blame; this new trend has seriously implicated every relationship within the family structure of our society. Siblings being at odd with each other to get the supposed family glory and to get most of the ovation from elders, is perhaps the story of every family. It is particularly common amongst sisters who contend routinely to be the perfect one, both in family and outside. One such incident of idealization was reported on social media recently where a teenager starved herself and went into anorexia to look slimmer than her sister.

Competition is furthered cultivated in schools and other scholarly organizations where the yardstick favours the intelligent and achievers only. Management Guru Ken Blanchard says that “as we go through the educational system, resources become scarce and we learn that in order to attend the best schools, make the football team, etc., we have to compete with each other”. There is like an on going tussle between schools to be in the limelight, be it the struggle to get the most noteworthy number of A graders, highest university placement, medals in sports or having the most fancy building and campuses.

When it comes to friendship and keeping up with the social circle, competition gets savage. The effect of peer pressure is undeniable and it plays a great role in creating an environment of negative competition amongst friends. The expectations to be at the same level, to be of same standards and lifestyle lead to ill-will feelings only. Aggression, fear, insecurity and jealously then result in unhealthy behaviors like faking one’s personality, compromising one’s values and de-valuing others.

Competition continues as we reach the workplace. The workplace rivalries include competition for pay, promotions, benefits, getting the best project and making it to the best employee card and standing out from all others. Sadly, our workplace environment is framed in a way that expects us to say ‘I am better and I am going to beat others to prove it’. There is no room for positive collaboration that can lead to better productivity and growth, instead the opposite happens as the workforce is on consistent social pressure of keeping up with the destructive competition and sometime at the expense of someone else.

Sports is, probably the greatest manifestation of competition. Every game has a win or lose criteria. Team members who do not score a point or qualify for some international game event are left devastated. The feeling of letting team-down, country down or not being good enough is disastrous. It is impossible to consider sports as a sound, aptitude learning and group building movement.

In a more extensive dimension, we see competition in the business sector. It won’t be wrong to state that businesses run on competition. All the food brands, clothing and service industries are battling with one another to get the highest customers, highest sales and highest profit, more outlets and the most eye-catching advertisement.
Countries are at competition with one another. Super powers are competing to get even more powerful and countries try to beat each other in trade, the most elevated score on expectations for everyday comforts, personal satisfaction and the best measure of nukes. The consequences are all evident in Syria, Palestine and other troubled parts of Middle East and elsewhere in world, where continuous blood shed for decades is costing innumerable human lives.

When the competition gets fierce, it then leads to hostile motives. If a person believes that he is not good enough and cannot see others get ahead, he or she may plot ill-will actions, like taking revenge and harming others.

In addition such kind of unhealthy competition has been linked to mental health problems. The fear of judgement, of being imperfect, feelings of worthlessness, guilt and negative self-image not only poison the mind but lead to harmful consequences. The ramifications of such challenge have especially influenced the psychological health of youth, who are at more hazard than the older folks because of the inalienable naivety of youthful age.

Through and through, such kind of destructive competition is unsafe for the society as a whole. Because a society can only flourish on the values of healthy competition, good-will for each other and a sense of cooperation to achieve common good. Tragically, it functions on ill-will, hatred, jealousy and revenge today, all fueled by negative competition. This has been highlighted by Sun Tzu, a Chinese strategist, writer and philosopher. In his famous work, The Art of War, he writes that negative competition is inherently destructive, over time on all parties and positions including your own.

The word ‘competition’ conveys a positive message, implying that it can motivate one to do the best. However, it’s important to know the type of competition and pay attention to its consequences because the ‘dog-eat-dog’ attitude has never and will never benefit anyone.

Farzana Jahan Qarabash is a graduate of University of London. She is a developement professional and social work enthusiast with a love for writing.

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OPINION

Some progress in Pakistan this week

From many perspectives, this was an eventful week for Pakistan

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As the monsoon rains lashed across the country, amid pounding inflation and protesting traders, Pakistan witnessed important developments this week. Though most incidents will have long term impacts which are expected to unfold with time, their significance at present can also be not denied.

ICJ orders consular access to Yadav, rejects Indian plea: (more…)

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CULTURE & ARTS

The Mystery Colour Pink Beholds

Colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values

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Pink has long been associated with girls, so where does this association come from?

Everything for a girl is pink, or will have at least a hint of pink. Starting from her nursery, toys, dresses to lunch box, school bag, pink is bombarded on girls.

There are a number of ways through which colours are imposed upon children. It begins when the baby is not even born. The phenomenal advancement in technology and prenatal testing, now makes it possible for parents to find out the sex of their still-not-born babies. This allows parents to decorate the nurseries in colours that they think are best suited with their newborn’s gender. It is the first step towards colour imposition.

It won’t be wrong to say that a baby girl is born in a pink world. It is this colour that she would find all around her after she opens her eyes for the first time. The room shading, dresses that she wears, toys she plays with and even birthday cakes she gets, are all pink. It’s not the parents only, this colour specification has become so real that new born gifts also comply with it. Visit a store for newborn accessories and the first question that is asked is about the gender of the baby. Even story books and children’s cartoons do their best to teach individuals gender specific behaviour . Barbie, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony n Friend are all girls’ favourite cartoons, painted in pink. Even the adventurous Dora wears a pink tee. Watching them, young girls associate themselves with the colour.

Marketing strategies that brands use further establish the colour identification for gender. It’s a psychological factor that brands exploit to leap their sales. They strictly follow with ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ rule and make sure their customers comply.

Studies show that after the age of two, children begin to understand gender specific roles and girls choose pink over other colours to identify theirs. Professor of Gender and Culture at the UK’s Leeds University, Ruth Holliday, states that “Even very young girls understand that pink things are for them. In experiments where guns were painted pink and My Little Ponies were painted black and made to look spiky, three-year-old children assumed the gun was a girls’ toy and the pony a boys’ one. The colour rather than the function determined gender appeal.”

Colour preference isn’t biological, it’s more of a human made marvel. Girls and boys are both born with the similar arrangement of biological composition, the only difference being X & Y chromosomes. It’s not that girls have a pink chromosome or a pink strand of DNA that compels them to like pink more. And if we look at historical perspective, the findings are interesting.

History suggests that before the 1900s, babies were usually dressed in white regardless of gender. There were no differentiation amongst them on the basis of their colour preferences. If there was any, it was quite opposite from what it is today. An article in the 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal reads that “the generally accepted rule is pink for boys and blue for girls; the reason is that pink being a decided and stronger colour is more suitable for boys, while blue which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girls”. Then what brought the switch over?

Anya Helbert, a researcher at University of Newcastle, proposed that women prefer hues of red more because traditionally they have been more exposed to the colour by gathering fruits. Other studies regarding this topic cite some events that gave rise to the present colour enforcement. One such event is World War II, where due to the blue coloured uniform worn by soldiers, blue colour became associated with masculinity.

Similarly, in the 1940s, Think Movement tried to convince girls to embrace their feminism. This movement urged women to embrace their womanhood, with the name tag with pink, the colour naturally corresponding to women.

This colour coding creates a stereotype that stays entrenched in the minds of children even after they grow. They identify themselves with specific colour that not only limits their freedom but also bounds them to act in the ways society tells them to. This kills their imagination and creativity and limits their choices. One of the disastrous implications of this colour stereotyping is that it affects self-esteem. The very basic attributes of pink colour are that it’s pretty, polite, catchy and sensitive. When a girl is told throughout her lifetime that she has to be the manifestation of this colour to look more ‘girl like’, she tries to incorporate these attributes into her personality. The same is for boys, the tormenting and bullying that accompanies wearing pink is staggering to the point that boys, mostly avoid the colour even if they like it.

Angela Weyers, Style and Colour consultant comments that, pink is assumed as a sign of “weakness and a lack of intellectual rigour” and advises women to actually not wear it to work in the corporate world, as they are less likely to be taken seriously. This, along with other stigmas surrounding the color, make it a cliché.

Now when we have understood that colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values, we have to understand this as a societal issue. There is no such thing as real-man or real-woman. And pink has literally nothing to do with a woman. Both men and women are humans with no supernatural specifications and they should be treated that way. Parents, educational institutes and media can play their role in this regard. Rather than fabricating pink and blue norms they need to be responsible in raising individuals. Let pink and blue be treated as colours only.

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OPINION

Dismays and Delights: How Pakistan fared this week?

Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome.

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This week in Pakistan was disappointing, to say the least. From the fiasco in the World cup match to the murder of a blogger in Islamabad, the list of dismays is long. India’s positive response to hold talks with Pakistan seemed the only silver lining in the dark clouds of dooms, yet it was quickly rebuffed by India as “fake news”.

It pains as well as amuses me that fans of cricket in Pakistan still remain die hard to their team. Its a different thing to be a cricket buff and another to be supportive of your team, for its been a while that Pakistan’s cricket team pulled a feat worth praise.

Pakistani Cricket Team captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (L), Indian Cricket Team captain Virat Kohli

One did not even need to switch on the TV or check updates on phone on the mess which Pakistan was in its World Cup match against India. The memes did the job pretty well, an area in which Pakistanis’ talent and sense of humour is worth appreciating.

Starting from the mind boggling decision of choosing to field after winning the toss, to poor bowling and miserable fielding (as usual), I can only say that the fans of Pakistani cricket team were very courageous to stick with their support through out the match. In comparison, was the highly professional and progressive Indian team, which showed true characteristics of first class cricket. It was no surprise that Pakistani cricket icon Wasim Akram showed his confidence in India as a player even before the match started.

A Pak-India interaction on a different level received an uplift, when the re-elected Prime Minister Modi of India, finally responded in positive to a series of letters written by his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since early this year, both countries have experienced most severe ties, even reaching the brink of war. The Pulwama attack in Indian held Kashmir triggered a spate of exchanges of words as well as arms. After an informal meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Pakistan’s allowance for India to use its airspace for Prime Minister Modi for the SCO meeting of heads of states, Modi’s preference to still fly using another, alternate route while refusing to rub shoulders with Khan at the conference, the ice seemed to thaw.

However, Pakistani media’s interpretation of Modi’s written response to Khan that India had agreed to resume dialogue, was refuted by Indian foreign ministry.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

“The letters only reiterated India’s old position that it wants normal and cooperative relations with all countries in South Asia (including Pakistan) and that it was important to create an environment free of terror and violence for it. There was no mention of any sort of dialogue with Pakistan,” responded the ministry’s spokesperson to The Times of India.

A similar exchange of letters between Pakistan’s foreign minister Qureshi and his newly appointed Indian counterpart, Jaishankar, was also explained as a mere reply. The hope of resuming of dialogues between the two countries was quashed.

So was the life of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a famous 22-year-old Pakistani blogger, who was stabbed to death in Islamabad, sparking outrage among Pakistanis.

Blogger Muhammad Bilal Khan was murdered in Islamabad

Khan was known for his critical comments on religious issues. He also spoke about the disappearance of activists and journalists. Khan’s shocking death is pertinent in the context that he had a following of thousands on Twitter, YouTube as well as Facebook. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has assured of investigation by the government.

Perhaps, a not so highlighted and the lone positive news one could find was the approval of the initial draft of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019 by a Parliamentary body. The bill has recommendations for rigorous imprisonment until death for the sexual assault and murder of children.

Photo Credit: AFP

The recommendations are now to be discussed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights. Once passed by parliament, the bill will pave way for the setting up of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported to generate an automatic alert. It will also introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.

A draft of the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill has also been approved with recommendations concerning the registration of people with disabilities, reforms to address their grievances and procedures to address their complaints.

While unexplained deaths and disappearances of activists remains a worrying issue, some decision making for missing and abused children as well as disabled persons is a progress in the human rights of country.

Other sectors are eagerly looked upon for some positive news. The nation’s favourite sports of cricket comes back at the turn of the week with anticipation.

The week, which started miserably with Pakistan’s loss against India in the World Cup match, has ended with hopes and fears for the next contest between Pakistan and South Africa. Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome. A comeback by Pakistan in the World Cup could raise hopes for optimism in the week that is to begin.

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