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Chapter three competition

if you ask any man in America or any man

in business in England what it is that

most interferes with his enjoyment of

existence he will say the struggle for a

life he will say this in all sincerity

he will believe it in a certain sense it

is true yet in another and that a very

important sense it is profoundly false

the struggle for life is a thing which

does of course occur it may occur to any

of us if we are unfortunate it occurred

for example to Conrad's hero Falk who

found himself on a derelict ship one of

the two men among the crew who were

possessed of firearms with nothing to

eat but the other men when the two men

had finished the meals upon which they

could agree a true struggle for life

began Falk won but was ever after a


now that is not what the businessmen

means when he speaks of the struggle for

a life it is an inaccurate phrase which

he has picked up in order to give

dignity to something essentially trivial

ask him how many men he is known in his

class of life who have died of hunger

ask him what happened to his friends

after they had been ruined everybody

knows that a businessman who has been

ruined is better off so far as material

comforts are concerned than a man who

has never been rich enough to have the

chance of being ruined what people mean

therefore by the struggle for life is

really the struggle for success what

people fear when they engage in the

struggle is not that they will fail to

get their breakfast next morning but

that they will fail to outshine their


it is very singular how little men

seemed to realize that they are not

caught in the grip of a mechanism from

which there is no escape but that the

treadmill is one upon which they remain

merely because they have not noticed

that it fails to take them up to a

higher level I am thinking of course of

men and higher walks of business men who

already have a good income and could if

they chose live on what they have to do

so would seem to them shameful like

deserting from the Army in the face of

the enemy though if you ask them what

public cause they are serving by their

work they will be at a loss to reply as

soon as they have run through the

platitudes to be found in the

advertisements of the strenuous life

consider the life of such a man he has

we may suppose a charming house a

charming wife and charming children he

wakes up early in the morning while they

are still asleep and hurries off to his

office there it is his duty to display

the qualities of a great executive he

cultivates a firm draw a decisive manner

of speech and an Arab sagacious Reserve

calculated to impress everybody except

the office boy he dictates letters

converses with various important persons

on the phone studies the market and

presently has lunch with some person

with whom he is conducting or hoping to

conduct a deal the same sort of thing

goes on all the afternoon he arrives

home tired just in time to dress for

dinner at dinner he and a number of

other tired men have to pretend to enjoy

the company of ladies who have no

occasion to feel tired yet how many

hours it may take the poor man to escape

that is impossible to foresee at last he

sleeps and for a few hours the tension

is relaxed

the working life of this man has the

psychology of a hundred yards race but

as the race upon which he is engaged is

one whose only goal is the grave the

concentration which is appropriate

enough for a hundred yards becomes in

the end somewhat excessive

what does he know about his children on

weekdays he is at the office on Sunday

as he is at the Golf Links what does he

know of his wife when he leaves her in

the morning she is asleep throughout the

evening he and she are engaged in social

duties which prevent intimate

conversation he has probably no men

friends who are important to him

although he has a number with whom he

affects a geniality that he wishes he

felt of springtime and harvest he knows

only as they affect the market foreign

countries he has probably seen but with

eyes of utter boredom books seemed to

him futile and music highbrow year by

year he grows more lonely his attention

grows more concentrated in his life

outside business more desiccated I have

seen the American of this type and later

middle life in Europe with his wife and

daughters evidently they had persuaded

the poor fella that it was time he took

a holiday and gave his girls a chance to

do the old world the mother and

daughters in ecstasy surround him and

call his attention to each new item that

strikes them as characteristic pattern

for Milius uh turley weary utterly bored

is wondering what they are doing in the

office at this moment or what is

happening in the baseball world his

women kind in the end give him up and

conclude that males are Philistines it

never dawned upon them that he is a

victim to their greed nor indeed is this

quite the truth anymore than Satya is

quite what it appeared to a European

onlooker probably in nine cases out of

ten the widow was a willing victim

prepared to be burned for the sake of

glory and because religion so ordained

the business men's religion and glory

demand that he should make much money

therefore like the Hindu Widow he

suffers the torment

if the American businessmen is to be

made happier he must first change his

religion so long as he not only desires

success but is wholeheartedly persuaded

that it is a man's duty to pursue

success and that a man who does not do

so as a poor creature so long his life

will remain too concentrated and too

anxious to be happy

take a simple matter such as investments

almost every American would sooner get

8% from a risks investment than 4% from

a safe one the consequence is that there

are frequent losses of money and

continual worry and fret for my part the

thing that I would wish to obtain from

money would be leisure with security but

what the typical modern man desires to

get with it as more money with a view to

ostentation splendor and the outshining

of those who have hitherto been as

equals the social scale in America is

indefinite and continually fluctuating

consequently all the snobbish emotions

become more Restless than they are where

the social order is fixed and although

money in itself may not suffice to make

people grand it is difficult to be

granted without money

moreover money made is the accepted

measure of brains a man who makes a lot

of money is a clever fellow a man who

does not is not nobody likes to be

thought a fool therefore when the market

is in ticklish condition a man feels the

way young people feel during an


I think it should be admitted that an

element of genuine though irrational

fear as to the consequences of ruin

frequently enters into a businessman

Ziya tees Arnold Bennett's clay hanger

however rich he became continued to be

afraid of dying in the workhouse I have

no doubt that those who have suffered

greatly through poverty in their

childhood are haunted by terrors lest

their children should suffer similarly

and feel that it is hardly possible to

build up enough millions as a bulwark

against this disaster such fears are

probably inevitable in the first

generation but they are less likely to

afflict those who have never known great

poverty they are in any case a minor and

somewhat exceptional factor in the


the trouble springs from too much

emphasis upon competitive success as the

main source of happiness I do not deny

that the feeling of success makes it

easier to enjoy life a painter let us

say who has been obscure throughout his

youth is likely to become happier if his

talent wins recognition nor do I deny

that money

up to a certain point is very capable of

increasing happiness beyond that point I

do not think it does so what I do

maintain is that success can only be one

ingredient in happiness and is too

dearly purchased if all the other

ingredients have been sacrificed to

obtain it

source of this trouble is the prevalent

philosophy of life in business circles

in Europe it is true there are still

other circles that have prestige in some

countries there is an aristocracy in all

there are the learned professions and in

all but a few of the smaller countries

the Army and the Navy enjoy great

respect now while it is true that there

is a competitive element in success no

matter what a man's profession may be

yet at the same time the kind of thing

that is respected as not just success

but that excellence whatever that may be

to which success has been due a man of

science may or may not make money he is

certainly not more respected if he does

than if he does not no one is surprised

to find an eminent general or Admiral

poor indeed poverty in such

circumstances is in a sense itself an

honor for these reasons in Europe the

purely monetary competitive struggle is

confined to certain circles and those

perhaps not the most influential or the

most respected

in America the matter is otherwise the

services play too small a part in the

national life for their standards to

have any influence as for the learned

professions no outsider can tell whether

a doctor really knows much medicine or

whether and lawyer really knows much law

and it is therefore easier to judge

their merit by the income to be inferred

from their standard of life as for

professors they are the hired servants

of businessman and as such will less

respect than is accorded to them in

older countries the consequence of all

this is that in America the professional

man imitates the businessman and does

not constitute a separate type as he

does in Europe throughout the well-to-do

classes therefore there is nothing to

mitigate the bare undiluted fight for

financial success

from quite early years American boys

feel that this is the only thing that

matters and do not wish to be bothered

with any kind of education that is

devoid of pecuniary value education used

to be conceived very largely as a

training in the capacity for enjoyment

enjoyment I mean of those more delicate

kinds that are not open to wholly

uncultivated people in the 18th century

it was one of the marks of a gentleman

to take a discriminating pleasure in

literature pictures and music we

nowadays may disagree with his taste but

it was at least genuine the rich man of

the present day tends to be of quite a

different type he never reads if he is

creating a picture gallery with a view

to enhancing his fame he relies upon

experts to choose his pictures the

pleasure that he derives from them is

not the pleasure of looking at them but

the pleasure of preventing some other

rich man from having them in regard to

music if he happens to be a Jew he may

have genuine appreciation if not he will

be as uncultivated as he is in regard to

the other arts the result of all this is

that he does not know what to do with

leisure as he gets richer and richer it

become easier and easier to make money

until at last five minutes a day will

bring him more than he knows how to

spend the poor man is thus left at a

loose end as a result of his success

this must inevitably be the case so long

as success itself is represented as the

purpose of life unless a man has been

taught what to do with success after

getting it the achievement of it must

inevitably leave him a prey to boredom

the competitive habit of mind easily

invades regions to which it does not

belong take for example the question of

reading there are two motives for

reading a book one that you enjoy it the

other that you can boast about it it has

become the thing in America for ladies

to read or seem to read certain books

every month some read them some read the

first chapter some read the reviews but

I'll have these books on their tables

they do not however read any

masterpieces there has never been a

month when Hamlet or King Lear has been

selected by the book clubs there has

never been a month when it has been

necessary to know about Dante

consequently the reading that has done

is entirely of mediocre modern books and

never of masterpieces this also is an

effective competition not perhaps wholly

bad since most of the ladies in question

if left to themselves so far from

reading masterpieces would read books

even worse than those selected for them

by their literary pastors and masters

upon competition in modern life is

connected with a general decay of

civilized standards such as must have

occurred in Rome after the Auguste on

age men and women appeared who have

become incapable of enjoying the more

intellectual pleasures the art of

general conversation for example brought

to perfection in the French salons of

the 18th century was still a living

tradition 40 years ago it was a very

exquisite art bringing the highest

faculties into play for the sake of

something completely evanescent but who

in our age cares for anything so

leisurely in China the art still

flourished in perfection ten years ago

but I imagine that the missionary ardor

of the nationalist says since then swept

it completely out of existence the

knowledge of good literature which was

Universal among educated people fifty or

a hundred years ago is now confined to a

few professors all the quieter pleasures

have been abandoned

some American students took me walking

in the spring through of wood on the

borders of their campus it was filled

with exquisite wildflowers but not one

of my guides knew the name of even one

of them what use would such knowledge be

it could not add to anybody's income

the Troubled is not lie simply with the

individual nor can a single individual

prevent it in his own isolated case the

trouble arises from the generally

received philosophy of life according to

which life is a contest a competition in

which respect is to be accorded to the

victor this view leads to an undue

cultivation of the will at the expense

of the senses in the intellect or

possibly in saying this we may be

putting the cart before the horse peered

and moralists have always emphasized the

will in modern times although originally

it was faith upon which they laid stress

it may be that ages of Puritanism

produced a race in which will had been

over developed while the senses and the

intellect had been starved and that's

such a race adopted a philosophy of

competition as the one best suited to

its nature

however that may be the prodigious

success of these modern dinosaurs who

like their prehistoric prototypes prefer

power to intelligence is causing them to

be universally imitated they have become

the pattern of the white man everywhere

and this is likely to be increasingly

the case for the next hundred years

those however who are not in the fashion

may take comfort from the thought that

the dinosaurs did not ultimately triumph

they killed each other out and

intelligent bystanders inherited their

Kingdom our modern dinosaurs are killing

themselves out they do not on the

average have so much as two children for

marriage they do not enjoy life enough

to wish to beget children at this point

the unduly strenuous philosophy which

they have carried over from their period

and forefathers shows itself unadapted

to the world

those whose outlook on life causes them

to feel so little happiness that they do

not care to beget children are

biologically doomed before very long

they must be succeeded by something

Garin jollier

competition considered as the main thing

in life is too grim too tenacious too

much a matter of taut muscles and intent

will to make a possible basis of life

for more than one or two generations at

most after that length of time it must

produce nervous fatigue various

phenomena of escape a pursuit of

pleasures as tense and as difficult as

work since relaxing has become

impossible and in the end of

disappearance of the stock through

sterility it is not only work that is

poisoned by the philosophy of

competition leisure is poisoned just as

much the kind of leisure which is quiet

and restoring to the nerves comes to be

felt boring there is bound to be a

continual acceleration of which the

natural termination would be drugs and

collapse the cure for this lies in

admitting the part of sane and quiet

enjoyment in a balanced ideal of life