There was something wrong and it was me. The ride did not click as it normally does and I felt really uneasy with a glooming sense of incoming mistake. And the group was riding briskly, making goodprogress on the roads skirting the south side of the Kakcar mountains in North Anatolia. Not good to ride with an albatross round the neck and better to stop, examine, think.
I left the group go and while they were passing by my side I realized where the problem was (at least for me). Positions on the group were assigned by the leader of the ride and he placed the fastest rider at the head followed by riders ranked in decreasing skills. Obviously the ones in lesser position felt challenged and a competition ignited to keep up with the “best”.
And nothing spells worst than a competition in a group of “macho” riders: the spirit of the ride became challenging for all and unsettling for my taste.
While the God-of-the-Ignorant protected the ride, it was a good opportunity to consider the damage that the concept of “competition” creates in our life.
Competition in modern times starts early with kids denied of the right to freely play in order to satisfy the “ambitions” that parents have on them. It continues with an educational system that is based on competition with grades, classifications, numbers or letters used to define the humans. The working environment solidifies the competition culture with positions, titles, ranks, medals and bonuses. With goals to be reached at all costs.
The violent meaning of competition entered the sacred area of sport distorting the vision of Pierre de Coubertin founder of the modern Olympic games: “The most important thing in the Olympiad is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well”.
Now it is sufficient to spend little time in front a TV channel dedicated to sport to see how distorted is the concept of winning or loosing: every point scored or every “victory” is celebrated as a triumph over the opponents, enmity among “rival” is fostered by the media as element of entertainment, excess and extreme is the name of the game with many sports looking more as circus events than enjoyable achievements.
And the virus of competition poisons daily life: It is not enough to succeed: others must fail and social media ram the sentiment of “revenge” home. All friends, in all applications, are better than you or they are doing better than you… you have to race and to compete even when choosing where and who with to spend the next weekend.
Competition is fuelled by vain ambition: by the desire to look better, to be different, to be superior.
In old (not so old) times the word “ambitious” was considered a negative element of human character: now is the pearl in any CV. The Cambridge dictionary defines ambitious as “having a strong wish to be successful, powerful, or rich” and I believe it is a very correct definition. And so ambition and egocentric, individualistic competition push the biker to take risks in front of the group, push the riders on the back to try above their skills, push the group in a territory where limits are not considered, respect is not paid and kindness is considered weakness.
Closed the side stand, turned the key and started the bike: I will meet the group at the next stop while enjoying the journey not the race.
At the end to enjoy life and bike “is to leave the streets, convenient but misleading, the idols of this world: the success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price”