Like millions of others I'm enjoying watching the olympics on TV. So far I've enjoyed the archery, kayaking, volleyball and basketball. With team sports it's so obviously a cooperative effort. But when you think about it even the individual sports there is much reliance on others.
I particularly enjoyed watching the South Korean women archers. Ki Bo Bae anchored the team that won the gold, but also won gold in the individual shooting. A find individual sportswoman. But the whole time her coach was there with her. Then you look at the equipment. The recurved bow is made of several parts: grip, limbs, string, stabilisers, sights. They're probably made by different companies. Then there are the arrows and the targets. Each competitor also wears specialist items of clothing.
At an event like the Olympics there are a huge number of officials involved in overseeing the competition, including the announcer, and referees. The media also cooperate on a large scale. Just for archery there were at least four TV cameras giving various angles, plus two BBC commentators on the coverage I was seeing here in the UK. Someone has to design and build the stadia, develop the parks around the venues.
Every person had to have accommodation in London, and fed, and transported around. In each case the web of interconnectedness spreads in waves outwards. Some connections are relatively weak and if broken can easily be replaced. Some are strong and if they broke down the individual would be prevented from competing or winning.
And this is true for each successful person. It's simply not true that anyone can succeed on their own. We all need each other to thrive. The 19th century thinkers who highlighted the individual, survival of the fittest and competition were myopic. They narrowed their view of the world down partly, I think, because of class. The upper classes and capitalists were reluctant to acknowledge the inputs of the tradesmen and craftsmen who turned the capital into profit.
The emphasis of modern politics is on the individual, on individual liberty and success, but it's a distorted view of reality. It's not how the real world operates. In the real world we are interconnected, and this operates on many layers and in overlapping categories. Each successful person has a network of family, friends, peers, colleagues, and mentors without whom they could not survive let alone excels. I think we need to rethink our politics and our economics to to take into account the reality of how human beings actually live.