"Team-based Morality Is Infantile"
Toward a world of compassion and partnership
When we hear the term “team spirit”, we might conjure up childhood memories of the sporting events and games in which we and our friends–boys and girls–formed teams and played with honesty, fairness and good sportsmanship. And at the end of the game what mattered most is that we had had fun and enjoyed every minute… before the coach blew his whistle or Mom called us in for dinner.
But if we look a bit more closely, we will also remember some underlying feelings of being sucked into the need to win - at all cost. We will see that we and others were sometimes very bad losers. So-called “team spirit” had become a rally call to conquer the evil others. Today, we see the same phenomenon playing out in world politics. But why? Where does that urge come from?
Recent psychological research on babies has shown that we are all born with an innate goodness that is part of human nature. However, this angelic morality is reserved only for those who we perceive to be similar to ourselves. When those we perceive to be different from us come onto the stage, we are 80-90% predisposed to wish them harm rather than good. Although this is literally an infantile perception, it’s no wonder that a stadium full of soccer fans can so easily become charged with violence toward the opposing team, even expressing fanatical racism.
Those of us on the spiritual path are outgrowing the nice-sounding “team spirit” attitude, and growing up into a larger, more inclusive identity. This doesn’t reduce our willingness to cooperate with others; quite the contrary. It simply allows us to see how even those on the other team can also benefit!
We can understand that this human urge to “protect our own” is a kind of survival mechanism inherited from our tribal ancestors’ need to compete for limited resources and safe havens. However, the truth is: There is now enough food and plenty of resources for all of us. But they will ONLY be available to everyone if we can learn to work together for the good of all - instead of over-defending our little, group-based psycho-genetically designed comfort zones.
I know that you are with us in responding to the evolutionary summons to willfully let go of the protective grip we have had on our personal group-identifications, and begin to identify more with the larger whole. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that, together, we are supporting the shift from a world of fear and dominance, to one of compassion and partnership.