In sum, at the heart of power politics and international relations is the “zero-sum” paradigm, because power is seen by a number of governments, societies, and individuals as being zero-sum in nature. Because power is seen as zero-sum – in the sense that one person’s gain is seen as another person’s loss – certain governments, societies, and individuals use various methods and strategies to control or suppress the energy and spirit of other countries, given that energy and spirit are at the heart of power. However, many are rightfully under the impression that the zero-sum paradigm at the heart of power politics and international relations is obsolete and outdated, and that the time is ripe for a transition to a “positive-sum” paradigm of power politics and international relations whereby everyone gains from this new paradigm.
Moreover, if the status quo powers continue with a zero-sum approach to power and international relations, the backlash and pushback will only grow. The British Poet and Writer D.H. Lawrence described how status quo policies and provocations lead to a backlash and pushback from those who are on the receiving end of such policies and provocations in a poem titled “Cowardice and Impudence”:
“Bourgeois cowardice produces bolshevist impudence
in direct ratio
As the bourgeois gets secretly more cowardly, knowing he is in the wrong,
the bolshevist gets openly more impudent, also knowing he is in the wrong.
And between the cowardice and impudence of this pair who are in the wrong,
this pair of property mongrels,
the world will be torn in two.
It remains to be seen if there will ever be a transition away from a zero-sum approach to power and international relations, and if so, how long will it take to make that transition. Nevertheless, seeing another person’s gain as one’s own loss is not a sustainable path, and it will ultimately undermine peace and stability in the international system.
One of the ways by which I have sustained a high level of energy and spirit in my personal life – despite all the obstacles that were put before me by various people throughout my lifetime – is by rejecting the zero-sum approach towards other human beings. Personally, I have never seen another person’s prosperity and success as my loss. But surprisingly, many people view others through that particular prism, and I have been viewed through that prism by the people who came in and out of my life through the course of many years. And the consequences of such an outlook towards other human beings is exactly why there are a plethora of dilemmas and problems on an economic, political, and social level.
As Plato said, one’s thoughts are at the core of one’s reality, and at the core of many people’s thoughts is the zero-sum paradigm, which in turn leads to the disasters and social strife which humanity frequently faces. As one philosopher said, when someone insults you, it means you are not showing them enough love. Thus, when people call out CNN for their negative influence and toxicity – and when a person pranks Joe Biden by calling into his live broadcast and shouting “Let’s go, Brandon!” – it means that regular people are sick and tired of the zero-sum paradigm that has governed the actions, thoughts, and words of people at the elite level for a very long time.