Fair and unfair competition

The United States, as the capitalist capital of the world, is supposed to require competition in the marketplace in order for there to be a healthy economy. So powerful is the capitalist metaphor that even in the non-profit educational field, the sense of competition can permeate relationships.

I am however not a good capitalist. On Friday, I was at the Nordic Heritage Museum, offering them free advice. Then this week, I will be up there three or four times, doing free labor.

So some might say I am being disloyal to my own place of employ, the Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University, if I help my "rival", the Nordic Heritage Museum. Only I don't see it as a rivalry. In my mind, culture and education, and cultural education, requires an overall advancement in general knowledge and information, because people can only be interested in preserving something they are familiar with. They have to have a certain level of confidence and competence.

But it is a gray area, definitely. The two institutions are within an hour drive of one another, and are both currently trying to pool from the same dwindling group of 1st and 2nd generation Scandinavian-Americans interested in preserving their heritage. I of course have the students at the university as a different demographic, but the NHM would love to be tapping into a younger audience also. And I have gotten question and criticism from some of my members, as to why I am mounting an exhibition at NHM instead of at the Scandinavian Cultural Center. The simple answer is that there are more people, and thus more exposure, in Seattle than Tacoma, so it is for the overall good of the university. Plus it is a temporary, traveling exhibition, not a permanent installation. No biggy.

Unfortunately, this is one of those frustratingly nuanced positions that can seem hypocritical or paradoxical or disloyal. Kind of like trying to determine the exact moment when it is no longer OK to be getting facebook messages from two or three ex-boyfriends and spending time with several other single men, while also working at developing a lasting relationship with a good, decent guy. Or when friendly emails from a single work colleague to a married man become too friendly to be appropriate. 

Not that I am doing any of those sorts of things at the moment.


Jono said…
Well, at least you have the distance thing going between Seattle and Tacoma. I tend to agree that more knowledge for everyone is a good thing and everything is not about profit.

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