Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Real Conspiracy

There are conspiracies to keep you down and take your money.  They are, however, not organized by a secret cabal, and indeed are not really organized at all.  Neither are they secret.  So who is to blame for you losing all your money?  You.

What do compulsive gamblers, Trumper's (and other political obsessives), anti-vaxxers, Scientologists, fundamentalist Christians, drug addicts, and video game players have in common?   The answer is simple: they have traded their lives in exchange for obsessive compulsive behavior, usually behavior that benefits other people far more than it does themselves.

What do I mean by this?   Well, I was surfing the internet the other day, and came across some discussion about whether video games lead to violence.  This was, of course, met with a chorus of howls by gamers themselves - or shills for the video game industry, which is very proactive in cruising the 'net and grooming their image whenever possible.   The Internet is, of course, one big shill these days, due to its quasi-anonymous nature.  It isn't hard to put up sites, or post messages advancing any cause - commercial or political.

And of course, it isn't hard to put up messages and comments saying that such things never happen. American business and the Russian Internet Research Agency are not trying to mold your opinions. Russia is your friend!  And besides, you want to buy a new Silver-a-do pickup truck, doncha? I thought so.  Now get back to your 8-hours-a-day on your gaming console and shut the fuck up.

Of course, we all engage in self-destructive, non-productive behavior - it's called living your life. Lounging by the pool or laying about the house isn't productive, and arguably might not be good for you.  But hey, we can't all work "side hustles" all day long, and isn't enjoying life the point of life?

That is also true, but there is a fine line between enjoying life and being a rat in a Skinner box, incessantly pulling a lever for a food pellet - or a meth pellet, these days.

Sheldon Adelson, who is increasingly starting to look like Jabba the Hutt (as is Harvey Weinstein) wants Texas to legalize casino gambling in that State.  And given how Texas is run these days, I am sure it will happen - these "tech" firms may be a little premature in leaving silicon valley for Austin.  Maybe Texas will turn into a "blue State" or maybe they should consider Georgia instead.

It struck me that we certainly have enough casinos in this country, and I am sure the the folks in Texas are no more than an hours' drive from some gambling venue, if nothing else the corner store selling lottery tickets.  The problem is, of course, is that if you legalize gambling in Texas, it will just draw customers away from Indian casinos in Oklahoma or wherever, much as opening the Mohegan Sun drew away customers from Atlantic City, and now casinos in the Pocanos and Catskills are poised to kill off the Mohegan Sun.   There is only so much stupidity to go around these days.

(In Trump's defense, his Atlantic City fiasco was a classic example of overkill - too many casinos and not enough gamblers. When casinos opened up closer to New York City, it was game over in any event.  Trump's shitty management was just icing on the cake).

I mused before that back in my childhood - the 1960's - much of this was illegal.  There were no casinos - period - outside of Las Vegas.  No lottery tickets, no payday loans.  But not only that, Las Vegas wasn't seen as "glamorous" or sexy or desirable.  My parents firmly told me that gambling was only something that idiots did - and it was not lauded on the television or in the movies (James Bond, notwithstanding). Today, there are myriad shows on television glamorizing gaudy lifestyles and promoting the idea that you can "win" at gambling - after all, the "big whales" do, right?  Oh, right, they change the rules of the game!  You can't.

But gambling is just an obvious example of a conspiracy-out-in-the-open to take away your money, destroy your life, career, and family - and for what?  A few hours of entertainment?  It is also an example of something that we used to outlaw for the good of society.  Today, it is "anything goes" and people are ruining their lives and looking for political solutions to their personal problems.

Obsessing about politics - right or left - is another way of wasting your life.  As of late, it seems that the most virulent version of this are the Trumpists, who spend countless hours online, posting messages about Trump, or attending violent rallies.  The Antifarts are not any better, of course, and the two of them are made for one another.  Both are wasting their time and their lives, and both will tell you it is outside forces that have ruined them, as they fill old coke bottles with gasoline to make Molotov cocktails.

It is funny, but I met a guy from Australia the other day who was a big Trump fan.  He was arguing that Trump's actual policies were pretty mainstream conservative Republican - and I pretty much agreed with him, which disappointed him greatly as he wanted someone to argue with.  He went off on some rant about immigration, and I commiserated that indeed, migration is a worldwide problem, not just one limited to the United States.   Again, he seemed disappointed that I wasn't arguing with him.  Of course, his view of migration was a little more intense - he was of the opinion that all these people fleeing desperate poverty were doing so at the bidding of ISIS, so as to "take over" the West.  Immigrants were no damn good!

I waited a bit and then asked him, "So, what brings you to the States?" and he replied, "Oh, I'm here on an immigrant working Visa, teaching school!" which I thought was ironic. "So why did you leave Australia?" I asked, and he replied, "Well, economic opportunities are greater here, and I have family that has already migrated!"  Sadly, irony is lost on folks like that.  He was a classic example of what Trump denounces - people coming to America, not for political asylum, but for economic opportunity, "taking away jobs" from working Americans - and as in this case, "chain migration" as well.  But hey, he's white, so it's OK.

Many of our friends from overseas like to run down America as some sort of horrible place full of racists and no economic opportunity.  But a funny thing, many foreign countries have their own Trump (England even has a "mini-me" version) and their own cadre of racists and deplorables. Just as migration is a worldwide phenomenon, so is the recent fascination with fascism.  But I digress.

My Australian friend had a point about Trump's policies. He likely would not be as much reviled if only he didn't have a Twitter account and Nuremberg rallies (and if he was an articulate speaker). Then again, he would not have been President, as it was those very things that attracted the "base" to him. All that being said, you can point to one thing in particular, that clearly illustrates that he is a horrible human being and probably the worst President ever.  No other President has tried to usurp the Constitution and foment Civil War as he has - and all for his personal vanity.  That truly is vile.

That being said, handing your life over to a political cause is foolish.   If you want to make a difference, it isn't to be done by showing up at a protest with a gun, or covering your front lawn and pickup truck with political signs.   The real difference is made at the voting booth. And if you want to make more of a difference, save the plane fare to Washington DC, and just send a check to the candidate of your choice - the "sheeple" are not swayed by your protests, but are easily manipulated by attack ads.  And those cost money.

But that is an anathema to the conspiracy theorist.  Decoding the "mysteries" of Qanon is to be involved in some greater cause!  Never mind that the countless hours spent on such drivel do nothing for your bottom line and only serve to make you unhappy and drive away all your friends, family, potential mates, and potential employers.   People who follow conspiracy theories destroy their own lives, just as compulsive gamblers do, and for what?  Nothing.

These are not two dissimilar things, either, but just different flavors of the same thing.  Trump benefits from the Qanon nonsense, as it provides him with a "base" of supporters.  Putin benefits as well - from a divided America, which, if all goes to his plan, will literally be divided.   But what does the Qanon believer get out of it?  Nothing, nothing at all.

The same is true of other obsessions. Sure, playing a video game isn't going to turn you into a serial killer - at least not right away. But people get sucked into these things - by design. You can spend thousands of hours advancing to "the next level" or spend countless thousands of dollars on equipment, games, and buying your way in to "the next level" so you can virtually kill someone online who you've never met.  Before long, you are spending more time behind the game console or PC than you are working or sleeping.  And as a compulsive "gamer" you end up not being a very nice person.  The whole "gamergate" thing illustrated the nature of the gamer personality - toxic, misogynist, and racist.  Unless you have a job designing video games, odds are, compulsively gaming isn't going to enhance your career or your personal life (and even game developers, I suspect, don't spend eight hours a day playing the games, but rather in developing them).

It's all a giant shill.   Right now, the big deal is that a "new console" has come out and it's hard to get!  The Cabbage-Patch doll or Tickle-me-Elmo of 2020!  Be the first in line on Black Friday to bludgeon your neighbor for one!  Or pay double the retail price for one from a "scalper" so you can brag to your neighbors on December 26th that you got your kids one, because you're #1 Dad - the coffee cup they gave you said so!

Or, you could wait three months for the hoopla to die down and buy on one sale, 50% off.  Or maybe just not get caught up in the hoopla at all, and realize that last years' model works perfectly fine - or maybe (gasp!) realize that playing video games all day long isn't really all that great a deal, and in fact may be a bad thing for you personally.

But these are just examples of how we end up pissing away our money to "conspiracies" that are out in the open and not really managed so much as just happen organically.  Although, this idea of "scalpers" buying up all the consoles and creating a "shortage" just before Christmas - that smacks of a marketing effort that puts Cabbage Patch and Elmo to shame.

People complain a lot about how shitty their lives are - but do nothing to change things for themselves. And to change your life, you first have to acknowledge that actions you took in life are more relevant that politics or economics.  Maybe the 1% took all your money - or maybe you gave it to them, with blubbering thanks, in exchange for a video game, a weekend gambling, or four years of party college. We don't like to think about that, as it is too close to home.

It is sad, to me, that our country is being torn apart over nothing.  Overfed and under-worked Americans are taking to the streets and the Internet to argue that nothing short of destroying America will save their own lives.  Things are so bad because... well they just are, darn it!  We are willing to throw away our very lives over nothing.  We are told there are myriad conspiracies out there of nefarious people who are controlling things and keeping us down.  It is convenient to think so.  But perhaps what is keeping us down is ourselves.

We voted for this dystopian libertarian nightmare where you can "do whatever you want" - including destroying yourself.  Again, when I was a kid, there were no casinos - online or otherwise. The only video game console was Pong, and you got completely bored with that within a day (well, except for the very dense among us).  There were no student loans to bankrupt your life, and not incidentally, college cost a lot less - free money only raises prices, not curtails them.  The solution proposed?  More free money.  But it is all someone else's fault you signed those loan docs, right?  Right.

Perhaps we can't go back to an era of the real Nanny-State Government, where gambling was outlawed, and usurious loans were illegal.  We live in a new era of "I got mine, jack, you watch out for yourself!" and that doesn't seem like it will change anytime soon. The only solution is to look out for your own interests - not that of the video game industry, some politician, some political cause, or some sports team or celebrity.

So explain to me why the very people who decry social inequality, are the first to fall into these obsessive-compulsive traps? Often the same people pushing for an even more libertarian state - claiming we live under "oppression"?   Maybe the answer is right there in the question - people ruin their own lives and can't come to grips with it, so it is much easier to latch onto some sort of "cause" that conveniently explains that all their personal problems are, in fact, due to outside forces.

Can people be so stupid to fall into such a dumb trap?  To sign on to support their oppressors while being oppressed?   You bet.  And they will sit at home and polish their gold-plated slave shackles, which they got as an upgrade for making it to level 53.