Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guilty Games



(from Beverly Hills Stories)

- Well, what do you think of our new Performing Arts Center?
- I like it. Beverly Hills is complete now as an pretty image of destruction. On the corner, bright tall Lichtenstein aluminium sculpture of a flame. Behind it, fenced yard for electrical equipment. Behind that the theater, the cardboard box that brought the garbage incinerated by the flame powered by the generators.
- Are you an architect?
- No. Are you?
- I'm a physician. This is my son. You don't like it but you come here anyway.
- The library on the other side of the palm court is the real center of the city. That is where you'll see the very poorest in this richest of all cities.
- I don't know about Beverly Hills being the richest city. The poor live on the streets because the in-patient clinics for mental illness were closed down. The director of Bellevue Hospital in New York predicted it would happen.
- Only some are insane. The rest are being driven insane by never being safe.
- Do you know them?
- I stay with someone who does.
- A social worker?
- No, just a man who gives them money.
- And you write about him?
- I have.
- What do you think can be done about the situation?
- Nothing, unless everything is changed.
- What do you mean by everything?
- Many of the people idling by the library here have families. The problem is their families rejected them.
- Why? Because they were different?
- Because they were different, in some ways better, but primarily because they didn't make money, couldn't make money or wouldn't make money.
- Money is the root of all evil. So what according to you should we do?
- Take responsibility for the world we create, for the new American institution, new invention, of millions sleeping on the street.
- How?
- You belong to the American Medical Association. I've read that it is the biggest political lobby in the country. Lobbies bribe government officials. The sum of all the bribery, from your lobby and the others, is politics in which nothing counts but money. The result is the millions sleeping on the street, some of whom are over there on the other side of the Palm Court.
- People are self interested. It's human nature. Physicians are interested in their own interest, same goes for everyone.
- Except you know that in this case, as you've told me just now, that serving your self interest is part of an economic practice that leads to a terrifically bad result. Your profession is healing, not money making. Your profession is not a game. I'm tempted to warn you, in the spirit of the guillotine, to watch your head. I can't completely grasp this yet, can I show you something I just noted down?
Games are not the purpose of life but a means to an end. In science we play with the world and call it hypothesis testing. We use tested hypotheses to do things, make things, know what to expect.
Sometimes people know that the game being played itself is destructive of life, they have kept on playing even when the hypothesis has been tested and shown to be not in accord with reality. For example, the hypothesis behind present economic policies has been disproven, but according to the players stopping the game will bring unpredictable results and cannot be considered. It is insane to keep playing a game that teaches us to do what destroys us. But there is satisfaction in participating and directing something big, at the cost of personal discomfort, precisely when it is known the game destroys society. For when the insane game in reality is destructive of society it can be no other than personal reward involved. The balancing of personal cost in witnessing destruction and personal gain from playing the game with pleasure is what constitutes self consciousness, and with consciousness comes responsibility.