Saturday, June 25, 2011

Everybody Matters

Everybody Matters

From the tiny child laying in its crib, burbling in happiness, or wailing with hunger, to the arthritic fellow making his way to his mailbox to look for a letter from his grandchildren--from the young woman on the bus taking her from her childhood home to a dream of greatness in the city to the old woman sitting on her porch, cat in her lap, calling cheerfully to the neighbors tending their garden.  From the homeless child sleeping on the school steps to the woman walking down the university steps, diploma in her hand.

From the guy standing in the unemployment line, trying to find another job after his was eliminated or outsourced, to the CEO who gave the order. From the long haired, bearded busker playing guitar at the market, voice raised in a song of hope or despair, to the slick haired concert promoter hob-knobbing with the stars.

Everybody matters.

We are all participants in what was once considered a grand experiment, a society in which we, the people, were all considered equal before the law, that insisted that each of our voices could be heard by those we elected to represent us.

It wasn't always true, of course, but it was a work in progress. One by one, the barriers were torn down and each segment of society became yet another to join their voices in the song of freedom. We believed that by working hard we could make a better world and a better life for our children.

When we stood and opposed the robber barons, fighting for the right to workplace safety, and the right to see our children to go to school rather than being forced to work alongside us, we did it for everyone. We did it for our children, and the children of our neighbors, and the children that would be born to them as well.

When we went off to fight the tyrant who tried to consume Europe, we did it for those who were dying, and those who were not yet born, because the hope of the future deserved it.

When we stood up against the war in southeast Asia, it wasn't just for ourselves, but for the children of all Americans, and the people there who also deserved to live in peace, to try to determine their own fate. We didn't do it because we don't believe in America, and what it's supposed to represent, but because we do.

When we protested the dumping of toxic wastes into the earth, the rivers, and the sea, it wasn't just to protect ourselves, or our own children, but to protect ALL of us, and all our children. When we fought for clean air, it wasn't to ensure our own breaths, but to ensure that all of us could continue to breathe air that didn't make us sick. When we stood up against the decimation of forest land, it was so all our children could enjoy the wonders of nature as we had. As our ancestors had.

America is more than a land mass, more than a nation of people. America is an idea. The idea that everybody matters, from the lowest to the highest, that everyone has a right to a decent life, and has a right to watch their children grow up in a world better yet than the one that they themselves remember.

Isn't that what everyone wants? That their children inherit a world in which more things are possible, in which they have every chance to succeed no matter where they were born and into which walk of life?

That's the one thing we liberals have been trying to say all along. That the farmer's daughter in Ohio, or Kentucky, is just as deserving of a chance to succeed in life as the CEO's son in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. That's why we stand and fight against those practices and policies that make it that much harder for them. Because if we didn't, who would?

We believe everybody matters.

Don't you?

A radical suggestion for our foundering education system

Much of our gamesmanship, as a culture, is antagonistic.  You have winners and you have losers.  As we’ve often seen, this can occasionally explode into an orgy of manic catharsis, resulting in loss of property and, not uncommonly, loss of life after high drama sporting events.

Can competition be carried too far?  Can we become too invested in “our” team that we go a little nuts when something doesn’t go according to plan?  Why do we do this?

My theory is that it’s similar to the reason people play video games.  For the feeling of accomplishment—real or fabricated—that comes with succeeding at something, or being otherwise associated with success.  Accomplishment, real or imagined, has a desirable affect on our psyche.  We like it.  It allows us to minimize the existence of imagined flaws, and pump up one’s confidence in the presence of potential romantic partners.  Real or imagined.

But what about cooperation?  Oh, we learn to cooperate in a team, but the ultimate goal is, then, to beat the other team.  More winners and losers.

Now I’d like to stress that I think all competition is bad.  It isn’t.  It’s part of what got us this far… but in tandem, as if it and cooperation two horses hitched to the same coach.  If one is stronger than the other, imbalance results.

Either way, isn’t it time we began to stress the power of cooperation at least as much as we stress competition?  The world into which we’re being dragged—often kicking and screaming, but that’s another matter—is different than the one we thought we understood.

We can’t emulate the Chinese way… not and maintain our identity as Americans.  It doesn’t suit us.  As with competition and cooperation, individualism and community must also find a balance.  RPGs can teach teamwork as well as any sport, as well as good sportsmanship and a certain amount of respect for rules.  Even though it turns some people into lawyers.  (Take my word for it--serious gamers are laughing at that).  But, in allowing the player to immerse him or her self in the character, the provides both a means of stepping out of the “real” world, yet also teaches some valuable real world skills at the same time.

For example—use of resources.  I’ve long said that they should put experienced gamers in charge of disaster relief teams.  Why?  Because one of the skills a gamer learns is how to use the resources available to him or her to their best effect.  Resources and the skills and abilities of your fellow PCs.  Which can also help a player pick up on similar things in the real world.  It teaches you to think of others as more than mere extensions of oneself.  Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  But in a completely make-believe scenario, you have to be able to consider the skills and talents of everyone in the party and how they might be put to the best use.

That’s the kind of gamer I am, and the kind of gaming I’d stress.

“But what about physical exercise? some might ask.  Funny you should mention that, because I myself came up with a way to drag pasty-faced D&Ders into the light of day.  They did not burst into flames, much to my surprise.

Simple enough.  I told them that the next game we played were going to feature ourselves as characters—as if we were pulled into a fantasy realm.  Then I devised training regimens to add levels to our starting position.  Everyone got some sun that Summer.

I’m not saying that any one of these things would hold true in every kid you introduced to the program.  But all it might take is to pique their interest just a little bit.  And if they happen to want to add a new element to the game, make them write the rules and turn that into a project.  And, yes, spelling and grammar count.

Now this is all quite apart from my vision of video games that can be both educational AND entertaining.  Right now you have two very distinct mediums within the whole gaming industry to, I believe, the detriment of both.

The Assassin’s Creed series is a great example of how real historical detail can be injected into what is, essentially, a fantasy story.

I invite my friends and other readers to consider the possibilities.

Historical/Time Travel RPGs

Near Future Science RPGs

Literature-based RPGs

Civics/Current Events RPGs

And consider that an RPG is an excellent way to teach the following skills in a holistic way.







Creative Writing

Record keeping

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Faith based governing

The other day Bill Maher riffed on Texas governor Rick Perry for his comments that there were apparently some problems we couldn't solve and should leave in the hands of God.  Perry called a state-wide day of prayer...for rain. 

That's just fucking stupid.

As Maher suggested--one of the problems here is that we humans are fighting to abandon responsibility for our actions--and this new breed of so-called "Christian" is on the front lines of this battle.  We're not responsible for pollution, or climate change, or driving multiple species on both land and sea to extinction.  And even if we are, it has to be part of "God's Plan."

Let me make something perfectly clear.  A religion based on the notion of a supreme monarch has no business dominating the political dialogue in what is ostensibly a democratic society.  Those that advocate governance by religious principles are innately hostile to democracy and should be treated as the enemies of democracy they are.  You cannot serve the King of Kings and the citizens of America at the same time.  Pick your loyalties.

This goes along with something else that has occurred to me.  If the purpose of government isn't to serve the people then what is it?  To serve itself?  Well, judging by the actions of some Republicans, this must be the case.  Didn't the governor of Florida sign a law that would drug test prospective welfare recipients--thus enhancing the income of drug testing clinics that he himself has a financial stake in?  Gee--nothing self serving about that.

The GOP calls itself "The Party of Personal Responsibility."  Except, well, it doesn't take responsibility for anything.  The massive deficit?  Initially created by Republicans via Bush's tax cuts.  They, in turn, blame Obama for the increased deficit, forgetting (or ignoring) that one must buy a ladder to climb out of the vast trench they dug for us.

Seriously... if tax cuts for millionaires create jobs--where are the jobs?  They've had 10 years and what do we see now?  We're still bleeding jobs, a circumstance not helped by fiscally decimating the public sector and sending all those folks into the streets looking for jobs.  Along with retirees being asked to stay in the job market even longer.  In some places they want to change the child labor laws to increase the hours that children can work.

Here's a clue, assholes.  What we want to do is decrease the number of people looking for jobs, not increase it.  And that's precisely what this will do.  And something tells me they know it.  Because the people are more worried about jobs than the deficit.  By taking this tack, the Republicans are ensuring that the job market will continue to deteriorate.  Deliberately, since they hope that it'll cause the voters to revolt and forget that they're the morons behind it all.

Let's hope it doesn't work out the way they want it to.  It all depends on the average American's bullshit detector.  And so far I've not been too impressed.

Okay, let's make another thing perfectly clear.  Everything the Republicans want is the opposite of what we should be doing.  This means that the neo-liberals in the Obama administration still attached to the supply side philosophy need to be kicked to the curb.  It's a failure.  We have ample evidence of this.  What the right might call "Obama's" failure is, indeed, their failure--since he's following the recipe they initially devised and cling to with the desperation of a drowning man.