The concept of games we are all either consciously, or are unwittingly playing, has stuck with me since I was introduced to Logo Therapy. This was the mid to late 90’s by a friend who worked with me at Seattle Coffee Company. After the Interior design degree at De Montfort University. Before I became a youth worker, Basketball Coach and then learning mentor and counsellor. Logo therapy was developed by Viktor Frankl who wrote the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. Dr Viktor Frankl was sent from Vienna to concentration camps in Nazi occupied Germany. Dr Frankl, Jewish, developed his idea in relation to surviving the trauma of his enforced internment in a hopeless and indeterminate set of circumstances. Dr Frankl sought freedom of mind and not destruction of his discovered sense of self determined will. ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ as a book, collects his ideas about what he saw and felt whilst in a concentration camp. I gave my copy away to an incarcerated person in 2012. The individual’s set of circumstances appeared to mirror Dr Frankl’s. Imprisoned against their will, for crimes they were later acquitted from. They appeared to have draining levels of hope with justice being served, in relation to the crime they were accused of committing…
Other psychological concepts and games we are infernally playing was also informed by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, Games People Play by Eric Berne, The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It remains a marvel to me that the ideas from the authors listed above are not common knowledge and made commonly available for the global many.
The knowledge that there are games we play came as a surprise as I began my counselling training in 2006. Understanding that game play is less about manipulation of others and more about having our human needs met. Arriving on the planet small, defenseless and knowing little about the world we have been born into, we are to learn from those who care for us. We are also to learn from the environment we live amongst. Both care givers and the environment lived in, teaches the infant how to make sense of what is experienced. Game Theory could be explained as a seemingly complex web of transactions and attachments we have to achieve a number of seemingly understandable goals. Game Theory is much more complex than my explanation. The theory is born of both economics and philosophy. Two schools of discipline that are of themselves a challenge to truly know as a lay philosopher.
The understanding that I am making in using the vehicle of Zero-sum to White Supremacy, is that if White wins all of the games all of the time, then there is nothing left for any other cultural and racial group. The winner through ill begotten means has won all of the games that have ever been played or potentially ever will be played. Or so White Supremacy believes. What ‘White’ is to yet to understand in the multi layered, multi dimensional, time spanning game of chess being played is that ‘White’ has also lost. There is a desperation in holding on to the belief of the pearly White mountain tops of racial hierarchy.
I lose – You lose
The losses are uncountable. There is something blossoming for me here about the old ideas around The Enlightenment. Whose Enlightenment begot whose? Returning to the Zero-sum game of winner keeps all, what is not in the annals of discovery are the missed opportunities, the conversations, arguments and differences that were never had! These losses cannot be counted because they did not occur. Discoveries of equitable commerce, economical travel, growing bountiful regenerative crop that has little to no impact on eco systems, disease reduction or illness prevention, educating of the young and those who are in the work place, successful re-habilitation of forensic populations to the communities they have been shut away from, community policing for the betterment of all could not take place, amongst a trillion other ideas of people advancement and liberation. The persons these ideas may have sprung from were/are held in detention centres, concentration camps, internment camps, fleeing war, shot, poisoned, starved, grew impatient, turned to insurgency, conspiracy and interruption of localised and global systems of control and ultimately died. The fulfillment of their mission on earth and dreams that may have enhanced, supported and brought enrichment were not/have not been realised. No, White on the chess board of life has won a thin victory of almost limitless riches. But richness is not wealth. What White has lost is the wealth of remaining on the board with ghosts of fallen cultures and non-remembered peoples. Oppression and extermination of indigenous populations summarily robbed and erased wisdom globally. However, listening to pieces still on and off the board and their ideas about how to return the game to how it should be played – Infinitely. Could be the next human goal.
Game Theory Appears to be an Economical and Philosophical term applied to any number of different agents that behave in ‘normal’ or irregular ways to factors that determine predictive or unplanned outcomes. A fuller description of Game Theory is found here – Stanford Encylcopedia of Philosophy. My attempt above is to provide a summary of the information the link provides.
Infinity and Beyond
The infinite game as Simon Sinek discusses as found below, sounds like a game we all know and yet don’t recognise or fully understand – life as an infinite game. Simon offers a description of the infinite game as not winning or losing, but remaining and still playing even whilst other players drop out. The differences between Zero-sum and infinite, in game theory, Simon Sinek explains is the Zero sum game has a finite set of parameters. An outcome, a limited set of players and time in which the game is played. The infinite game is limitless inside which the parameters for the game are not set. With Infinite games there is an unknown set of players, playing a game with the main objective to continue playing the game. There are no known winners or losers.
Within the Infinite game the objective is to continue playing. The aim is to enhance the game and propel players to improve continually. By introducing a winner takes all to a set of Infinite goals the game breaks-down and stops the flywheel nature of advancement as seen in Kiss The Ground – Netflix. In conflict it has been Afghanistan v the Soviet Union. Vietnam v America. Afghanistan v America. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Buddhism v spirituality, atheism, agnosticism. A finite system cannot out flank, outmanoeuvre, outpace an infinite one. A thought experiment would be if we were to build a structure as a monument to human ingenuity, power and understanding from a strong material like bronze or a hard wearing stone – like marble. How long would the edifice stand before the elements change it’s appearance or it’s position? A century? A millennia? With a game of winners and losers the winners earn a partial victory. The win is temporary. At an unknown moment a previous loser has the potential to become victorious. A perpetual cycle for balance and rebalance is instituted.
White supremacy has not won. White supremacy simply believes it has. The challenge is to move the statue of the fallen aside. In order that true progress can be had by all communities willing to move ahead beyond the lie that White supremacy has continually told. Discovering and figuring out what living life all means moves from the *stuckedness of judgement to curiosity, wonderment and awe. By playing an infinite game we enhance the self, the community and the planet. White supremacy has only scored the earth with a seemingly impermeable mark – Capitalism. There is a Native American saying that brings to mind the uselessness of the product of Zero-sum and capitalism ‘When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.’ I mis-remembered the quote as Only when we have poisoned the rivers lakes and seas, will we see we cannot eat money. The full quote is attached in the link. The person who brought wisdom to light spoke truth to power and highlights the short sightedness of Zero-sum.
Money is a Zero-sum. Capitalism is an oppressive divisive system and is a Zero-sum game too. Having more of the substance does little to appease the disquiet of illness and dis-ease inherent in the human being. We simply move ourselves away from enjoyment and fulfillment beside others. A birthright. A human given. For most, a natural experience and a human need. There are also contra-indications for living amongst. Some prefer to live alone or in small communities or with 1 other. Nomadland the film is a useful extrapolation of a similar idea. Alongside and in communion with others, we find not only ourselves but also family and a sense of peace. White supremacy appears to not allow an idea or belief in systems as complex, as rich as unity to survive. The strength of people coming together, waking up from the nightmare of White supremacy is a fear that perpetuates the misdirection of self-interest, distraction and procrastination serving only a Zero-sum outcome.
Accept nothing as a given.
Question all, continuously this means even the thoughts you may carry.
Invite critical thinking as a tool to discover unpack and make sense of self and the planet we inhabit.
Be curious often and play infinitely.
Game Theory explanation provided by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Games and Rationality was instrumental in helping me summarise my understanding of game theory.
I thank Kimberly Cato for introducing the Akala video where he speaks about Injustice the film. As a result of being a team member of the summer series program of conversations for True Roots I made the link of Zero-sum and White supremacy.
Ibram X Kendi interviews Heather McGhee about her understanding of the Zero-sum game. The conversation emboldened the thinking I had about how ineffective White supremacy is and what has happened with anti Black racism and the pandemic of racism overall.
Simon Sinek discusses with Brené Brown some of his ideas from a few of his books that include: Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last and the Infinite Game.
Simon Sinek shares his idea of the multiple losses that happen when playing a Zero-sum game. My interest in watching this T.E.D. talk came after the thought about a totalitarian system being a Zero-sum game – that of White supremacy. I enjoyed Mr Sinek’s thought shower. Nomadland is a film that invites reflection on living with both freedom and the uncertainty this brings.
I have shared ‘Injustice’ the film as the ultimate Zero-sum literal experience. Criminal injustice and prison is a pure example of Zero-sum. Even within the prison system a repetitive pattern of winners and losers populate all strata of people incarcerated.
Ibram X Kendi with Dr Heather McGhee Be Anti-Racist
Simon Sinek with Brené Brown’s Dare to lead podcast
Simon Sinek T.E.D. talk Zero-sum game
Injustice A Biritsh film looking at the criminal Injustice Service in England and Wales.
Cover photo Black playing cards by JESUS ECA on Unsplash
Jenga Stack photo by Virgil Cayasa on Unsplash
Risk photo by Halacious on Unsplash
Moody Backboard photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
Game Over photo by Sigmund on Unsplash