First up, I believe there is an important difference between a capitalist and a capitalist swine. Love the first; hate the latter.
Ryan Roberts and Merideth Peck were to make their 3-minute duet presentation in our presentation skills class with Peter Coughter this afternoon. Instead, they chose to take more than their allotted time and indulged the class in a simulation game. Good call Ryan & Merideth. Peter gave them points for leadership and for taking the trouble to arrange the game.
The strategy game is Star Power (spoiler alert!!!) The game started with every member in class (about 45 of us) picking 5 poker chips from a bag. 4 colors of chips, each of different value, inversely proportional to the number of those kinds of chips in the bag. Say a green chip was worth a point, if you got 4, you got 4 points plus some bonus points. This enabled for some trade: for instance, if I had a single black chip worth 8 and 3 red chips worth a point each, I could trade my most valuable black chip to get a green chip, and get a bonus that justified giving away the most valuable chip.
The floor opens for trading with a few rules: you can’t speak until you hold hand (to shake) with someone you want to trade with; once you hold hand you must trade; you don’t show what chip you are trading; you can trade one chip for many. The floor was open for 10 minutes.
I played a pretty dirty game. I wanted to cheat. I swindled Anish trading him a lower value chip after promising a higher value chip. I swindled Edwin Mclure too. I have played the card game “bluff” enough so I thought I wouldn’t have any moral barrier to cheat them as far as the game was concerned. But even though it was a simulation game, and knowing that I went into it wanting to swindle people, I felt very guilty. My first lesson from the game: embarrassment comes from inside when you fail yourself, not as a response to bad reputation. This forced me to work more people to find a win-win fair trade.
Once the floor was closed for trading, we put our scores on the board. Three levels had been made and with all the swindling I made it to the top level.
Ryan & Merideth had rearranged the chairs in the lecture room. One small group of chairs at the head of the class, one slightly bigger group of chairs at the back, all other chairs were taken out. The richest people sat in the first group of chairs, the second rung at the back and the third sat on the floor.
Each group was given 3 bonus chips; each worth 3 points that as a group we could hand out to members of the group. As the elite group we checked the highest score of the next group and gave the chips to the lowest three members of our group to make sure our club was still in tact. We wanted to raise the bar for people to get into our club. We had about 3 minutes to make this decision.
Unfortunately for our club, one of us, Alex had 21 points, and the three who were at 20 got ahead of him. Unfortunately for us, the lower team sent someone with 22 points, so we lost one of our members who now became part of the bourgeois. He hated us.
We were given three bags of chips, I mean, real edible chips. Just us the rich kids got it. With that it became pretty evident where this game was going. We were all going to leave with an understanding of how people behave as individuals or groups at different classes. Now I pretty much wanted to be the best capitalist swine I could be. I wanted to share the food, so most others in the group. It was embarrassing to not share the food with the other teams. But we wanted to play the best example of the worst class of elites, so we didn’t share the bag of chips.
Each club was given bags of poker chips. All the chips I picked up were of the top two values. I suspected some rigging. The game boosted the rich to become richer. It was only later I realized what impact this boost had.
Now we were told that the trading floor would open but before that the elite club could make some trading rules and the bourgeois and poor class could send some petition. The poor class sent two petitions, the first one said, “gives us the food” the other one said, “fuck you”. Very conscious that we were being sickening, we made some restrictive rules. We knew the other classes would unionize and give up individual ambitions to make sure the one who had the best opportunity got enough points to go through. So we introduced two restrictive trade policies. The two classes couldn’t trade amongst each other; they could only trade with us, the elites.
The trading floor opened and both classes refused to trade with us. They started bending the rules by “giving” away chips to the ones with best opportunity rather than trading. The elite club traded within, which was a very small pool. I traded a black chip to get my fourth green chip so I could get a bonus. My next lesson: with the restrictive trade policies we set, we had limited the trade opportunities immensely. I only earned 2 points in this trading session. This was such a stagnant economy.
The game was closed at this point and opened for comments and discussion.
The third class expressed that the vast gap between them and the elite class meant that they completely gave up on any ambition to get there. They had talked themselves into being happy with what they had. They also expressed their anger over not being allowed to trade amongst themselves because they really wanted the one with best opportunity to go through. The bourgeois accused the few candidates they had helped graduate for not representing them when the rules were made. Those who had climbed up the ranks complained they didn’t have enough influence and had to comply with the group.
The bourgeois and the lower class thought as a commune and wanted to make points to go up. Another reason they thought as a commune was perhaps because they sat as a commune. If they were making decisions from their individual homes, their jealously for the ones with best opportunity might have been more on display. Interestingly the elite was more concerned in keeping the lower classes down than making more points for itself.
Overall, the lower class expressed helplessness, the bourgeois frustration and anger, and the elite washed their hands off with “that’s how it is, you would do the same thing in this position”, “we were just being nasty to play the game” and some genuine guilt.
I didn’t feel too terrible for being terrible because I was being nasty to be nasty. Some expressed that this game depicts exactly how unjust life is.
I left the game with more optimism. I feel if we had played that game 10 times, the 10th time the elite group (with the experience carried from being in lower classes) would have played lot fairer. Human beings today have learned from the French revolution, the Russian revolution, the naxal movement, the ill effects of communism, the ill effects of crazy capitalism and we are a society that is a lot fairer than it used to be. Of course we make many a lapse from time to time but I’m encouraged to know we lead towards a fairer world and mankind’s timeline is not a circle of injustice.
Picture: “Pyramid of Capitalist System”