ZeroSum


" … a winner of sorts sitting there all alone."

The conservative worldview seems to embrace the notion that zero-sum rules govern this world. It perceives this world as distinctly divided into winners and losers. Those who win, win. Those who do not win, lose. Progressives seem to perceive the world differently, as if this were an abundant place where winners need not produce losers; where win/win outcomes remain possible if not always likely, where ingenuity and persistence have pretty reliably produced some semblance of better for all: abundance. The world itself seems indifferent to which perspective anyone takes. It seems to produce whatever any perspective insists upon. If you believe in a zero-sum world, the world will not disappoint your expectation. If you believe in an abundant one, it might well satisfy you, too. The outcome seems sealed by the tenacity with which one holds their particular belief. The world might be a self-fulfilling sort of place, a medium capable of delivering upon anyone's convictions about it.

Many of us aren't terribly experienced with abundance. We honed our economic chops playing Monopoly®, a zero-sum board game promising to reveal the secrets of the rich and famous.
Following the rules seems likely to sort out the players into exactly one winner surrounded by everyone else, losers. Like in the "real" world, though, one need not consider the published rule set complete. A few modifications can transform this rapacious competition into a more satisfying collaboration. The rules don't say anything about giving some of my holdings to any other, so it must be perfectly legal to do so. The rules seem mute on the subject of forgiveness. Just because I have a honking hotel on Park Place AND Boardwalk doesn't mean that I must collect rent whenever someone lands there. I can declare a Just Visiting moratorium on rent collection if I want. I can even give away my money if I so desire. I will have to think and also act out of the seemingly impervious box in order to transform the game into one of abundance. Properly balanced, no one need ever dominate, everyone can win, and nobody ever needs to lose. The losing part turns out to be a choice.

Of course there's always a big sister sitting at the game table who does not want to play Abundance Monopoly. She wants to preserve the possibility of winning big, even if it means she might lose bigger. More than half the enjoyment she receives from even playing the game lies in the possibility that she might be able to lord over someone else as a part of playing the game. That way, it's nothing personal, just chance providing guilt-free permission. The possibilities for abundance do seem absurd from within the confines of the formal rules. We still always get to choose which rules we play by if only we can see beyond how the game was supposed to be played.

The zero-sum mindset seems stuck within a finite game, one which can only be confined within some discrete space and time. These games must end before their deeper meaning can fully emerge. Until finished, uncertainty reigns and risk rules. Once completed, all mystery resolves itself into winner and loser. Awards might even be bestowed and celebrations ensue. The abundance game never, ever ends. It continues in considerable earnest with little promise of rest or respite. One fiddles with one's own attitude and finds wrinkles in the rules to improve the quality of experience while the game continues. The abundance game focuses upon continuing play rather than concluding it. Properly engaged in, Abundance Monopoly could, indeed, last forever, or at least until half past suppertime, with players melting away as more alluring possibilities come into play. Everyone leaves feeling a little bit better about themselves and also better about everyone else at the table. They will have shared and shared alike.

The zero-sum attitude turns out to be a choice. If you firmly believe that immigrants will overwhelm the carrying capacity of our society, you can manifest this dire possibility. You might never suspect that you authored the outcome you hoped would never happen. I learned when I was about five that there's no practical limit to how many kids could be packed into the way, way back seat in the station wagon, depending upon the patience and generosity of the kids. One bully back there and the carrying capacity could be reduced to almost exactly one, a winner of sorts sitting there all alone.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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