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Monday, November 23, 2009


Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on Aug 18, 2009 6:24 PM PDT

In memory of the beautiful mind of Jonathon Nash, the developer of game theory.

Chess is an interesting game and useful in that it helps develop the skills of logical deduction and thinking ahead with regard to consequences. Like football, it sharpens the skills essential to prevailing in situations of conflict. It does no harm but can stunt social development if the player forgets that it is just a game and spends so much time at it that it becomes an end in itself.

When played only to one-up others for the purpose of self-gratification, chess can become a bad habit. Once mastered, it can waste time better spent on productive activity, if indulged in to the exclusion of more meaningful pursuits. It is a moral imperative to make the effort to turn thoughts into actions that assure that the world becomes a place more fit for human habitation.

Unlike football, playing chess at least does not have the potential to cause harm to the players. Both games simulate the thinking skills necessary to successfully wage war, which can be helpful if attacked but is worse than useless if when war is avoidable. Most fights result when efforts at communication fail to make clear that such a conflict is mutually harmful and will not result in benefit to either party. This explains Thom Hartmann’s observation that no two truly democratic nations have ever chosen to war with one another. In a functioning democracy, open dialogue between citizens inevitably leads to this conclusion.

America has repeatedly been led to war against other nations precisely because it is not a functioning democracy. The corporate interests that control the Senate also control the mainstream media and therefore the message that is received by those who remain trapped in their Matrix of lies. It is in the best interests of these soulless entities and their psychopathic CEOs to maintain the fiction that America can only progress at the expense of other nations. On a smaller scale, they glorify radical individualism as they cultivate a belief that greed is in fact a virtue. When they claim to represent those with spiritual values, they turn the Christian vision of social justice on its head.

Secular humanists and progressives of various religions see things differently. It is critical that secular humanists do not dismiss Christians and others of faith as self-deluded reactionaries. Not only does this reflect ignorance on the part of those holding this view, but it risks losing the opportunity to join forces with this group of socially aware and active members of the community in fighting for social justice.

Progressive religious leaders will be key allies in reaching across the great divide between conservatives and progressives. This is how we communicate to those unaccustomed to listening to progressive voices the message that we are all in this together and must join forces to achieve social justice. This alliance is crucial if we are to win this key battle against the corporatists who hold America’s fate in their hands.

All progressives, whether religious or secular, understand the principle of interdependence and the power of selflessness in defeating the morally and intellectually bankrupt forces that are struggling to maintain their death grip on society. Like soldiers, we must put the mission before any thoughts of personal reward or cost.

We will win this battle only if we respect each other for our differences as well as our similarities and show by our example how we can heal itself from the fragmentation which threatens the fabric of American society. As in war, we must trust that our allies have our backs, regardless of our personal prejudices about those who choose to fight beside us.

The zero sum game is one that can only have one winner. Together, we can prove to the worshipers of Ayn Rand that this is a false model upon which to base society. The reality is that if we all accept our interdependence and work for a just economy and society, our wealth will increase and we will all have more than we could ever need.

We really do not have a choice. If we accept the conservative assumption that others are to be feared and that the purpose of existence is mere survival, then we are choosing to follow the path of mutual self-destruction. We must choose to base our thoughts and actions on the assumption that all men are basically good, regardless of how far in error they may find themselves.

This is an essential assumption to believe that the People can rule themselves. Only  when we accept the belief that all of us are equally deserving of love will we understand that our purpose is to help the radical individualists learn the nature of their error and persuade them to join the human race to create a sane society while it is still possible.

In the immortal words of Justin Hayward:


Rick Staggenborg, MD

Coos Bay, OR

1 comment:

  1. This is another essay that essentially wrote itself. However, in retrospect I could have been a little more explicit in what I intended to say.

    Jonathon Nash was the mathematician portrayed in the nonfiction book and the fictionalized movie A Beautiful Mind. He studied game theory, best known for The Prisoner's Dilemma, where the situation is that a confederate in crime is told he can go free by betraying his partner. When faced with such a decision, prisoners and politicians generally act in this way.

    Nash realized that this did not have to be the outcome because if the two trusted each other, both would go free if neither betrayed the other. It is a sad commentary on modern society that individuals put in this situation in an imaginary situation betray the other, who in reality they have never met.

    In real life, the average prosecuter cares only about his won-lost record and uses unethical coercion to get the accused convicted by what is often false testimony, knowing that the criminals who benefit from lying will generally betray the accused even if they know their testimony is perjured.

    This is one way that the State subjugates the poor and disadvantaged, who are often poorly represented. It is a means of authoritarian control of individuals frightened of prison or worse, whil real criminals in government go free, like Scooter Libby in the case of the treasonous revealing of Velarie Plame's CIA cover.

    Karl Rove and Luria Canarie illegally imprisoned Governor Don Siegelman because Canary was an exceptionally venal criminal. Neither has yet been brought to justice by Eric Holder, while Governor Seigelman continues to fightto overturn some of the 17 convictions that have not yet been overturned.

    If we trusted one another, we would demand a high standard for conviction, particularly in capital cases where state-sponsored murder is the consequence for those unwilling to submit to the will of criminals in govvernment like Rove and Canarie.

    Life does not have to be a zero-sum game, where there can only be winners if others are losers. Workers create more than enough wealth for all of us to live very comfortably, but the international corporate terrorists can never have enough and do not understand anything but ruthless competition, even when it leads to war.

    We can break this vicious cycle if we trust one another well enough to join in the cause of abolishing corproate personhood. When the Senate cannot be bought by corporations, the corporate tools cannot be re-elected.

    We will have a Senate that works for the People within two election cycles of the introduction of a Constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and overturn the series of fascist Supreme Court decisions that have led to the purchase of the Senate through the exercise of the corporate "right" to free speech, which it defines as money.


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