I never once died playing red light, green light in elementary school! I have survived long enough so far to realize, as Korean TV series and Netflix hit “Squid Game” more than subtly hints, that the capitalist game is rigged in favor of the rich, while the masses, as Henry David Thoreau said, “lead lives of quiet desperation. … A stereotyped and unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.”
Red light, green light and the honeycomb shape game at least give the illusion of chance, because if you play the game right, you pass, and theoretically no one has to be eliminated. It’s the dream of Reaganomics. Play by the rules, and you can succeed! If you fail, you didn’t try hard enough.
But tug of war and the marble game erase the illusion because somebody has to lose. Even if everyone follows the rules, not everyone can succeed. One team will win tug of war, and one will lose. Somebody has to defeat the other guy in marbles.
These two games put to rest the capitalist myth that everyone can succeed if they mix their metaphors and pick themselves up by their bootstraps with a little elbow grease. In marbles and tug of war, for some to be rich, others must be poor. Wealth in our increasingly laissez faire system can only be built on the backs of others. The rich, the VIPs, treat the desperate masses as horses to be bet on.
Deep down, we all know it’s kind of monstrous for VIPs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, real-life Bond villains, to have throwaway money for space tourism while 40 percent of the country doesn’t have enough savings to cover a last minute $400 car repair. If you made $1,000 an hour every hour of your life from the moment of birth until the day you turned 100, you still wouldn’t have $1 billion, half a percent of Bezos’s net worth! And yet the Party of Reagan scoffs at a $15 an hour minimum wage while promising tax cuts for the rich, pledging that you, too, with a little hard work, and a bit of cheating at the marble game, can be the lucky one in 456 to win the hanging piggy bank of money.