Discover more from Stoic Observations
Day trading morality.
The other night I was invited to play a game. Generally speaking I’m an enthusiastic gamer, but I just discovered the kind of game that I suck at. In fact, I think it says something deeply true about me and it was very intimidating. The game is called Werewolf.
There are five of us. Myself, the Spousal Unit and the Palo Family, two of whom are highly competent attorneys and their son, who has obviously grown up being cross-examined. The game uses a combination of computer generated narration and 8 cards, each of which assigns the five of us an identity and three spare unknowns in the middle. We are instructed to close our eyes in various turns by the computer which assigns various tasks to the players by identity. For example, it might say “Everyone close your eyes. Now, if you are a werewolf, open your eyes and acknowledge the other werewolf. Werewolves now close your eyes.”
This goes on as various evil characters take their turns as instructed by the voice. They might be instructed to switch players cards. They might be instructed to peek at players cards.
For all I can tell, having twice been assigned the identity of a Villager, all of the computer instructions go to the bad guys. After the instructions are complete, we players have 5 minutes to interrogate each other and determine who is a good guy and who is a bad guy. Nobody is obligated to reveal anything. There also doesn’t seem to be any reward in being a good guy or a bad guy - the meat of the game is in the determination of who is who. So here I am sitting being told to confess that I’m a Villager by a DA whom I know can get Chat GPT-4 to commit perjury. So I try to remain as stone-faced as possible. I don’t know how lying or trying to accuse someone else serves my own purposes. It’s freaking uncomfortable.
After losing three games in a row, I was put into this weird fugue state in which I have to admit that the part of my brain that should figure out how to win at this game is just not functioning. When everybody’s potentially lying and it doesn’t seem to matter if you are initially a good guy but some bad guy can switch your identity and you don’t know it, my mind just breaks. I feel helpless and I think that the only way I can win this game, which I now truly dislike, is to cheat. I want to open my eyes even if I’m not a werewolf. Of course I’m told that this was the easiest version of the game. I’m too through. Oh and by the way, this is the same feeling I get playing Among Us.
Scandalous Troublemakers, Flakes & Liars
Somewhere along the line I have been informed by various personality poll-bots and pop psychological gauntlets that I am an ESTJ. I know I wasn’t always this, and somedays it’s true that I long to be the kind of person I was the first time I fell in love. I was just an ordinary guy with an ordinary girlfriend and everything was nice, back when we could just sit together and listen to the lyrics of Al Jarreau and Teena Marie and really feel it. That’s not the world I’ve lived in since before somebody told James he was Cool and that Ladies Loved him. Well, that’s what he told himself. Similarly I told myself that I was an ESTJ and over time it became true. But what really got me is when those same personality bots described my hell.
Hell for me is when I have to obey someone I don’t respect, and who doesn’t respect me. Also they are a flake and a liar. Worse, they are a troublemaker. Such an imaginary person exists in my mind as a gangbanger who forces me to steal something from the local grocery store where the proprietor knows me by name. It’s unthinkable. What actually did happen was that KK said “Hey, let’s go steal from Boy’s Market.” But I looked at him like the stupid fool he was and told him to kiss my ass. Yet I can still imagine being subjected to that Hell. If I were a more fearful person I would rant, but while I’m on the subject…
I spent a lot of time meditating on the fact of HBO’s original series being a set of dramas which essentially made us cheer for the bad guys by presenting unresolvable ethical dilemmas in which murderers had legitimate family issues to resolve that were not their fault. It worked for Tony Soprano, and sorta worked for the motley crew of Oz. Then they got my favorite actor at the time, Andre Braugher a shot as Thief and the series failed after six episodes. Then I was hip to it. By the time they launched Deadwood, I realized I just couldn’t any longer. When the Spousal Unit started in with Boardwalk Empire, I resented her and everybody else for liking the shows. Yes and that goes for The Wire too.
It wasn’t until the launch of Daredevil that I noticed a new kind of machination that I found even more distasteful. It was when you engage in a constant game of subterfuge and truth evasion with your own intimate friends. It involves secret identities, hidden motives, tendentious alliances, and constant deception. I don’t have a category for these kinds of dramas, but I find watching them impossible.
Moral Day Traders
When I find myself in any situation of intimacy, like gaming with friends, that is when I’m most vulnerable to duplicity. But that’s never been a problem for me. I find that I am extraordinarily comfortable in small groups when I can be forthright and interactive. I have noticed that powerful politicians have the same competence: “When they talk to you, you feel like all of their attention is focused on you and you are the most important person in the world.” I go straight there, especially if you know my full name.
This is why I have such a difficulty with the cults of personality that dominate our society in this ass-backward fashion of democracy. We know these characters are untrustworthy and playing by rules we can hardly fathom in good faith. Yet we attend to them as if they were irreplaceable.
So I find myself wishing that military leaders of demonstrated skill and capacity would take over the parties. Yet I know that’s some sort of violation. We leave it to those who cannot seem to appreciate the gravity of life and death decision-making to civilians among us who daily work with secret identities, hidden motives, tendentious alliances and constant deception. I find heeding the drama of politics impossible.
I am a member of the Long Now Foundation. I get my wisdom from the ancients. I don’t believe in moving fast and breaking things. I think businesses that do are essentially breaking their people, but I might be wrong. Maybe you don’t rush open heart surgery. Maybe the most important pedagogies have principles of unhurried deliberation at their core.
Anyway, this game unnerved me. How many of us are werewolves and blame the moon?
Stoic Observations is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.