Now Look…

I used to play a lot of Diplomacy with the rest of my high school military history club.

It’s a remarkably good game, as long as you don’t mind developing a hatred for humanity as a consequence. The way it’s played is in turns, during which the players have an open time period to wander about, making deals and alliances, and planning openly with others – then everyone writes down their orders, a bell is rung, and the effects of the orders are resolved. It’s interesting – you can see who is talking to whom and think, “hm, the French are spending a long time talking to the Germans, I wonder if it’s about my land there on their border.” Then you wander over and ask the person playing France what’s up, and they give you some lengthy fap about “we were just exchanging recipes for profiteroles with our German comrades in an attempt to thaw our diplomatic relationships.” One of the guys in the club, Alex C., was notable for being able to come up with huge reams of plausible-sounding stuff that served only to convince everyone that he was screwing everyone else. Alex loved to play Britain, of course.

When I read about the Palestine mandate and the despoliation of the Ottoman Empire, I think back to those happy hours spent conquering Europe, instead of sitting in study hall. In those days, of course, the game’s underlying principles concealed the notion that real people’s lives would have been being crushed to lubricate the gears of our pointless wars, just as they still are, today. In those days we thought we were so cynical, but it turns out we knew nothing about how cynical it gets, when you’re playing The Great Game instead of Diplomacy on a cardboard sheet with colored wooden tokens.

One of the group, Phil C., who was an actual-to-goodness aristocrat, had a charming mannerism he loved: whenever he betrayed someone he’d say “now look what you made me do.” Then, he’d strike your back with the knife.

midjourney AI and mjr: “the diplomats say ‘now look what you made us do'” Note – at first I thought maybe I shouldn’t use this because the AI made the evil diplomats brown. But then I thought it might be a good illustration of how AI can project forward our own racism.

I’m reminded of that, now, over and over again. It seems that every day there’s some big news story, or a small one, that amounts to someone saying “now look what you made me do.” I was just reading a story Charly posted over at Affinity [aff] that amounts to a bunch of capitalists saying that; it really only made sense to close the company, so sorry, if we had kept it going we might have lost a few million bucks over the next couple years and … the shareholders don’t you know? Yeah. The shareholders.

Basically Israel is saying, right now, “now look what you made me do.” Because of this bad thing that some people in your general proximity did, we’re going to rain some high explosive on you, OK? We must. It’s for the shareholders innocent victims don’t you know?

I’m pretty sure that generic empty excuse has been used on infinite repeat throughout history. For a brief moment, I was thinking maybe I should spend an hour or so listing a few of the more interesting times it’s been used, but, really… Do I have to do that?

After a few years of playing Diplomacy it sank in that the box said “Avalon Hill Games, Read St, Baltimore” right on it. One day on a fine fall saturday I hopped on my bicycle and pedaled down there – it was 4 miles from my parents’ house, a doddle. There were groups of people, mostly guys, crowded around tables, play-testing new games – I had stumbled into “playtest saturday” which was a regular thing. Starting at 10:00am until 10:00pm, you could play the latest unreleased games, so long as you were able to give coherent feedback afterward. That was my saturdays for most of the late 1970s.

Because of Phil’s approach to Diplomacy I decided to adopt an approach of complete honesty. I never bothered to betray anyone – I just did what I did and said what I was going to do. People learned that I could be counted on in that regard, and I generally did fairly well as a consequence. The secret was that I was just lazy. I didn’t want to spin webs of complicated lies that I’d get caught up in, later, and I didn’t need to remember who I had promised what to.


  1. says

    The following doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the above, except that it goes along with what I’ve gotten from reading you, that I’m nowhere near as cynical as I ought to be. But I just found out about this this morning.

    As Killers for the Flower Moon is getting attention, I came across these articles showing that screwing over the Osage people is still ongoing. And the main villains are the Koch brothers.

    Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon describes the struggles of the Osage people. Here’s why they are still fighting. The Bureau of Indian Affairs keeps skimming off their money, and somehow it keeps ending up in the Koch’s hands. And the pollution left behind is left for the Osage to clean up. One quote that really hit me: “The US government to this day lists Chief Standing Bear as incompetent’, despite his national recognition as one of America’s top trial attorneys.” You see, because the government said that the Osage were not competent to manage their own affairs, they all have “guardians” to do it for them . . . and that has never been repealed.

    And there will be a documentary coming out about it. See Until They Killed Them… 100 Crucial Seconds of A Story Buried. The article contains a trailer for the documentary, “Long Knife: Osage Oil and the New Trail of Tears.”

  2. sonofrojblake says

    I’d like, in some way, to strap a Hamas representative to a chair somewhere safe and say “What is it you want? What are you trying to achieve?”, and more or less regardless of the content of their answer point to the events of the last couple of weeks and say “And you think THAT helps???“.

    There’s no point doing similar with an Israeli because I know the answer to the first question (“an exclusively Jewish state within the borders of Israel, wherever we say those are”), and the answer to the second question would appear to be “it usually helps, and even if it doesn’t, nobody can stop us or even slow us down doing whatever the fuck we want”.

  3. Dunc says

    @3: You seem to be operating under the misapprehension that people do the things they do for rational reasons, based on a consideration of clearly defined goals and the actions likely to further them… That’s not really how most people work. Sure, they’ll usually be able to come up with some kind of rationalisation, but the real reason that people do things usually comes down to some variant of “because it allows me to construct a narrative which gives my life a sense of meaning”. Those narratives often don’t bear especially close inspection, and people will go to extraordinary lengths and do all kinds of silly things to avoid noticing that.

    Narratives in which one is a righteous warrior battling almost insurmountable odds against some enemy who is defintionally evil are particularly popular. It doesn’t have to make sense.

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