For months, I have tried to puzzle out in my spirit how it is that people in power are so intransigent about the dangers of capitalism to life on this planet. Whether it’s begging a city council to be more humane in the way they deal with houseless people, or putting facts in front of lawmakers about the destruction of extracting and burning fossil fuels, the intransigence and indifference that I have personally experienced is, to say the least, despairing.
For the second time this year, I had the privilege of visiting the Peace Palace in Den Haag (The Hague) The Netherlands. All my life, I have dreamed of being in this space. It was a tiny little dream, because I never thought I would be able to actually achieve it. The universe works in very intentional ways, when your spirit is at the helm, I have found. This second visit was very special for me because I was able to tour the facilities with my husband. A very special moment that I will always treasure.
The Peace Palace was created as a result of one person’s dream to put an end to endless wars. Czar Nicholas saw what the ravages of war and colonialism were doing to his people and to his lands, and in 1899, convened the first Peace conference. 14 years later, after much work and collaboration with people who also sought to end the cycle of war, the Peace Palace was opened. You can read about the history here. While I was inspired by the work that is done there, I was also puzzled how we have a history of over 100 years of court cases heard in these halls yet we still are nowhere closer to fulfilling the dream of living in peace, collaboratively, securely and harmoniously. The decisions of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice are binding, but there is little to no enforcement mechanism of the decisions. (This will be another topic in the future, where I discuss the meaning of a person’s honor and their commitment to their word.)
A couple of days ago, I wrote about the power of positive thought and intention. I do still believe that this is the only way to move forward. But, in order for that to manifest in its fullness, we have to come to terms with what we are up against. I wrote about the darkness that infiltrates the halls and hearts of ‘power’. I wrote about how light is the only way to beat the darkness back. It’s more than darkness, though. Their intransigence is the combination of a few realities, I believe.
The majority of the people who we assume to hold power aren’t stupid. They aren’t ignorant. They are, to my mind, extremely greedy, but most of them aren’t fully callous. To see their intransigence, knowing that they are intelligent and still somewhat human is baffling and deflating. How can this be? How can we celebrate their accomplishments when we know that, on balance, they have caused more harm than good? What drives them?
There is a tool that has been used in public policy for some time now: game theory. This tool allows policy makers to ‘game out’ the different scenarios associated to different public policy decisions. In theory, it’s a good idea. It’s a way to ensure that all aspects of a decision have been analyzed and taken into account. Game theory has a long history and many components – and I’m not smart enough to know which component is being used in any given circumstance. However, I am most assured that this is the underlying model that every policy analyst uses to inform policy makers.
So, if game theory is the tool being used to make decisions, why do we continue to see horrible policies enacted by people who are not stupid, nor are they fully callous? Why do we see policies enacted that leave so many people out in the cold, literally? Or left to die of toxic exposure? Why do we continually see the environment sacrificed? If I use my intuition, and choose to not be jaded in my thought processes, my guess would be that the game theory decision making process is 1. weighted heavily toward the “payoff” element, which may or may not be informed by economic outcomes and 2. some of the games have led decision makers to believe that there is an ‘end’ coming and the best they can do is prepare a small subset of the population for this ‘end’ and the rest are collateral damage.
I am sorry to say that I cannot, at this time, offer any qualitative or quantitative data on this topic. Perhaps in the future, I will be able to do so. What I can say is that this is anecdotal speculation is based in my personal experience and the experiences of my community cohort. Therefore, I believe that, as a theory, it has enough substance to inform how we can use light to change the path that we are on.
The Peace Palace is the result of many people, intelligent, caring and flawed, coming together to say that there is a better way – and here is the space where we can find that better way together. The time has come for us to ensure that the intention and the light associated to that place is no longer cloaked in darkness or subjected to the negative aspects of game theory. We can find a way to a better way of being. But we must understand the elements of the game being played.
Let’s put an end to the practice of allowing our environment and our neighbors being treated as collateral damage in game theory dominated by capitalism.