Game Over

game over

One of the strangest things in politics is the short-sightedness of its most impassioned theorists. Every day since the Enlightenment, wild-eyed prophets (we call them intellectuals now) have posited and even tried to create their utopia. It usually takes less than a hundred years for the page to come alive; we can think, I suppose, of Rousseau when we think of revolution and the social contract as the forefather of the Commune, and later Lenin’s brief triumph.

Of course, a far curter and magisterial name is more associated with that experiment, a name that scares the fragile too much to mention here. If we turn to another famous running of the experiment, Che wrote of a “new man,” a changed man, one ready for previously unforeseen sacrifices and so beholden to a new morality: he should be arriving in about twenty more years based on current timetables.

Now, they do call them experiments, don’t they, these dissections of the living called revolutions? They are often necessary and brave, but how ill and short-sighted so many of their lead physicians were. So many things to do differently the next time around!

Maybe the surgery simply works this time. Who can say exactly what the future holds if we keep the faith and the integrity of our convictions? Yet so many of the barely prepared and now disappointed surgeons only tried once or twice before changing their whole outlook. Perhaps there is just too much blood on the instruments and gowns; someone else will have to take over, nurse.

Even those online meanies of our more maudlin hour, our own Bernie Bros, have long since retired their ambitions in exchange for sultry podcast dollars and other rebaptisms. And they really weren’t asking much at all, having accepted the castration of “democracy in the workplace” and some basic medical care as payment for their Terror, really more of an Annoyance.

The thing is, by sample size, we have barely tried anything at all. The boring, second-hand critics of any side always point out how we already tried or didn’t try some -ism: maybe take them at their word and do the thing right this time.

So, the game is still on, and the vision of change and revolution still burns in many hearts.

Yet this is exactly why Palestine-Israel is such a darkly humorous fool’s game.  “We must follow the peace process! Peace in our time! Stop Genocide!” They have a million chants and slogans, even a peculiarly funny one which is a call for genocide while protesting it as well. So, I won’t do them all justice here, but nor do I want to, because the cry for peace in this peaceless place, this three-thousand-year clusterfuck, is the political theorist finally having that precious missing data, finally having run all the trials, and then refusing the information and its conclusions.

Israel-Palestine is a political surgery with a mortality rate of one hundred percent. Why do we keep trying it when we will give up on almost anything else? Why must we even be animated by it?

For this 1001 Nights, the sample size has come in. This one is cooked. We know all the variations. The game goes on, but we’ve got the charts and the notes and the whole damn report.

Because of this, the gambler, a kind of lay and effective statistician, a pocket philosopher of personal consequences, knows the score: the endgame in Gaza is not in harmony. Hey, let’s celebrate a failed uprising with another failed uprising! Yes, let’s mark the years with the lashes on our backs, inshallah!

Round of peace talks in Reykjavik, anyone? Free espresso!

The tedium of a full sample is depressing as it is convincing. The land was taken (it’s always taken, you idiots) and no longer belongs to the other (it never really belonged to anyone but who can hold it). Yet the other party, the loser, is still around, left stripped like an offering, a living sacrifice to the times, a still-breathing, horrible land-bound albatross whose neck we would not break for fear of the ancient threat: vengeance is mine, not yours.

So: an apartheid state develops, an “open-air prison” of not the dispossessed exactly – are they (and all us losers) the never possessed? Yet instead of closing the prison, we keep it open (tickets, please) as the cruel tribute and signifier of our virtue: we won’t let you die! Look at what we give you! No vengeance here!

Gaza isn’t merely a prison or camp, it’s a museum. Literal generations have been pressed beneath Israeli virtue now. The defense minister, and I assume many others, was calling the Palestinians “human animals”: well of course. We’re all animals; what your organizational illiteracy translates into is “we can’t handle the suffering we impose.” The Palestinians are perhaps the wretched of the earth – yet everywhere is suffering- but more simply and honorably, they are the losers of the earth.

Cheer for them, as you might, or cheer for their oppressors, the winners of the earth (dance at a rave outside the fortress of death itself – yes, a rave! Wump! Wump! Wump!) as you should. After all, you should support winners, no? They are doing something well. They bring the excellence. They are the ones who dance. And the instinct to favor the weakling? Well, we know where that comes from: the desire to cast down those who could yet harm us while disguising our resentment as empathy.

The cry for peace – never mind the grind and twerk for peace – defies the course of this endless conflict. It’s over, in the sense that we know how this game ends, or that it otherwise never ends. The writing, as the winner’s book tells us, is on the wall. (Now what was that old story really about? Probably doesn’t matter, right? Go back to your protest, those chants are so smart!)

The gambler won’t accept these terms, he won’t bet on your ceasefire, but he will bet against it. He knows all too well what the warriors know: peace is blasphemy if its cost is too high. If you wake up every day to the grim walls of your tormentor, the brief morning calm before the rifles crack was certainly never peace and never will become real peace. How strange to talk as if October 7th was the beginning of anything. Did you really mean 1967? 1948? Earlier?

The unearned, unjustified, unsatisfactory peace is a spell, a siren-call from false friends that you at first barely hear, and one meant to freeze you. Their compromise is then fully revealed: it is a harpy screaming at you the moment you rise over the dusty bricks and push through the razor wire and see the new, same sun. She was the music beyond the wall for the dancers you could not see but now is a shrieking monster, for you are where you do not belong.

She will make you do horrible things, because she tells you how much you are owed.

It was at rave this time where you unleashed her madness, because there is always a party, there always is a feast beyond every wall. There is dancing – dancing! Can you hear it, you who climbs no walls? It’s a celebration, a wedding – it is life going on without you, as it always will, because you are not invited. You are hearing the sound of life being swallowed and enjoyed – your life.

There is her laughter too, which is more terrible than her screams. Laughter erupts from the current winner in the game of a thousand moves, and you will resent it as long as you draw breath, how it sounds like a stab in the back, you might say!

The cry for peace, the chanting of the protestors, the screams of your victims are not what you thought they were. This is the sound of Game Over, that state wherein we the uninvited, the losers, the confused learn that we will never learn. Sample concluded. It is the sample set, a modest but full schedule of tournaments, a year of the ring games.

So be peaceful now, let it happen. Don’t struggle. They are already calling for their favorite version of peace: deferred war. Ceasefire. Let the next generation pay, not us.

Enjoy the ceasefire while the oxygen leaves your lungs, while your friends find the winning side of the fight.

Game Over is in fact the most terrifying lesson of all. It is our most horrible and hopeless musical theme, because it marks our finality. It is a terrible lesson that would have driven you mad, or to the greatest of heights, if you were not already dying. Yesterday, it wanted you over some wall, except now you are dying and can do only, at last, the nothing that the loser does.

Game Over is the conversation moving somewhere else, where you can’t hear it, and can’t participate. It is all the more terrible for those who do not know it is over, who go over the wall only to be told they should have waited, waited one more day, one more meeting, one more hour, for one more empty promise of “peace.”

Why won’t you be peaceful? There are people wanting to dance. Um, others need your space, dude.

Don’t you hear it? Is that a helicopter, or is it the music… wait, is that my heart, am I bleeding out? Wait, I hope it’s you, not me. Thump. Thump… thump.

Be still, be peaceful, what’s over the wall was not for you. Another time, another life.

Thump. There you are, so still.


4 thoughts on “Game Over

  1. Without attempting to articulate a “dovish” or “hawkish” position (two more overused tropes), I’d point out that for the most part, the world has progressed along a vector of increased health, prosperity and yes, peace for the past 300 years or so, punctured or set back by wars and ethnic conflicts. Most of us would like to see it continue in that direction, and any decisions or actions by political and military actors should support and advance that sentiment – being as it is the majority preference. When a religious cult or criminal organization takes over a society, then we experience the steps backward that we are now witnessing in Ukraine and Gaza.

  2. Anonymous is Mannes. Former IDF reserve soldier who, upon capture of a Palestinian kid throwing rocks at vehicles, offered him water.

    1. The first part probably makes a lot of sense – that most people want to continue the Enlightenment and Industrialization and all its benefits. But the second part is more dubious. Gazan citizens voted in Hamas; Israel is founded as a “Jewish and Democratic state” so which one is the cult, is not entirely clear. Bear in mind the relativity of the word cult: it even means religion in french, and is merely a derogatory word for religion. As for Ukraine Russian conflict, is the FSB officer cum dictator, Alexander Dugin inspired Putin the criminal, or is it the Nazi tolerant, post-coup US puppet Zelensky the criminal? I would suggest far larger forces are at work than thinking societies just turn bad like fruit and that this creates backwardness.

      note – edited piece for clarity 11/2023

  3. I’m deliberately trying to be cautious in assigning “cultism” to any particular side of the Israel/Hamas conflict, since there are aspects of it on both ends. Perhaps a better term would be Ayn Rand’s “collectivism” which seems to animate groups (mobs?) within a society to perform unimaginable acts of terror and violence on others, with whom in normal times they might have decent neighborly and business relations. As a safe harbor from cultism, we take comfort in our liberal democratic values, but our problem is that we end up in the spot where we have no choice but to dive into the bloody and morally questionable spot our enemies put us in. How did we get here? I think I have some answers (having lived there and observed both societies for half of my life), but that becomes a more politically charged discourse which even the members of my own family cannot agree upon.

    As for Russia/Ukraine, there’s probably an entire Russian-doll set of historical reasons and motivations deeper than the immediate interests of the Russian master criminal. Indeed, he’s exploiting the historical sentiments. I recommend a reading of “Red Notice” by Bill Browder for a documentation of just how deeply ingrained is the corruption in Russia and how it’s been impeding its development since Putin’s ascendance. I respectfully disagree with the characterization of Zelensky as a criminal and would submit that it is a Russian misinformation campaign to describe him as that.

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