In an excellent review of, and reflection on, Squid Game (Straits Times 08Oct21) Fani Papageorgiou faces us with the key driver as “Our innate tendency towards violence is immense”. As a skill, a lesson in how to circumvent life’s problems rather than charge them head on, we have much to learn from this engagement. Life can be rough, is inevitably rough at times. We should gather all the armour we need for such a challenge. The more we learn about survival, the longer we survive – although that, too, raises some tricky life-value questions.
Since the article appeared, Squid Game has gone from strength to strength, just as life itself has. Freedom to work from home, acknowledgement that questioning and resisting authority is now not only acceptable but expected, the big sharks of business gobbling up the smaller sharks and minnows at a frightening rate, the anxiety that leaders of small and big powers exhibit as they struggle to come to terms with the new democracy – all this makes us wary of our politicians. We feel they are no longer in charge – and we are right.
Humans sensing they are out of control are dangerous. We have an innate tendency to push at a problem as hard as we can in order to precipitate some result, even if that result is disastrous. It’s why we go to war so easily. It’s why we put diplomats between ourselves and the insoluble, in the hope that they will temper our tendency to violence and delay the clarion call to arms. Saving lives is valuable. Saving principles and standards is even more valuable.
To criticise a popular game that sharpens the wits and makes an individual more resilient would be stupid. To deny our innate tendency towards violence would be rash. To seek some games that promote the skills of cooperative living, of sustainable behaviour and of personal appreciation of the gift of life and the marvel of our planet may be asking too much.
We will still ask for them, though, even as the sailing ship of progress tips over the edge of the earth to discover what is on the other side. Let us hope that it finds that we already have paradise, provided we look after it, and that life can be a glorious experience for us all if only we will think of the other person a lot more than we do now.
We used to hear this from sermons every Sunday. Sermons, along with so much else of belief and folklore, have been somewhat discredited and, in any case, are not much heard these days. I fear the gap left by them is a void waiting for a creed.
Not a creed of imagination and fantasy but a fact of knowledge and opportunity.
Perhaps we should pray for that fact to reach us faster?
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