Last Wednesday the convocation was cancelled, and so we had an opportunity to attend an event on Thursday instead. I wasn't told much about the event before hand, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it was an activity and that it had something to do with diversity. The activity was held in a classroom - all the students sat in three different circles of chairs. We were told at the beginning that where we were sitting then didn't matter much. We were going to play a game that involved trading chips. Each color of chip had a different value, and there were different combinations of chip colors that would add up (for example, a blue chip was worth 2 points, but if someone had 5 blue chips, the total was 16). During each round of trading, two people would lock hands, and negotiate a trade. We weren't allowed to leave each other until we had agreed upon a trade, and we weren't allowed to trade a chip for an equal chip. Once the trading round was over, we recorded our scores based off of our highest five chips, and were separated into three separate groups: triangles, circles, and squares. Triangles were the lowest and squares were the highest. We then had a round where in our groups, we had 3 chips each worth 3 points, and we were to decide, unanimously, who in our group would get them. My group (the circles) flipped for it. Then we repeated the two rounds, shifting into different groups as appropriate according to our scores. The squares formed a clique really quickly, and when someone new moved up, they would vote the new member out. I started to notice that the woman running the game was showing some partiality to the squares, and this suspicion was confirmed when she announced that since the squares were doing so well, they would now be allowed to change whatever rules they saw fit. When she announced this, the triangles and circles (which I was still a part of) formed one big group. We were allowed to send suggestions for rules to the squares, but we decided to wait and see what the squares were already planning. The squares decided that their new rules were going to be that we had to trade with them whatever they wanted, and it quickly escalated to anarchy. We circles and triangles devised a plan to not win them over - we were going to be "stuck" in trades among ourselves so that they could not force us to trade. This round was awful - the squares forcibly took our chips away from us. After that trading round, the squares decided that the game was over.
This was an up-close depiction of how society works today. Not all aspects are entirely accurate (for example, each round began with the random selection of new chips. In real life, hand outs are not doled out to everyone evenly), but it is a loose interpretation. Initially I thought that our scores represented money, but halfway through I began to realize that they really represented status. For the first half of the game, I was trying to be strategic. I didn't even care so much about being on the top - I immediately felt like it was a simulation of real life, and I just wanted to comfortably exist in the middle. Once the privileged squares were able to change the rules to their desires, though, I realized that the game was no longer about winning. Our groups were already established and they weren't going to change: it was the haves versus the have-nots, and I was a have-not. When I was approached to be raided by a square, I stood up and said that it was still a game of trade - they hadn't changed that rule, and so they had to at least give me something in return for what they took. I didn't realize at first why I was so adamant about this, since I was clearly not going to become a square and move up in the world. Then it dawned on me that the game was about power and pride, not about the material wealth of chips. This makes me think of the passage in James 2 where James talks about the sin of partiality. He warns against giving the good seat to the rich and the bad seat to the poor. Realistically this doesn't make any sense - what does it matter how much money someone has? The only reason this is a problem is because wealth and status go hand-in-hand.
I then consider my position in real life. I feel like my position in the game was reflective of reality. I was in the middle, and I just wanted to stay in the middle. I was more concerned about the community that I was building within the group than with winning a game. I even felt myself thinking, "Well sure the squares are winning, but there are only five of them, and everyone else is going to dislike them because they are so exclusive." I, in real life, am only concerned about money to an extent. I rely on it in order to pay for the things that are essential to my life - food and shelter. I, of course, also use what extra I have for frivolous things. However, what I am most concerned about in my life is the relationships that I have with other people, and often times the way that I like to use money is to facilitate these relationships. For example, instead of just meeting up with a friend, I will meet up with a friend for coffee. I wouldn't buy that cup of coffee if it wasn't for the purpose of spending time with someone. Or I pay for the gas that I use to drive myself over to a friend's house. To me, building relationships is more worth my worry and concern than money or status. I wonder, however, if in real life I became either a triangle or a square, though, if any of that would change. If I were to lose all of my money, how badly would I care? Would I still hang onto my high value of relationships and my low value of material possessions? I can't say, but if it happens someday, I will think back to this blog and probably write something new about it.