Sunday, 15 July 2012

Pyramid Hockey

Welcome to pyramid hockey. The rules are simple. One team permanently occupies the top of the pyramid and hits as many balls as they please down the sides. The other team based at the bottom half has to try to stop the balls hurtling down with nothing but a teaspoon. If just one ball reaches the ground, then all those below lose and have to do the bidding of the winners. If anyone on the lower reaches should exhibit the rare but otherwise useless skill of catching a ball with a teaspoon, carrying it up the slippery slope, and throwing it through a 2 square inch goal, then that individual, not their team, would be rewarded with being moved to the top.

You may wonder who apart from those granted a top position would agree to play such a game. Wouldn’t people refuse to accept these patently lopsided arrangements? The odds are stacked against them, and however hard they try, the great majority of them would remain humiliated losers.

But the organisers of pyramid hockey have a few tricks up their sleeve. They tell the losers that the whole pyramid would collapse and crush them if they do not abide by the rules of the game. They impress on those low down that they should always defer to the winners who deserve all their advantages. And they encourage the lowly occupiers to play a mini-version of the game where they can easily defeat the even more marginalised groups stranded at the very bottom, who would then be at their mercy.

If the delusion takes hold, the majority of people will come to accept it as the only game in town. Many of them will form a deep attachment to it as ‘their’ tradition. They find it odd, if not irritating, that some people should question the basis of the game. Some may even become immensely hateful towards anyone who dares to try to replace pyramid hockey with some fairer sport where, on a level-playing field, the winner does not take it all.

Judging by the vitriolic attacks on the efforts of progressive reformists everywhere, the spirit of pyramid hockey is alive and well across the world (not least in the US in the run-up to the Presidential Elections). For people fearful of not having a mighty elite in whose reflected glory they bask on bended knees, and even more in dread of being denied victims below them to tread on, there could be nothing worse than the prospect of being deprived of their favourite game. Yet for their own sake, not to mention those who have already seen the outrageous rules for what they are, it is time for it to end.

Let us remind them that in every sphere of life, today and throughout history, allowing anyone to get away with having too much power – as military, political or business tyrants – is bound to end up with arbitrary commands subjugating everyone else to their whims. The only remedy is to share power out more evenly, democratically, cooperatively.

With wiser rules, we can produce more sustainable outcomes, and share the fruits of our labour in line with criteria everyone has signed up to. A better future awaits all, except for the few who want to hang on to their winnings in the unapologetically nasty game of pyramid hockey.

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