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Player Hating

By Jordanna Thigpen

March 3, 2006

What does true power look like? How do the truly powerful treat their constituents, their employees, their friends? Certainly not by playing Frogger 2006 with human lives and dignity.

The truly powerful are nonviolent.

Harper's February 2006 edition has a divine essay by Garrett Keizer entitled Crap Shoot: Everyone Loses When Politics Is a Game. This is a very timely and very necessary truth for us to accept if we are to implement and endorse progressive values.

In a resigned, delicate, and hopeful voice - hopeful the way the hopeful believe our country does not engage in war profiteering - Mr. Keizer describes the destructive influence of what he calls "players" in the American political system.

Drawing on a 1938 theory from Dutch academic Johan Huizinga, Mr. Kezier contrasts "players" with "workers." In their worst manifestations, players treat the world and all those within it as pawns in a game, and workers dumbly, blindly, go about their business doing the work the players tell them to do.

In the end Kezier calls on progressives to lay aside our identification with either players or workers, to accept that if we want to be the change we wish to see in the world, we must fight for it. Never mind that through fighting we might ourselves become players, unless we remember to adopt Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch) vigilance.

Here in San Francisco, players are alive and well.

In my mere five years in San Francisco politics, the most pathetic, most despicable scenes I have witnessed have resulted from the players' chess games. Some are entrenched, some are on the periphery, some believe they're in the game when really, they're just watching, or were benched long ago.

Players, a special invitation! There is a place for you, and it's not public service: it's the corporate sector! The Enrons and the WorldCom's of the world need you. Stand in your black trench coat and black hat next to Jack Abramoff (with the Neighborhood Watch guy on your other side, for symmetry's sake), and be counted.

We use the term politics as a general term for the players' games. Alliances form, armies are raised, lines are drawn, battles are won. The outcomes of wars have yet to be determined and the contracts are still up for sale. This series of events could describe "office politics" where all that's at stake is a promotion or an office with a view, or our very party system.

Sadly, in all industries, there are players who intervene in the normal course of affairs, who can't just let things be.

The worst players are those who play just for the sake of it. They're not attached to any political outcome or, God forbid, societal progress. They are the mercenaries. They are the most destructive because they bear loyalty to no man or cause. Their dark and only joy is to know that they have seeded chaos. They usually abhor the spotlight, although sometimes in their vicious, viscous little way they can't help but seek some public recognition.

They will take quick, coiling and wry pleasure in the fact that our upcoming primary occurs on 6/6/6 this year.

As long as we tolerate the presence of these individuals in our political system, we will never evolve. As members of the public, we must shun the players. The players among us, interfering with our leaders and our process, do violence to our democracy.

How do we change? We refuse to engage. We see the game, we know the rules, and we simply do not play. If we are threatened with machinations, with players' vile, base display of their power, then we must act with nonviolence and with quiet dignity and ask the players to join our league. A truly powerful act is an integrative act, and yet, an act of integrity. True power is the elimination of players from our very political process. It doesn't mean we do not have the courage for the fight. Our effort will take sustained strength and valor far beyond what a mere player could sustain.

For true power, let us reform our political system from the inside out. We shall no longer write off politics as a dirty business or a game.

Who among us desires immaculate government, through our own conception?

Stand and be counted.

District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small business owner and a Commissioner with the City's Small Business Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at jgthigpen@gmail.com.

Click here for Thigpen archive.




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