Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|We're pawns in a dangerous game|
|10/12/01 at 20:45:59|
|We're pawns in a dangerous game|
The war on TV is playing out with maps and icons instead of human beings.
It's a game that has lasted since the dawn of civilization.
By IRSHAAD HUSSAIN
Friday, October 12, 2001 – Page A22
It's late and the room is dark except for the flickering light cast by the
television. I should be in bed but the endless analysis and commentary on
the Sept. 11 attack and America's unrelenting military response mesmerizes
On the screen is an ochre-tinted map of Afghanistan and the countries that
border it. An orange tinge seeps into the room as the map expands. Tiny word
boxes pop up as an unseen commentator talks. Each box contains short
descriptive phrases and point-form summaries about Afghanistan's bordering
nations and their military significance to the United States in this crisis.
I notice that, by the TV's projected light, the skin of my hands is the
colour of Afghanistan's desert sands, and as I watch the strategic overview,
with its tiny moving icons of planes, destroyers, missiles and troops, a
feeling of unreality, of a disturbing absurdity washes over me.
I had this feeling earlier in this crisis, as well. A news program played an
endless loop of the World Trade Center crash footage -- a horrific, surreal
viewing experience in which the planes' hammer-blows demolish the two towers
again and again. As a follow-up, hastily assembled computer graphics were
used to illustrate the flight-path taken. Tiny cartoon-like airplanes moved
jerkily across the screen and crashed into cartoon towers followed by comic
book explosions. Watching this, I wondered if it was possible that the
terrorists storyboarded their attack strategy using similar icons. Or
perhaps they used Monopoly-style game pieces on a map of Manhattan to decide
their flight path.
When we play a game like Monopoly, we do not question what effect our land
purchases, our strategically extravagant rental rates, and our accumulation
of key properties would have on real people in the real world. We play to
win -- morality is not part of the game. On a game board you factor out
human consequences in favour of tactics. The human consequences only get in
Today, we have elaborate computer games which allow the administration of
vast simulated realms and kingdoms (games such as Tropico, Age of Empires,
Civilization, etc.). In these games, human factors such as a population's
material and social needs and desires are a part of the simulation. Strategy
is more complex than in most board games as you must balance conquest with
your citizen's needs. While you dispatch marauding armies to nearby
kingdoms, you must also struggle to keep your own population content and
controlled so that they support and approve your military conquests,
suppression of rebellions, destruction of enemies, and other acts of
empire-building and maintenance. These human factors are simply additional
volatile parameters that must be managed effectively to keep them from
interfering with the game's main objective -- dominance.
Now, as I watch the war unfolding on TV, conveyed through colourful maps and
cartoon icons, I feel a sense of dread. Map-based overviews give way to live
footage of Afghan refugees, demolished buildings, demonstrations in the
streets of Pakistan, grainy nighttime images of cruise missile strikes, and
emotional expressions of support for the war from American citizens.
Then, an "expert" on terrorism explains the possible measures that can be
taken "to smoke out" the terrorists. He goes on to explain how this will be
a first step of a global plan, of a long battle to eliminate terrorism, and
expounds about necessary tradeoffs between civilian casualties and the
achievement of desired objectives.
I start to wonder if the life of nations is simply a great game in which the
players strive to position their pieces for maximum advantage, leverage, and
gain. Certain players have the advantage and dominate the board, others
struggle to maintain their moderately favourable positions, some fight
simply to remain in the game, and a few try desperate and audacious
strategies to change the course of play. The idea seems absurd and yet I
cannot shake it. Like one of the virtual citizens in a computer simulation,
I feel as if I am, at this juncture in history, only a resource to be
managed so that I do not disturb the momentum of the great game.
I do not think the principal players in such a game actively seek to do
evil. But they are playing for their own advantage and so they make whatever
moves they deem necessary to achieve this advajtage. Each one seeks to
protect and to advance their position and, in this way, the game progresses
through endlessly complex dynamics -- forever different, but, at root,
forever the same. They don't seek to do evil, but for the sake of the game,
they accept the evil that is done.
Perhaps that is one of the faces of real malevolence -- that some play this
world like a vast, infinitely intricate strategy game. We are all resources
in this game. Depending on our individual stances, we are utilized,
mobilized, managed, positioned, deployed, manipulated, ignored, silenced, or
removed. The game is played. Pieces are moved. Power plays are set into
motion. The board shifts and changes. People suffer. People die. Our
humanity fades. But it's all just part of a game -- a most dangerous game.
Irshaad Hussain lives in Kanata, Ont.
Individual posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Jannah.org, Islam, or all Muslims. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the poster and may not be used without consent of the author.The rest © Jannah.Org