Furthest Right

Games People Play

So why do we exist? What is it all for? Free Will is great in the now. Hard Determinism can suck in both the now; and for quite a while later. But what is the point if there really isn’t a point? With all of our getting, we need to get more than just an understanding. Something has to drive anything in life that moves forward. Otherwise, the world just isn’t enough. The impending Gray Divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates shows us this in bas relief.

First, Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos. Now, Bill and Melinda Gates. Divorce among middle-aged adults is so popular these days there’s a term for it: gray divorce, or married couples who break up in the second half of life. Gray divorce doubled between 1990 and 2012 and is largely a Baby Boomer phenomenon.

I’ve seen this sort of misfortune on a daily basis. Four people who are within ten years of my age, and who work in my field of endeavor, have failed at marital bliss. One of the four had it coming in spades. I only regret direct deduction prevents him from having to stroke that check and walk it over to his mailbox on a glum and rain-soaked morning.

The other three inspire greater and more civilized empathy. The aftermath of divorce-rape is often just a vacuum. My joke to another guy who was gauche enough to ask me what I would do after a divorce was to remark. “One woman is bad enough for me.” I was joking – I believe. To my knowledge, these guys are for real. People lose a certain willingness to connect. It’s part shame, part pain. Other people hurt, so these guys just back away. Only an idiot would touch that stove after it burns you once.

So why would Bill and Melinda Gates’ differences grow irreconcilable? It gets back to the work of a genius Psychologist named Eric Berne. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships reminds us all of the complexity of what is always going on beneath the placid exterior. Many of us are quietly desperate. This is true no matter how much it looks like we’ve got it made and are farting through silk. As Buddha warned us, we are all on fire. Berne’s masterwork describes how we cope.

Do you realize you, and all the people you know, play games? All the time? Sexual games, marital games, complex games that you’re not even aware of as you go about your usual life? You might play games like ‘Alcoholic’ or ‘The Frigid Woman’ at weekends, or perhaps ‘Ain’t it awful’ or ‘Kick me’ while you’re at work. First published in the 1960s and recognized as a classic work of its kind by professionals, the bestselling “Games People Play” is also an accessible and fascinating read. It is a wise, original, witty and very sensible analysis of the games we play in order to live with one another – and with ourselves.

Berne characterized these various games as being played on different levels. You can play them harder or easier. The same way you could control how frightening The Red Army was in the old video game “Red Lightning.” Level 1 is a light-hearted game. It’s the way you play ball with little kids in back yard. You have nothing at stake. You just go along with it for diversion or fun. Level 2 is solidly competitive. It’s how you play chess against your brilliant and successful relative. You really want that person to tip the king, but there are still limits. You both will walk away and neither wants the other to leave with a permanent grievance.

Level 3 would be the rivalry game in High School Football. The combatants are not broken hearted if is a kid from the other school who never walks the same again. This is intense, honest, and real competition. It can be Darwinism where the loser may no longer be around to breed. I’m of the opinion that these Gray Divorce scenarios are the outcome of a grim and unamusing lifelong game.

Let’s say two people don’t exactly marry for love. Imagine, with appropriate detached sadness, that home is where the hate is. They live together with the companionable ease of two hungry crocodiles. Power couples who aren’t exactly in accord about who wields the power. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos; they achieved despite the women they married. Every victory either man achieved kicked off another round of grievance and resentment. The why and the driving force for these people is the bond of competitive jealousy and hatred. It’s a game of mutual concealed hates that goes up in level as each partner ages into increasingly embittered desperation.

So what happens when the great man ages? Is going head to head with Bill or Jeff even still worth it? What is the point when Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos don’t even feel like mounting the hot, young secretary anymore? Bill may have seriously just discussed things with Jeffrey Epstein. That happens to even Alphas once the odometer racks up enough mileage. How does feminism prove anything when the wife is 52 and probably supposed to be somewhat less into sex with The Big He? Perhaps the answer to these admittedly waspish questions provides the explanation for the Gray Divorce.

It says very little for a person when their mortal enemy is pathetically mortal. Women have no real power over men who hit certain stage of life. If Jeff Bezos lets go completely, then Mackenzie Bezos can go be Mackenzie Noname. Once you’ve commanded one of the most lucrative corporations ever, and then owned one of Amerika’s most powerful newspapers; Mackenzie’s opinion matters about as much as a good feminist would fear having it matter. Emotional pain doesn’t impact sociopathic solipsistic jerks. They just turn into harder versions of what the wife didn’t like very much when they were young.

When the game has no point anymore, only a fool would play at Level 3. The marriage then collapses like a star that cooks off all its Hydrogen. The hatred becomes pointless, the relationship becomes the same. The combatants both quit, but detente brings no satisfaction. That partner unworthy of hate becomes the partner unworthy of passive-aggressive warfare. The gray divorce then ensues. These are the games the empty and powerful play.

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