A. Frustration

Family Marbles Lost

Family Marbles Lost

When we were students, we used to play a rather silly dice game, called “Frustration.” The purpose was to throw dice in order to either knock off the marbles of opponents, all the way back to their starting point, or to sneak one’s own marbles to home base.

The trouble was, that the game was intrinsically so boring, requiring absolutely no mental capacity, that the only way one could stay with it was to yell and scream, at the dice or at the opponents, if they tried to make one lose one’s marbles.

However, no matter how much we tried to hype ourselves up, using strings of abuses or of inane self-praise, in the end the whole thing would expose its naked stupidity once again, and we would retreat into embarrassed boredom.



Even pretending to be frustrated, in honor of the name of the game, was only pretend. After all, why would one be frustrated, when all that could happen was that one would lose those worthless marbles, to which one had no attachment to start with.

There was no fear of punishment. Leisure and comfort were ours, with boredom as a sure sign of success. So why not relieve one’s lack of commitment to anything, by yelling and screaming, if only for self-gratification?

B. Can Do No Wrong

now I put my foot in my mouth

now I put my foot in my mouth

A perhaps only loosely related anecdote has to do with the obedience/punishment stage of moral development, as proposed by psychologists Piaget and Kohlberg. With quite a bit of agist prejudice, they claim that young children, under 10, only know what is right and wrong when they are punished for what they do. Once they mature, they will “of course” get beyond this stage, by hook or by crook.

Now imagine a child who has been brought up to believe that, no matter what he does, he is always winning. It follows that he probably would never view anything as punishment, because why would you get punished for winning? This blissful state of paradise would then continue into adulthood, as banks and business constantly shower him with more money, and the tax man rewards apparent financial mismanagement with fantastic tax benefits. Oh the childlike innocence, utterly beyond good and evil!

I do the whipping here

I do the whipping here

The media would shower him with attention, no matter what he says and does, and the most judgmental conservatives would praise him as their new savior, their instant phoenix, always rising out the ashes, born again to win. Why would he ever have to worry about the difference between right and wrong?

However, the danger here, as with the dice game, would be the lurking sense that such winning could become even more frustrating than always throwing sixes in a dice game.  Solution: yell louder! Add ever more absurd claims, yell ever more obscenities, praise himself ever more loudly, sneer at everyone else as a loser… afraid of only one thing: being bored by the utter stupidity of the whole game. – Because there is nothing else. Losing and losing one’s marbles are the same. Winning is sanity. Everybody else is insane.

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