I am not a big television watcher. Now that my grandmother passed away, I currently haven’t streamed or watched a show in months, but my grandmother loved game shows, and I would watch with her.
Strangely enough, she did not like Deal or No Deal, but one time she decided to watch it was a classic one that I still remember very clearly.
Here is a guy who begins with seven million dollar briefcases in play. The game goes on, and at one point, there are two one million cases left, but one that has just a buck.
What does he do?
He keeps turning his nose up at the generous offers, convinced he has a million dollar briefcase. At one point, the offer is over six hundred thousand dollars. He balks. It goes on until he winds up going home with $1, the second-lowest amount on the table.
There are many, many factors at play, and I could write a book on the matrices of logical and emotional errors colliding here.
And make no mistake: this is a case study of the interaction of logical illiteracy colliding with emotional illiteracy.
But I want to discuss one of those interactions: self-entitled superstition.
It has a subtext of a narrative where the individual is destined to get the maximum prize if he sticks to his guns and perseveres to the very end. There is an obliviousness to all reality-based factors: a game show is rigged. The $1 suitcase is never out of play throughout the entire game. What the player sees is seven chances at $1,00,000, and he thinks that the odds at the start equal the odds throughout the game.
At the point where there are two $1M cases and a $1 case in play, is the time to check out. That the offer is in the upper-six figures is a hint that he should take the offer and bow out. This is the optimal outcome, and at this point, there is no bad deal: you avoid the $1 whammy altogether, and cash your chips. There is a one in three chance you have the dollar briefcase, and the same chance that if you switch your briefcase, you will still get a buck.
This is a good windfall for a day’s work. You are weighing every element of reality, realize you cannot riddle out what is in your possession; so here is the point where you have gone as far as you can go.
He pushed his luck, and the next case was the $1M, still leaving one $1M case in play, but also the $1. He has a fifty-fifty chance, but he doesn’t. The offer goes down by two hundred thousand dollars. This is another bad sign that he has put himself in a precarious position, but logically, this is the wake up call that he has lost $200,000 based on a single bad decision.
But he is expecting the cavalry to come to the rescue. Fate has decreed him to be special, regardless of his shitty decisions, and will vindicate him. He sticks to the narrative without logic or rational emotions.
He comes out with $1.
His narrative blinds him to every warning sign that he is playing a dangerous gambit based on a gamble, and not on risk, and when it is a gamble, you have absolutely no control of the situation, nor are you trying: you are passively assuming your luck will give you things because you are special.
Risk is an entirely different game. It is active, and based on truth and reality. You keep monitoring that reality in order to revise your strategy.
Deal Or No Deal, is, in essence, a sucker’s game. The misdirection is the $1M suitcase. The reality is that the usual sums on the board are dismal.
Nineteen suitcases have paltry amounts out of twenty-six.
We can also think in terms of landmines: the lower the amount can be replaced by a powerful landmine, the lower the number, the more powerful the explosion.
The “safe” areas are denoted by larger numbers — so, for every big amount that gets knocked out of play, your chances to reach complete safety of the place marked with $1M gets lower.
That is obvious when it is life or death. But put a fantasy-spin, those with self-entitled superstition ideation can no longer read the map or care to read it because all they believe is that the map does not apply to them.
One of my favourite practical books of all time is called Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed by H. Anthony Medley.
I had it since I was a kid, and it is not about journalists interviewing people, but about getting interviewed for a job. In the section about making false assumptions, he relays a story he read in another book, but I will mention the fable here about a “man who had one horse and one son…the horse ran away and the neighbours commiserated on his bad luck.” The rest of the story goes like this:
“Why,” the [man] said, “how do you know it’s bad luck?” Sure enough, the next night the horse came back to his familiar corral…leading twelve wild stallions with him!…The neighbours heard the good news and came chattering to the farmer, “Oh, you have thirteen horses! What good luck!”
And the [man] answered, “How do you know it’s good luck?”
A few days later his son broke his leg falling off one of the new horses, and once again the neighbours tried to console him on his bad luck.
And the wise father answered again, “How do you know it’s bad luck?”
Sure enough, a few days later, a…warlord came through town and conscripted every able-bodied man, taking them off to war, never to return again. But the young man was saved because of his broken leg.
That is a story about understanding the difference between randomness and luck, but also a the conditions of a gamble and a risk. The father of this parable didn’t see his situation as fate or luck. It was a random occurrence that could bring in good things or bad, depending on the conditions of reality. While the father was a passive agent — what he was in the story was the curator of reality.
Compare this scenario to the Batman Gambit, a trope that hinges on a character’s plan going perfectly to plan with no flaws because the hero knows everything and the mind of everyone the plan hinges its success on.
This is a narrative that confuses gambles with risks: the hero seems super-prepared, but a domino effect is not always a surefire way to operate.
It can work only if you are (a) dealing with a rigged system, and (b) no one suspects there is a rig, or knows how to be subversive enough to thwart it. It is a covert form of self-entitled superstition because in a hero’s narrative, the Chosen One will win no matter what.
Batman was the Hero for the last twenty-years, but within the last few years, his popularity has been waning. He is too alpha male and too patriarchal, but now seems more unrealistic simply because those kinds of rigs are no longer in play, largely thanks to social media that has disrupted that simple narrative that enabled self-entitled superstition.
That is the reason why narratives could confuse gambles with risks, and randomness with divine order.
These stories were rigged to justify why a designated Chosen One got to be a chosen one: not because daddy was rich and pulled the strings, but because he was special and lucky.
This was fine when things were rigged and tightly controlled in the pre-Internet days: journalists could anoint Chosen Ones who did not have to know what is a risk or a gamble, nor did they have to know reality from fantasy — or even randomness from divine decree.
So long as they were useful to sell a narrative, they were propped up by the press who had the clout to keep it going.
Then social media changed the game and those rigs became rubbish.
It is the reason journalists and academics alike are fear-mongering, telling the little people that they are barbarians who suck and are having slap fights because they don’t have the news media to do their thinking for them.
It is an arrogant thing to suggest, but it explains why the press had has Trump issues for so long.
Trump was their villain for usurping the Hero’s Journey narrative, while Hillary Clinton played the same game as that contestant on Deal or No Deal. She gambled as she took no risks because she suffers from an extreme case of self-entitled superstition. It was her turn to wear the paper crown, and it went to the billionaire in the red baseball cap.
The kicker, of course, is that MAGA mantra: Make America Great Again.
Trump proved the press was rubbish with their self-entitled superstition — but as journalists condemn him for saying MAGA, they are actually saying the very same thing when they keep telling the Great Unwashed things would be more civilized if everyone went back in time and let journalists control the communications avenues and just told everyone what to think.
They are spewing MAGA all the time. They are always looking at the good old days when they held all of the cards, and didn’t have to know the difference between a gamble and a risk or randomness and divine decree.
That is why they have crashed and burned.
But that is no reason to go back to the past.
It is time to go forward to the future with a roar.
We just need better tools of measurement on this journey. We need our compasses, roadmaps, and watches. We need to understand with is truth and a lie, but also, what is reality and perception. We need to understand raw information versus narratives. We need to know what is a gamble, and what is a risk, and what is randomness and what has logic and reason behind it.
It is why we need Method Research, Matriarchal Structures, Radical Centrism, and F.R.E.E.D.
We don’t know what is good luck or bad luck or for whom. Our story should take that father’s words to heart — but not just be a curator, but an active participant.
We need facts. We need to know which warlords are planning to come into our hearts and minds, and kick them out long before they have a chance to restrict our choices and freedoms.
We do not need scripts or masks. We do not need lies. We certainly do not need self-entitled superstitions.
It is a balance in a world that is a laboratory, a stage, and a never-ending story machine. We have choices. We have freedoms. We have options.
We should stop pretending that we don’t. We are blessed with a bounty of ideas and kindness in this world — we should not squander them with anger or temper tantrums. We should not destroy them with ingratitude or arrogance. We should not use fear or hatred to drive them away, let alone wallowing self-pity to drown them.
F.R.E.E.D. is the art and science of constructive realism. We liberate with every fact as detectives, scientists, and knights. We create with every seed of knowledge we plant to reap the bounty of wisdom as educators and builders.
The Western Left have chosen to sulk and to spew. It is their right to be miserable, but their choice is not my choice.
And I hope it is not your choice, either.
A good knight brings good luck to the world.
But only if the knight uses tools that are mightier than the sword, not to cut open wounds or divide, but to heal with information and context…