Faith, Politics, and Transitions in Brussels

Cooperative Games and the End of the World

My wife and I had a friend over for dinner recently. The weather is cooling down quickly in Brussels, so we prepared a hearty macaroni-and-cheese with roasted butternut squash and sage. Food meant to keep the chill and dark away. While it is always good to catch up with friends (which is made all the more potent with our tornado of a toddler who forbids us from going out often), it is particularly good when themes of cooperation and compassion come out of the evening. I’ll set the scene.

After our dinner and a glass of wine, we brought out our version of Pandemic, which is a special Cthulhu edition. If you haven’t played, the goal of the game is to stop the summoning of the elder god, Cthulhu, and world being plunged into an age of “madness, chaos, and destruction.” I won’t get into the mechanics of the game, but essentially, the players have to cooperate and play against the board in order to win and prevent this age of destruction. Every player plays a different character, who has different abilities, and you have to use those abilities in cooperation in order to defeat Cthulhu and his cultist minions. And we won, but by the skin of our teeth, and the game was on the easiest configuration.

Being Americans abroad with an interest in politics, our conversation naturally lead to discussing the news of the day and its political themes. Russia, Kavanaugh, Trump, midterms, and the like. The theme that ran through the conversation was the growing partisan nature of politics. Where are the great compromises? Where are the statesmen and women? Where are the protectors of peace and promotors of the common good? In the world today, we see so many examples of people fearing cooperation, fearing the other. In the UK, there was the backlash against diversity and the political pandering that seemed to disenfranchise major people groups: Brexit — a divorce from one of the great peacekeeping cooperative efforts undertook in human history. Diversity, the other, cooperation was to be feared. And in the US, Trumpism peddles the same basic message: if they don’t look and sound like you, you should be afraid.

Instead of cooperation and the pursuit of the possible in our political world, we have competition and division. Now, there have always been different points of view, and there always will be, but if we refuse to recognize that which we share in common amidst our diversity and the gifts that that diversity brings, then Cthulhu wins. There are serious problems facing our common world and shared home, and if we do not cooperative to solve them — each of bringing our own gifts — then we will plunge ourselves into an age of madness, chaos, and destruction. We can avert it if we cooperate, if we show each other compassion, if we trust each other again. Honestly, I don’t know where it will start, but I hope it starts soon.

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