The talk for today is about the effect of spineless behavior on the world around us. This idea started to gel for me recently while I was attempting to play an online game. With a little observation, you can tell which types of behavior form patterns. Some folks are “griefers”, who simply delight in ruining things for others. That may be another topic in the future. Another type is the teammate who has no awareness of being on a team. But the behavior I am concerned about today is what I call the wussy. This is the player that wants to win, but does not want to earn a win. They quit if they are ever behind, or if the odds ever appear to remotely against them. Since the game I was playing when I was inspired was the Internet Spades that is included with Microsoft Windows, I will give a quick primer for the benefit of any who need some context.
Spades is a card game in which two two-member teams compete to win “tricks”, or individual contests for high card. Each player “bids” how many tricks they will win, but the total for the team is what counts, so if Gold1 bids 3 and Gold3 bids 5, they must take 8 between them, the individual count does not really matter. There are special bids that are handled differently, such as Nil or Double (blind) Nil, but that is not important to the discussion. What is important is what the play looks like when one or more players is a wussy. If a team fails to win at least as many tricks as they bid, they lose ten points for every trick bid, so if we bid 7 and won 6, we get minus 70. If you bid too low, you get 1 point for each extra trick – called a “bag” (because playing below your class in a game is called sandbagging), and if you get ten bags, you lose 100 points. In the Internet Spades game, if a player quits, a computer program plays their hand for the rest of the game, with the same cards you had when you quit.
The wussy is the one who quits if they cannot reasonably bid more than 1 or 2, and does not even wait to see if their partner can bid higher. The wussy may bid 5 but quit as soon as the next player bids “nil”, as that player will likely get 100 points unless the wussy plays well, and so the wussy will not risk the challenge. If the bids are all reasonable, you might not know that there is a wussy at the table until he is down by 30 points, or is set (penalized for not reaching the bid) even once in the game. The wussy is the one that quits the second it is clear that there are not enough tricks left to avoid being set. The wussy will also quit if the team has nine bags and the either the wussy or the wussy’s partner takes an additional trick. The bottom line is that if, at any time, the wussy is not at a distinct advantage to win, the wussy quits.
Now that you have an idea – probably the idea that I am a frustrated player with a chip on my shoulder – of what constitutes a wussy in terms of this discussion, I can proceed to the two areas I want to discuss: What is the cost to the wussy, and what is the cost to everyone else? I will continue with the game example, then proceed to the wussy effect in other areas of life. I tend to refer to the wussy as “he” simply for convenience. There is no reason why it is any more acceptable to be a female wussy.
When the wussy quits, he does not simply disrupt the game. The computer player is not a very good player. That is, the computer cannot defend against strategy. If you simply play a less conventional game, you can beat the computer despite the skill of the remaining partner, as the computer will virtually never go nil, and cannot properly defend against an opponent who does. Anyone with any self-respect does not consider beating the computer a win. By quitting, the wussy destroys that game, so the others typically seek another game against live players. However, the wussy is still looking to pretend to be a winner, joining game after game and quitting most, until luck pays off with a win. It only takes a few wussies on a server to make it virtually impossible for anyone else to join a game with any excitement in it at all. Not only does the wussy never figure out that a game you lose that has great plays in it can be more fun than a win, but those who wish to improve their game with challenging play are thwarted by the selfish fantasy of the wussy who equates winning games with success at playing, but never accepts a challenge.
Now, you may think that I have put way too much time into playing games if I have worked up this elaborate analysis, but bear with me. This wussy effect may be exemplified by the game, but it is also a pattern you can see all around. It is sometimes very subtle, and sometimes very brutal. An example is the “White Supremacist” who wants to keep minorities from free competition and at the same time holds the firm conviction that they are inferior. I am better than you, so I think you should never have the chance to prove me wrong. Or the co-worker who shops for projects that are on time or budget and joins those that are and quits those that are not, simply to fluff the reputation of being successful, while never actually contributing to the real success or mitigating any failures. They are the “self-made” slackers who, as soon as they are handed an opportunity, want to raise the bar for those who come after to work harder, so that they can enjoy the prestige they never earned. These folks may never even face the fact that their victories are hollow farces of real success. In many cases, the material rewards are as high or higher than those who had the spine to earn success and bear the costs of necessary failures, and so we find so many who so readily believe that wealth is the sole metric of merit. Although often misquoted as being from the Bible, there is a quote from Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act I Scene 3) that I think we would all be better people to heed:
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.