" A pickup game is play, because it’s directed by the players themselves, not by outside authorities (coaches and umpires) as a Little League game would be. The players have to choose sides, negotiate rules to fit the conditions, decide what’s fair and foul. They have to co-operate not just with the players on their team, but also with those on the other team, and they have to be sensitive to the needs and abilities of all the players. "
Today for Culture Monday we turn to the world of PLAY.
Unfortunately for all of us "the world of play" is a dying world. As children the happy days I remember of just "going out to play," of going around the neighborhood gathering the gang for some baseball, of going down to the woods, of getting into "trouble", of just walking around in the night with friends talking, laughing, looking at the sky, getting away from parents and their world, all of that aren't just a memory for me, they are increasingly just a memory in general.
I'm not talking the good old days of the WHITE fifties here, I'm talking about most of the history of the human race in general. Until recently there has always been some time for most, but certainly not all to find a space to play on their own.
Now a days, young kids have to go to "THINGS" organized by adults after school and in the summertime. Organized sports, dance classes, camps, aren't play at all, they are something, but they aren't playing. Midnight hoops organized by the city to keep kids out of trouble isn't play, it's a strategy. Not only do these children not get to create they own world of play and imagination, they have to at all times BE CAREFUL not to fall down and hurt themselves, not to play on anything but a soft surface, always to be on guard for danger (and too many times simply try to avoid getting shot or arrested or jailed). That is no way to live...and who knows what it does to us as a people.
We all need to play. We learn as kids from play how to get along with others, to deal with different types of kids, to negotiate, to take risks, to care about someone besides ourselves, to cooperate, to create, to imagine, to think...and, god forbid, we even get some exercise out of it.
In the world in which I grew up as a child, in the time I had, playing real tackle football with the guys up at the "lot," running around at night in a "game" of "ditch em", in just "going down to Mission (something we did in my neighborhood to just hang out and try to meet some girls), there were bullies and there were broken collar bones, and their were fights, and tears, but mostly there was fun and laughter, intrigue and mystery, learning, and growth, and in world all of its own. Our world. Our kid's world.
AND THERE WAS THREE MONTHS OF SUMMER VACATION TO BOOT...when everything belonged to us.
And then I was a teenager and there were girls, and there was real hanging out, there were bands and dances, and, sex, and, yeah, I got into trouble, drank some beer, drove too fast, found dark places to park and make out, and just messed around looking for things to get into.
Hardly the end of the world.
As adults we need play, too. We need play to express the creativity that play helped us learn as kids. We need play time to enjoy what it means to be alive, to feel the world around us, sometimes just to relax. Marx knew this. He didn't think it was all about work. No, it was about reducing work, it was about not work, it was about FREE time. Life, even old Karl, knew was really about, should be about those things that made us human...together and apart, collectivity and individually.
We're getting less and less of all that as kids and less and less of all that as adults.
And it is telling in ways too obvious to ignore, yet to plain to see.
Of course, I was a white kid. But I think that black (and other) children and teens had more fun once, too, before the white grown up, authoritarian world totally closed in on them.
Hell, in my city, like many others, when black kids just try to hang out somewhere, anywhere, it is deemed a crisis today, cops on horseback with their badges and their clubs arrive to drive the kids off, to arrest and harass those who dare to defy them, to drive them back to, where, somewhere, elsewhere. Black kids here in Kansas City can't be out late (legally) and they are herded as much as possible into organized community centers, churches, schools, and other places where they can be supervised by adults, watched over by adults, limited by adults.
It's a crime to even be a black kid in America.
And I haven't even mentioned gangs, jails, prisons, locked down schools and all that.
Pisses me off...and being pissed off ain't any fun either.
It's sad really.
Global capital wants us to produce and accumulate, to work, or it just doesn't need us at all. If we aren't producing wealth for THEM we are a waste...and we are treated as such. If kids aren't being prepared for an authoritarian, non democratic, atomized life of drudgery, they are "wasting their time."
The long class struggle, the battle of the multitude against Empire, it truly is about all this in so many ways.
But like those many of US fight, too many of US have opted out for SERIOUS. Play is something to be avoided and ridiculed. We think we have more important things to do. We cast aside any semblance of YIPPIE and opt for being a serious Marxist-Leninist...
I'm not saying we all need to stop what we are doing and go out and spend all our time rolling around in the flowers, in some make believe Garden of Eden, but we have to do just that sometimes. We have to adopt the philosophy sometimes of my good bud, Hawk the greyhound, and remember that life should be about happiness, love, friendship, and caring, not about work, struggle, and groaning all the time...not all the time.
Actually, and sadly, we have to fight to be able to do that.
But, otherwise, what is the point, really.
The following post (a little fluffy for my liking) got me thinking about this today and I think it relates directly to the theme of Culture Mondays, but if not we can say it relates through its discussion of several books. It is taken from Aeon.
The play deficit
Peter Gray is a psychologist and research professor at Boston College. He writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of Free to Learn (2013) andPsychology (2011).