A Game of Monopoly or STS in US Industrialisation and Imperialism

Updated post originally written here.
Did you know that the game Monopoly had its beginning as a tool to teach people the reality of business and its impact on human society? The game originally done by Elizabeth Maggie was hoped to be an educational tool. It was so successful that years later Clarence Darrow developed it into the game we know now. Thanks to the game board company Parker Brothers, they were able to settle with Maggie and went to market and sell the game called Monopoly by Clarence Darrow.At this point in time, Monopoly has become the most popular game in the world giving fun and squabbles among friends and family – indeed the object of the game is to be richest.

I wonder though did the aim Maggie to have the game as educational tool in revealing to its players  the human cost and evils of monopoly survive? 

A look at the game of Monopoly brings in mind the coming out of the United States as a world power. This was the time when the United States came out of a civil war where the industrialised and technologically advance North prevailed over agricultural South. One of the factors that led to the North’s victory was the use of the railway and the telegraph – troops, supplies, information and commands were moved at a fast paced that it helped the North defeat the South. And at the same time this was happening the industrialists came to dominate American business – people like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockerfeller and J.P. Morgan became the Industrialists of the United States.

It is no accident then that aside from real estate the major businesses you can see on the Monopoly board would be the train lines and the utilities – electricity and water. This brings us to J.P. Morgan.

It is said that J.P. Morgan was the inspiration for Uncle Moneypenny or Mr. Monopoly. J.P. Morgan was an astute investment banker who became the owner of railways, four companies  in the Monopoly game, US Steel and several electric companies. In an era of unregulated stock exchange and business J.P, Morgan knew how to leverage and how to make a profit. Of interest to us is the story about J.P. Morgan, George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla.

Tesla was a former employee of Edison, who became his rival as to whose electrical system,would eventually be used by the United States public. Tesla’s partner was Westinghous while Edison’s partner was J.P. Morgan. Edison and Tesla were competing to provide the technology to produce electricity. Edison and Morgan attacked Tesla two ways. Edison did his best to show that Tesla’s technology was dangerous – efforts included electrocution of an elephant and a convict, while Edison’s partner Morgan indirectly attacked the financial viability of Tesla’s project forcing Tesla to sign over his copyright to Westinghouse and future investors. In the end although Tesla and Westinghouse won the Arizona contract. J.P. Morgan was not perturbed though and pursued his financial attack on the company of Westinghouse. He, Morgan, only relented when Westinghouse agreed to lift the copyright from Tesla’s technology. After that Morgan was able to set-up several electric companies across the United States – incidentally one of the utilities in Monopoly was the electric company. As for Edison, Morgan bought controlling shares of the company and took control.

Industrialists and Financiers like J.P. Morgan used technology and money to provide service to a number of Americans. However, at the same time unregulated business led practices that increased profits but neglected the works. The plight of the workers led to a public backlash of big business, prompting the Democrats to field a candidate who was anti-monopoly: anti-Trust .The solutions of Big Business was to back a pro-business candidate who won his name was William Mckinley. It was years later when another political challenger to Big Business rose up, this time from the Republican Party – Theodore Roosevelt. The solution of Big Business was to make him Vice-President. However, in an ironic twist of fate, McKinley was not able to finish his second tern: He was assassinated by one of the victims of Big Business, one of the laid worker from J.P. Morgan’s business empire. With Roosevelt as US President , Anti-trust cases and legislation were implemented. Tycoons like Rockefeller were brought to court, but J.P. Morgan was not – some say this was because at the time he was working with the United States to build the Panama Canal. To be sure though J.P. Morgan was more astute than Rockefeller, his political contacts and clout saved him.

An Aside: Richard Gatling and William Mckinley: The Gatling Gun and American Colonialism

Another piece of technology from the American Civil War was the Gatling Gun. Basically, It was designed to minimise losses by increasing losses on the other side. The automatic gun was so effective in bringing up the enemy’s mortality that it is still being used today. Incidentally, the gatling gun played an important role in the Spanish-American war, enabling Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders to conquer San Juan Hill. American victory over the Spanish gave three new countries to the United States and its President William Mckinley Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The Americans gave Cuba freedom; Puerto Rico the protectorate and the Philippines benevolent assimilation, commonwealth and independence with parity rights. Roosevelt eventually became the Vice-President of Mckinley and then President after Mckinley was assassinated by an anarchist, who happened to be an ex-employee of the US industrialists.

Looking at the game Monopoly now brings back more than memories of Big Business but the ascent of the United States from a former British Colony to a Super Power with its own new territories. It was McKinley who decided  take the Philippines via Benevolent Assimilation, Commonwealth, and Independence – other former colonies ceded by Spain fared differently Cuba was declared indecent and Puerto Rico was made into a protectorate. Of course Monopoly still allows us to learn how big business operates. Of course, there are anti-trust laws and regulations now but that only means Big Business now are more creative in their ways

Posted in Opinion, Stories | Tagged , , , , | 76 Comments

Futurama – Time Travel and Multiple Worlds – Things to Remember

First. If you could go back in time what would you do? Stop Antonio Luna from going to Cabanatuan? Stop Ferdinand Marcos from leaving Malacanang in 1986? Prevent the death of a loved one? Win the lottery in 2000 and leave it to your future self? Buy stocks in Google or Apple? Or watch the Triumph of Julius Ceasar as he entered Rome? Second, would you rather go a world where Antonio Luna did not die and he was able to convert Baguio into a fortress? Or perhaps a world where things turn out differently?

Time travel and multiple world have been a common thread in Art and Culture. It would be interesting to look at has there been a scientific basis for this and has Science & Technoloy had an impact in this thread of Art & Culture, and vise-versa?

One recent and entertaining examples of this is the cartoon Futurama, where in the episode Roswell that Ends Well and Farnsworth Paradox. In films you can see this in Terminator; Back to the Future; Somewhere in Time; The Time Machines; Looper and the 12 Monkeys. Or perhaps you might remember the other tv series like Time Tunnel; Dr Who; Quantum Leap; and those Star Trek episodes. But does this have a scientific basis?

Interestingly enough there are theories for the Grandfather Paradox; Multiple Worlds and time travel. It is a world that can be equally aggressive as any chronos-time war and confusing as the Crisis in Infinite World. There is the story of a party hosted by Stephen Hawkins complete with food and champagne but no guests, since the invite was only given a few days after the party. Hawkin’s point was quite clear. Time travel back into time was not possible. Although, nothing in Science and Technology is written in stone.

The Theory of Multiple Worlds came about because of the study of Quantum Physics. Scientists observe that in the quantum universe things were not behaving as they should: based on the established laws of physics. Something else was at work. Multiple Worlds made it possible to explain how these things work differently from what was expected. And now we even have String Theory.

Physics is not my area of science but it is important to see how Art and Culture were able to explain the physics of time travel and multiple worlds by depicting it in the form of a story. Making more palatable to its viewer and reader. In the process making the science more understandable.

There is however a caveat to this. The first one would be the depiction of science and technology in art and culture becomes credible when grounded in actual study. The second it should recognise that Art and Culture has an equally important effect on Science and Technology. And this is because Art and Culture conveys: (i) Ideas that are hoped for: a better world via Science & Technology; (ii) Society’s concern over the use of Science & Technology: Frankenstein’s Monster & the Atom Bomb; (iii) Warning of the consequences of actions in the future: I am Legend and a Distant Sound of Thunder; and (iv) glorying or condemning Man, Science & Technology: The Veldt and the Martian

Also as we enjoy the products of Art & Culture that inspire and in return inspire Science & Technology one vital thing that must be considered when learning about their scientific basis is that these are products of the scientific process. In other words these theorems and laws are considered plausible and valid because they were proven, until at such point were they proven to be otherwise. In Science and Technology the only thing dogmatic is the adherence to critical thinking and importance of valid proof.

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , | 54 Comments

The Ecology of Werewolves

Interestingly were-beasts are a common thread across different cultures. Men and women who have the ability to change into animals. Shape-shifters who are able to travel between the human and the animal world – berserkers, loupgarou, aswangs and werewolves with the aid of magical salves; pacts with the devil and infection can a be man-beasts with a hunger for blood and meat of humans. No one was immune , even those who would say their prayers at night may be come wolf when the moon was whole.

This is of course myth and folklore. Embedded in fairy tales and even urban myths that most of us are familiar with. The most famous of all would be tale of Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. This was and is a cautionary tale that tell us when in the woods do not talk to strangers and never stray from the path.

There are of course true accounts of people killed by man-eaters, not werewolves although some, because of the kill and stories woven around them have became legendary.

The Beast of Gevaudan

In a region in France. a beast described as a giant animal resembling a wolf killed a shepardress – decapitating her head in the process. Gevaudan was a forested area and wolves have been known to attack travellers – one pack of wolves entered Paris before and created havoc until they were cornered and stoned to death by the Parisians. The attacks happened during the reign of Louise XV and people did not believe in werewolves anymore. Although, as the attacks increased and the beast seems to fiendishly evade capture and death; the notoriety of the beast increased to the point that it become to be known as The Beast Its infamy spread beyond Gevaudan, beyond Paris and beyond France: The British newspapers made fun of the French for failing to capture the Beast. A number of wolves were killed but still the attacks continued. The Beast was killed not once but twice before its legend died down.

There have been many theories about the Beast. A giant lone wolf; an ancient hyaena; a dog-hyaena hybrid and even a chimpanzee. Recently an academic study came out that theorised the attacks done in Gevaudan were done not by one wolf but by different wolf packs.

Louis the XV were shown the remains to the two beasts at Versailles. The first beast was deemed un-impressive since it failed to live to its reputed size; while the second one was dismissed outright because it was properly preserved, making it repugnant to look at.

The Beast of Gevaudan is a favourite topic of cryptologists and there are many theories surrounding the incident; and one of the theories inspired the French film The Brotherhood of the Wolf

The Ghost and the Darkness

A railway project that followed an old slave route in Africa becomes the setting of the other story. It happened in the Tsavo region of Africa. British engineers and Indian workers where building a railroad when the attacks came. Workers began to disappear and soon talks of two demons were responsible. Soon they found out two male Tsavo Lions were responsible for the killing of the workers/ The Tsavo male lions were and are not the usual lions we might be used to, they lacked the mane that are frequently shown in media. Like the Beast of Gevaudan the Lions had the uncanny ability of evading measures devised to stop them from attacking people and measures to kill them. Eventually they were killed separately by the engineer building the railway named Patterson. The first news and stories came out about the Lion man-eaters were that they devoured around 130 individuals. Later studies reveal the actual number was thirty. They were not the first or last Tsavo Lions that killed humans.

Patterson kept the Tsavo man-eaters as trophies their skulls and lion skins in his house in England. Eventually, row remains were bought by the Chicago museum, where it was stuffed, put on displayed and studied. And studies later revealed that the Lions main diet were not human but included other animals. Other encounters of Big Cats also came to be known man-eaters, the Tigers of Asia featured mainly in these stories.

The story of the Lions of Tsavo was adapted to two films one of them happens to be the Ghost and the Darkness, which were the names given by to the lions during their spree in Africa.

Saddam the Killer Chimp

The last story we have is the lone male chimp who came to be known as Saddam in Africa. Children and infants began to go missing in a village near a reserve in Africa.In one instance a baby was snatched from the mother while she was tending the fields in another a baby was snacthed from within the family hut when no one was looking. The remains of the babies were found after they were eaten. A lone and ostracised by the tribe male chimp was believed to have been responsible. At one point people saw him running away from a field or a house with the infant in his arms. He was nicknamed Saddam by the locals, after then Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein.

The reserve administration and the locals rook action. Like in the case of the Beast of Gevaudan and the Tsavo Lions it took some time but eventually he was killed. Saddam was cornered and shot.

Despite the depiction of Chimpanzees in television and film as fun loving and cute they do grow up and like man has a habit of violence as a way of life. Violence in and between different groups. It is their cousins the Bonobo who are more peaceful and opting to use sex rather violence to settle things. Interestingly enough, the Bonobos were able to develop their own behaviour because of a river that separated them from the Chimpanzees. Also the Chimpanzees and the Bonobos are the Great Apes genetically close to Man.

Werewolf Ecology

Frank Herbert wrote a passage in his novel Dune that states that Ecology is the study of consequences. If you notice from the three famous or infamous stories of man killers two things readily standout. FIRST, All encounter happen when humans and animals come into contact and conflict. Nature and human civilisation collide there are effects and consequences. The ecology or inter-relationship in the area is disrupted and changed: Predator and prey relationship change; keystone species are displaced; Food source can become scare or even totally depleted; and species that eat only specific food, once it is gone moves away or disappear; And one notices those that survive can eat almost anything or omnivorous. These in turn has been having an impact on its flora and fauna. Given these things, There are usually two short term options adaptation or extinction. SECOND, In all stories, like all werewolf stories, it ended terminally. Is this the only ending when conflict between civilisation and nature happens.

In Attenborough’s documentary series The Life of Mammals carnivores or meat eaters were given one episode and near the end an ironic scene, the Tiger, probably the worlds most successful carnivore, was walking in a field of snow only to be confronted by a wire fence. Man and Nature has met again. Who knows if this is the future state of affairs; animals living in walled enclosures, cages.

This also highlights the challenges of conservation and management of reserves. What can and should be done mn and nature comes face to face. Is there a solution that does not involve extinction. How can you manage natural resources effectively? For Red Riding Hood journeying through the forest to see Grandmother there were only two rules – Do not stray from the path and Do not talk to Strangers. If we want to preserve Nature and save ourselves what two rules do we follow to avoid the Big Bad Wolf or Absolute Extinction?

First respect and understand Nature; and Second stay clear from the twins – greed and corruption?

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , | 51 Comments