It’s Not The People, It’s The System

a concise history

Anyone who knows something about me knows that I don’t do video games.  I’ve never owned a system–Playstation, no Game Cube, no Xbox and not even the old school Nintendo 64, SegaGenesis or anything like that.  Now, don’t get it twisted, I will get on Mario Kart and whoop ass though, lol.  But, the computer games don’t really do much for me.  As a kid, my mother had bought me a few, and after I mastered the game, I never really went back.

Anyone remember Oregon Trail?

Or wayyyyyyy back to Treasure Mountain?

But, I had discovered SimCity back in the day. And I’ve moved with SimCity over the years.  Personally, I was never a fan of the second version of SimCity, I thought the graphics were HORRIBLE.  They tried, but it just didn’t do much for me.  Don’t get me wrong, SimCity 2000 was the first 3D graphics for the game, and yes it was nice, but meh, I was over it quickly.  So, SimCity 3000 was something I could deal with, and it made sense to me, but I just couldn’t get the doggone highway overpasses and ramps to make sense to me.

Then they released SimCity4.

sim city 4-2My roommate my sophomore year of college had it and I discovered it on his computer.  I coaxed my mother into buying it for me later on that year or so.  So I’d come home and feverishly work at trying to figure out how to get the biggest metropolis possible with bridges, and water works and an education system, unlocking the special landmarks and locations such as cemeteries, houses of worship and the city hall and a courthouse etc. Amazingly though my mother would delete the game every time I went back to school.

I bought the game again now for myself on this Mac I have and we’ll see how it works out because clearly I’m in school right now and that takes precedent over SimCity.  But this is something that I learned while playing the game: it’s not the people, it’s the system.

Now in the midst of developing a big city, you zone for residential housing, usually low population because it’s the cheapest.  The medium and large density plots are more expensive and in order to get full development, they require to be hooked up to a water system replete with a water pump which costs and laying pipes.  However, to begin to build up the wealth and welfare of the city an education and health system are required.  Generally one plops down the medium/normal sized elementary school first and a health clinic as opposed to a full medical center/hospital.

Now, there’s a query feature in which you can click on either a school, hospital, or even a power plant or water pump and adjust individual funding to the particular city entity.  The rulebook tips advise you to go in and adjust funding to the schools and hospitals at first in order to accommodate the people: meaning don’t over fund an entity.  Well, this is all because one has to maintain a balanced budget.

Granted you get a rather, very large initial sum, fact of the matter is that you still need to balance expenses with the income and like most cities, the majority of income comes from the property tax rates on residential, commercial and industrial zones.  So naturally, if one is going to cut a budget, you start going for the easy stuff: you cut education spending and health spending.  At least the way the game is designed one doesn’t need to have a large fire department in the early stages of the game when the city population is under 50,000 and barely needs a police force.

Which reminds me–that when the city population reaches a certain number, the game offers you a special elementary school and a special high school, all that are super large and designed to warehouse, or rather as they put, “educate the masses” of children.

It’s not the people, it’s the system.

robert-taylor-homes-02If you zone for residential plots and you fail to initially build schools or parks or other beautification features, almost immediately high rise tenements or projects or low income rowhouses pop up in their place as viable city development.  These buildings over time eventually get run down and become seedy and then the “crime warning” box starts popping up and a police station and subsequent jail are necessary.  And within the concentrated areas of the project population, it’s more people so the schools get overcrowded which means a) bulldozing the original school and b) building a much larger school–which actually means probably having to demolish some surrounding buildings that Sims live in.

It seems as though the object of the game is to have a successful and thriving city that a) has as little crime as possible b) has a $$$ wealth rating for residential zones (on a scale from $ to $$$) c) that has as many skyrise office buildings as possible and d) that has a high-tech industry in the industrial zones.

So, I realised that balancing a city budget meant keeping spending at as bare a minimum as possible or raising taxes on various segments of the population.  And don’t get it twisted, this game has it so that you not only can adjust rates for the commercial, industrial and residential zones, but you can adjust the tax rates according to the wealth of the citizenry.  For example, if I want to encourage more high tech industry in my city, I would lower the tax rate on the medium density industrial zones and of course to make up for it, I’d tax the dirty industry higher.  And the same works for the residential zones: tax the poor and give the rich a tax break as an incentive to move into my city.  And naturally so, when the richer Sims move in, their more educated and they bring with them the high tech industry.

Hmm, tax breaks for the rich made up by over-taxing the poor…..sounds familiar don’t it.

So, I really realised for the first time that most of our beef needs not to be with our elected officials per se, but really with the system!

We are citizens of a system that in order to operate that generally the poor suffer the most.  I mean, granted to every liberal and progressive in the country are already aware of this, but I’m still trying to figure out how some of us can sleep at night comfortably believing that one need only work hard and do better in order to make it in this world.  To take the plight of the Sims living in projects and being crammed into over crowded classrooms by an education system that’s always on the brink of not being funded properly–how would they have an adequate chance post graduation? (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of funding a broken system of education, but lack of funding or underfunding isn’t the answer either.)

And don’t get me started on healthcare.

Actually hearing some American citizens subscribe to the notion that other citizens just need to work hard enough to be able to buy their own insurance just sounds like the epitome of being the antichrist!  Seeing as how some pastors are preaching against healthcare just makes me wanna say, “Please rationalize your healthcare argument through the lens of the parable when Jesus said ‘whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done also to me!’”  These same Christians that would harp on a homosexuality passage in the midst of other antiquated rules just somehow politely pass over a rather famous parable of Jesus.

It’s the system we have to change.

No, I’m not calling for an overthrow of government.  Please don’t understand it as that, but I am more than suggesting that we, as a people, as the human race need to seriously check ourselves because I’m just not convinced that this path we’re on is ultimately going to sustain our existence.  How long are we going to let the human sufferings of this world go unnoticed and we as a people have more than enough resources to spread the wealth.

Can someone, on a moral basis tell me what’s wrong with that?  I understand it from the business and economic stand point, but please, from a moral basis, I’d love to hear an argument against that.

That being said, it’s become a bit harder for me to play SimCity.

Have you ever played SimCity? Did you deal with the same moral dilemma I have? Why is it so easy for some to dismiss universal healthcare as people are literally dying everyday from the lack of it and family members are left to bear the burden.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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6 responses to “It’s Not The People, It’s The System

  1. “How long are we going to let the human sufferings of this world go unnoticed and we as a people have more than enough resources to spread the wealth.”

    People who are wealthy give more than those that don’t; the problem occurs when a bureaucratic entity FORCES you to ‘spread the wealth’, and there are no SUCCESSFUL OUTCOMES from you spreading the wealth. Rich folks have no problem giving to those who help others; governments don’t do a very good job of that, and rarely have.

    Wealthy people still pay the vast majority of taxes, in spite of their ability to shield much of their wealth from taxes. When tax rates go down, tax revenues INCREASE, in part because rich folks have less need to hide their money.

    Morality is personal, not a government decree. Bill Gates made lots of money selling (a crappy ;-) Operating System and some good software (Office for Mac :-); now he’s giving it away to make education better through the Gates Foundation. Andre Agassi made a lot of money playing tennis and selling cameras (Canon’s); he’s founded a great public charter school in New York. I can give freely to those who successfully help the least of us; when the government TAKES my money for other people, the only people who get served are those earning a paycheck serving others. These lurid ACORN videos reveal the ugly truth: the only people ACORN helps are those they employ, not those they serve.

    If we put some NCLB-style demands upon other government programs, we’d see how dysfunctional and nonperforming much of our government truly is.

  2. Sorry can’t give you an argument against checking ourselves and getting it together. I truly believe that the majority of our problems as the “human” race are man-made.

    I’ve played Sim City (2000, 3000 and then Sim City 4). It wasn’t until Sim City 4 that I noticed “in real life” I lived across the street from an industrial zone (complete with power plants) LOL. I remember trying to explain to my non-Sim City playing family, that this was no coincidence. The poor neighborhood next to the power plant next to the miles and miles of farmland, it looked just like my city in the game. (It was then that I took up Sociology, Race and Poverty as a minor in school)

    As for the game, I wouldn’t say that I took it personal, or felt that I faced a moral dilemma. I just played the best I could (attempting not to disenfranchise anyone) and took it as a lesson that many of the class problems we see (in real life) are to a large extent systematic. (I was never taught that poverty was strictly the result of laziness anyway) I think it takes naivety and a whole lot of ignorance to believe that all it takes is hard work to move ahead in this country.

    As for people who feel comfortable dismissing healthcare as so many Americans suffer due to the lack of it . . . just plain ole fashioned stupidity and hate. I’m not saying the proposal for healthcare is the perfect solution, but I’ve always been of the resolve that it is better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the darkness. I just think that some people are making out like bandits while the lights are out.

    Sorry, for the novel . . . great post!

  3. Interesting post. I have about as much patience with video games as I do with politics so I haven’t played any of the games you talk about. I think that generally across the board people in this country are interested and do in their own lives and in their own way help their fellow citizens. These stories of daily life very rarely make into local newspapers let alone national news coverage. And, in my experience, most people are much more ready to accept, cooperate, help, and generally get along with their fellow citizens of whatever ethnicity than the news reports would lead a person to believe. I have both helped and been helped at times of either small or large emergencies by a wide range of people. It is just something folks do: a flat tire, a dead battery, a ride to the grocery store in the rain, a meal or two or five, a late night trip to the emergency room, or any number of other things. It is there and it is real. I get frustrated when I watch the news and see all this polarizing talk because in the years of making my small path through life, this isn’t the reality I’ve seen. Health care is a tricky situation because there are so few people who have the expertise to administer it. I’ve been reading about health issues for at least 30 years and I live my life in as healthy a way as possible, but still there is a limit to what I can do. I read an article in the WSJ this morning about the current version of the health care bill and it seems like a bad plan to me. It forces the most vulnerable segment of the population to take on yet another expense when they are already stretched to the limit.

    As an aside, I’ve read various of your posts and I admire your command of the English language. I have noticed an undercurrent of what seems to me either depression or disillusionment or something I can’t quite put my finger on. It seems sad to me in a person so young. I hope I’m wrong and you are actually a sunny happy person. If not, take a break from those classes of yours and find a bench in some sunny park and soak up the atmosphere. Good luck with your endeavors and keep up the good prose.

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