end of the world

The world as we know it has come to an end. In our anthropology world simulation, that is. The culmination of eleven weeks studying rituals, subsistence, love and marriage, gender roles, economics, art and religion played out in a two-day interaction last week. And boy, was it interesting.

All the "cultures" made up of the discussion groups in the class were each assigned a table that was our landmass for the game. We had Froot Loops to represent a rich natural diet, a stuffed fish to represent our dependence on fish and respect for nature, and various cards representing natural resources and power. We played five rounds of the simulation, each representing about 150 years, beginning in 1450 and extending into the future. Our goal was to interact in the way that our culture would normally respond to things like being attacked, trading, or making alliances.

In breif, our small foraging group, the Starbark-Crombie, formed trading alliances with our peaceful neighbors, were attacked and colonized by an industrialized group, and forced to produce luxury goods for them. Fortunately our population eventually increased dramatically due to a food surplus (dictated by an instruction card we received) and we were able to take back our land from our colonizers. However, our indiginous money was no longer useful and we had only the coffee we had been "growing" for our colonizers, so we had to produce even more buy food in order to survive the round. We ended up buying a surplus of food, so the final round, set in the "future", was spent distributing food to other starving nations and protesting against the one industrialized nation who was using cruel methods to colonize many small nations.

Although this simulation was just a "game", it really brought out interesting traits in some of the players. Instructions and classroom knowledge aside, some people were really in the game to win, and to wipe out everyone in their way. Of course this was the product of the way the game was set up, and I'm sure it was the intentions of my instructor that people realise how these feelings come about, at least in part. The results of some competetive players and heat-of-the-moment decisions resulted in the following during the simulation:

- One nation was "killed" by genocide because they peacefully protested against their colonizers and refused to give them the luxury goods they wanted.
- One "suicide bomber" from a colonized nation retaliated against his colonizer and removed one person in the more powerful nation from the game.
- One nation was destroyed by an atomic bomb. It turned out to be an honest mistake on the part of the attacking nation, but the smaller nation was destroyed all the same.
- When most of our "island-like" nations were colonized, they were forced to produce Froot Loop necklaces for their colonizers. During the simulation, 273 Froot Loop necklaces were made, for which the industrialized nations received $42,000 in our "world exchange" store. The "workers" were paid less than $300 total.

Going through this simulation was definitely a valuable part of my anthro class. It makes it real to people how many people are starving, working for literally cents per day, or being abused by nations who come in to simply take over thier natural resources for monetary gain with no thoughts about whether the ground they are taking over even contains the plants that certain groups need to survive. I was only "producing coffee" (wrapping Cocoa Puffs in aluminum foil) for 17 minutes, and it was no fun.

It makes me wonder exactly where and how items are being produced that I buy every day, and how the corporations are being run that produce them. If you're wondering too, here is a website that explains about unfair labor policies in some countries, companies that practise them, and what you can do to help out, because even though some sweatshops really do have terrible conditions and unfair pay, it is all some people have to live on. What I got from the simulation was that we have to remember we are the ones who are a part of this system, and we're the only ones who can change it. In the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

If you're interested in seeing a video of our simulation, you can check out this link. Unfortunately, we weren't able to post the video on YouTube, and this site is a little more frustrating to use. To see the video, you have to click on the blue 'start downloading' button about two inches down on the right side after typing in the number code directly to its left. The downloading does take quite a while, but I think it's worth seeing how our simulation played out. But of course, I'm a little biased. Anyway, I hope this rambling made sense to some of you, and maybe you'll be able to see it in the video too. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Sonnjea B said...

That's a fascinating simulation. I'll try to watch the video later (need to do that on a different computer). Makes me interested in those products at my coffee house labeled "Free Trade", although I'm not exactly sure what that means.