Game Theory 2: Sorting Gods and Bullies (WWMD?)

Second of X Part blog on decision making, and how to deal with Boko Haram and other self-righteous bullies. Can understanding faith and belief help us understand the fanatic's game?   This essay was written over 2-3 hours in the middle of the night, and contains some big ideas that are going to have to be tamed and homogenized for public consumption.

Sorting Gods from Bullies
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”  ― Lao TzuTao Te Ching

Jesus spoke in cool parables and analogies, and got into these Platonic debates (Pharisees trying to "test him").  He'd ask questions with "Does not...?" as the prefix.  It was nurture-logic.  Jesus used integrity, virtue, and nurture to elicit mercy towards people at the bottom of the pecking order.

The philosophy of mercy and charity went viral.  A mere thousand years or so later, that power was harnessed to build cathedrals, burn witches, and wage wars.   Today, Christianity has been made safe for the pecking order of the wealthy.

And we all know that that's what Boko Haram is about, it's about an under-performing group in a rapidly-developing nation.  It's about pecking order, and keeping women at the bottom.   It has about as much to do with Islam's teachings as the Ku Klux Klan, for all its crosses and robes, has to do with Christianity.  There's a perceived threat that a subjugated minority - women in the Sahel or African Americans in reform period Georgia - is left to ripen into mob justice.

Any pure religion can be harnessed to achieve bullboys ends.  Environmentalism, as it becomes a Taoist or Shinto expression of western ethics, must not consider itself immune.   Rural areas are not immune from heroin, small governments are not immune from embezzlement, and recycling non-profits are not immune from profit motives.

Televisions and computers are giving a voice to people - such as women in Nigeria - who were never allowed to even enter the mosques of power (any more than they can enter Catholic priesthood).  A group in power hundreds of years ago set up rules that limited access to expression of sermons and fatwahs, and affordable electronics are undermining the monarchies of communication.

Your continent here x
That's right.  Boko haram is a reaction to digital communication, grown from networks of surplus/replaced analog cell phone towers (replaced a decade ago on the US and Europe) and the used cell phones that communicate through them.   As Frederic Somda told the Fair Trade Recycling summit a year ago, in Burkina Faso, internet and cell phones are far more important than running water and paved streets.

It's a colorful game.

Modernization is turning over the money tables of Hausa men who are accustomed to keeping 4 wives.  Personally, I think one divorce + one remarriage is splitting hairs with polygamy.  But educated women have more choices, and giving choices to people is always a threat to a Bullyboy.

Bullies claiming to act on behalf of God is not a new challenge.  The question, in Game Theory, is whether to ignore the religious law and attack the bully's actions directly, or whether to understand the bully's laws and isolate the hypocrisy.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."  Matthew 6:5-6
Playing game theory with God.

Game theory is about predicting the decisions of theoretical adversaries and theoretical partners.   You try to come up with general truisms about statistically likely motivations and outcomes.  If most kids do love marshmallows, you can predict a lot by observing kids strategems with fluffy gelatinized sugar balls and use that as a predictor or correlation with general economic success (accumulation of shiny metal coins).

If we hypothesize a game vs. an overwhelming adversary, can we claim a sort of moral victory by scoring a single point?  If I play one-on-one with LeBron James, and manage to score a contested basket, do I prove him not invincible and not a god?  Does a single in-congruence, falsity, or contradiction render a religious foundation shakeable?  Only two third party observers.   Such an observation makes a true mortal convert more angry.  But for my God, it would not be so, God would see truth to be enlightenment, and the "point" would be God's point, too.

Would a just and merciful God send children to burn in hell forever because they took advice from the wrong adult?  Tough sell.  Simpler explanation is that authority figures, claiming to represent God, are filtering "holy texts" for bits which justify their bullyboy behavior towards people lower in the pecking order.  Game theory with the God as represented by the bully (Baptist or Shia) is considered blasphemous, but that's exactly the strategy Jesus played with the religious authorities at Temple.

This is why Hindu ceremonies like Holi are taking off like wildfire-rainbows across college campuses worldwide.   The Hindu ceremony pictured above has gone viral.   It will be as strange and threatening to Jesuit and Christian colleges as women given access to World Computer Exchange computers in northern Nigeria and Cameroon.

The hypothesis of "game theory" deities risks creating straw men.   Having tarred the bully-boy spokespeople for these Deities, it's too easy to now pick apart Gods decisions before the faithless or shallow minded.

Harder it will be to practice game theory with God from a true position of faith and humility, with actual prayer and meditation as a guide. Once we have logically pruned religion of the bully language and social herding into virtuous behavior, it's possible to assume that we are ants trying to read a book, and that some spirtual virtuous and holy spirit exists all around us.  We are hardware and virtue is software.  God is the source of the good coding.

In that way, when I say "God", I don't mean any particular faith or personal savior.  I imagine myself in a hopefully-not-zero-sum-game with an entity of unimaginable superiority.  If it truly is a zero sum game vs. God, surrender and subjugation is one approach, and hoping God has limitations and distractions (based on being somehow of our image) you can try to just ignore God and whistle and count more evil people as statistical blessing for keeping God's attention focused everywhere.

This is mentally where we have to go, into philosophical and religious depths, to address the bullyboys and authority figures in religion.  If we come across as secular bullyboys, we are even more frightening.

A corrupt government, influenced by powerful and rich donors, has power which prayer has not a prayer of changing.

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