July 17, 2012

The Boston Globe and Me

Just a note to say that on July 8 the Boston Globe's Sunday "Ideas" section published my piece on Jacques Ellul, pegged to the conference celebrating the centenary of Ellul's birth. The conference, entitled "Prophet in the Technological Wilderness," started that day at Wheaton College near Chicago. I attended, and it was a joy to meet with and hear papers presented by so many knowledgeable and insightful Ellul scholars.

July 15, 2012

Annals of Childish Behavior™

The New York Times reports today that gamblers in casinos across the country are taking their frustrations out on slot machines that fail to pay off by punching them, causing serious damage both to the machines and to themselves.

“I lost $300 without a bonus, so yes, I broke the machine,” one gambler told security guards. “And I’d do it again.” He was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Another gambler was arrested for urinating on a machine, the Times said. 

Forty-one people have been arrested for damaging machines at the new Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York, since it opened last October. That's more than twice the number of arrests for assaults on human beings.

According to Marcus Prater, executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, most assaults are directed toward non-functional parts of the offending machine, apparently with the intention of hurting but not killing it. 

"The angry gambler wants to express frustration, but they don’t necessarily want to disable the machine that’s going to pay them back for their losses," Prater said. "They still hold out hope that they can win the day."  

Is modern culture being overwhelmed by an epidemic of childishness? José Ortega y Gasset, writing in 1930, thought so. Annals of Childish Behavior™ chronicles contemporary examples of that epidemic. The childish citizen, Ortega said, puts "no limit on caprice" and behaves as if "everything is permitted to him and that he has no obligations."