Monopoly

This wicked game does nothing more than bring out the absolute worst in people. It turns friends into enemies and enemies into co-conspirators. No good can come out of playing a game of Monopoly with the ones you love. Shame on you, Parker Brothers.

Take last week – some good honest friends of ours came back from New York City, bringing along the game of Monopoly as a souvenir. To you or I, this memento may seem a bit odd – maybe not an obvious choice – but to someone from the Eastern Bloc, it represents something different.

It was explained to me that Monopoly was something you simply couldn’t have growing up in the pre-Revolution Czech Republic. Anyone who had one – usually sent from a friend or relative abroad – held it in such high esteem. In a way, it was a symbol that represented total freedom in a time when there was none. The game had such an anti-Communist agenda; what better way to rebel against the state.

Such was the time then. While you might have been able to get most North American products, they often weren’t the genuine thing, instead a crummier “Communist version“. This was true for Coca Cola, Lego, Santa Claus, and even Monopoly.

After hearing this, it didn’t take very long before the “Communist Monopoly” jokes began flying. After all, the idea of Monopoly was essentially the opposite of the economic ideals of the Czech Republic before 1991. How would that even work? Pass Go, collect 200 dollars, than give 50 to each player. Except the thimble – he hasn’t collected his Party Card yet, so he goes to jail instead.

And, in spite of not playing the game since I was 8 – on account of how every game ends up – we went for it.

So there we were. Drinking wine and whisky on a Wednesday, and playing Monopoly – a Pole, Finn, Czech, and Canadian … comparing and contrasting the systems we grew up in and the systems we live in now. It was like something out of a Yann Martel novel.

And that brings me to the point of all this – the point unseen by the Europeans until the game had finished. No one ever wins at Monopoly. It will usually go on forever, and in between the players (if old enough) will just keep drinking, get a little loaded, and start plotting & backstabbing & colluding & acting like total dicks to one another. Everyone wants to win at Monopoly – and it becomes apparent that leaving your real-world politics and ideals at the door are necessary to succeed.

Monopoly brings out the worst in all of us, regardless of nationality, or socioeconomic beliefs. Be you a hardcore free-market man, a Northern European socialist, a former communist, or something in between, Monopoly transcends all of that to turn everyone into a giant asshole.

And that’s really the lesson I learned this week.

I've got a monopoly to maintain! I own the electric company, and the water works -- plus the hotel on Baltic Avenue!

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