Friday, January 22, 2010

Pleasure for sale

A few years ago, our family spent the Christmas weekend at the spa in Moose Jaw. Our room looked down on the casino next door and I was amazed at the traffic in cars and people at that place, even on a Sunday.

Aboard a cruise ship to Alaska on another occasion, I noticed the prominent placement of the casino on board. Psychology was my minor in College and I learned there that the most effective “training regime” for animals or humans consists of intermittent reward doled out at random. In other words, the pushing of the button on the VLT will reward the player sometime; he just doesn’t know which push will be the big one. A contemplation of that event is apparently a very, very intoxicating sensation for many, a source of addictive euphoria, a pleasure-stroking. A high.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the one who provides the means for people to access this road to pleasure is doing the work of a pimp. Pimping of this sort, furthermore, has become more and more acceptable. I stopped giving to the Red Cross when they began raising money by offering tickets to be drawn for cars, cash and other enticing stuff. Provincial coffers depend on pimping revenue, and First Nations in the US and Canada have latched onto pimping as an occupation that pays.

There are legitimate community interests at stake here. Money extracted by the pimping industry is money that could have circulated locally and done some good for the “commonwealth”. Instead, it’s often siphoned off to who-knows-where. In effect, it distorts the economy to a greater degree than we probably realize and it’s quite likely that the only remedy for this will be some dramatic changes in the way economies are governed.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to clean up an economy if the participants in it are unable or unwilling to act communally. It’s apparent that the rise in the pimping industries (those that cater primarily for pleasure seekers) will succeed more often where community spirit has been eroded and the “amateur” entertainments and pleasures have ceased to function. Where hockey is no longer a community sport, the door is open to professional hockey to retail its kind of spectacle. People who no longer go out on Friday nights for bridge are more likely to wander down to the casino for the relief of their boredom. Enter the pimp.

I bowl with friends every Wednesday evening in winter. The cost for the entire season is roughly the same as a mid-range ticket for ONE Toronto Maple Leafs game. Our bowling fees provide a neighbour—the woman who owns, runs and cleans the place—with a living. Talk about a bargain!

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