Public Enemy #2: People Who Think Life Is A Zero-Sum Game
January 1, 2014

Public Enemy #2: People Who Think Life Is A Zero-Sum Game

Filed under Public Enemies

9th Grade Biology is a bit of a blur. When I try to recall all the knowledge that Ms. Harzinski bestowed upon me, I often find that the relevant electrical impulse in my hippocampus has trouble traveling along the myelin sheaths of my axons and leaping across its synapses to the dendrites of another neuron.

Yup, it’s mostly just a jumble of Golgi Apparatuses, Fallopian Tubes and Punnett Squares. There is, however, one precious part of 9th Grade Biology that my brain has not yet erased to make room for more Bane quotes: symbiosis.   

In case your neurotransmissions have stalled, please allow someone with no real understanding of science (me) to refresh your memory. In the natural world, there are only three types of relationships. Interactions between organisms can exhibit either 1) mutualism 2) parasitism or 3) commensalism.   

Mutualism is pretty straightforward. It’s when the shit I do and the shit you do works out real nice for both of us --- a mutually beneficial relationship. Sea Anemones and Clownfish are the classic ecological example. The Anemones are super chill landlords, letting the Clownfish live in spacious rent-stabilized apartments with sweeping views of the Coral Reef, and in exchange Clownfish protect the Anemones from douchey predators that always be tryna snack on its tentacles.

Or here’s a better example --- New Yorkers have a mutualistic relationship with Times Square. We allow that disgusting capitalist flytrap to exist, right in the center of our fair city, and in exchange Times Square vacuums up all the fat Midwestern tourists with their little backpacks and gives them a cesspool to waddle around in where they can have their eyeballs raped by advertisements instead of clogging up the real neighborhoods where we actually live.

Parasitism is also pretty easy to understand. That’s when the shit you do negatively affects my shit. Parasites --- all take, no give. Plenty of examples to choose from here --- tape worms, ticks, people from Long Island, kudzu, brain-eating amoebas, my relationship with my parents, vampire squids, Goldman Sachs, and so on.  

But what some people seem to have trouble remembering is that there is a THIRD TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP: commensalism. That’s when the shit that I do has no effect on your life whatsoever. A good example: the maggots that will one day feast on your corpse. The maggots get to gobble up your delicious remains (+1 for Maggots) and you get to not give a shit, because you’re dead, man, you’re dead (0 for Dead You).

People who don’t believe in commensalism are the second worst type of human beings on Earth. I’m talking about people who just can’t understand that someone else’s gain is not always their loss. People who act like life is a zero-sum game and walk around bitching about the score. 

Now to be fair to these sub-humans, there is actually a fierce intellectual debate raging on about whether or not life is, in fact, a zero sum game. Some scientists contend that commensalism is an illusion --- in the grand scheme of things, the organism that’s #winning is depriving another organism of a coveted resource. Those aforementioned maggots feasting on your corpse are, perhaps, robbing a depraved necrophilic cannibal of a very good time.

This lil' quandary spills over into a variety of other fields, like economics, psychology, metaphysics, and public policy. For instance, some argue that an immigrant worker taking a job at McDonalds is stealing an economic opportunity from a natural born American citizen. Economists refer to this as the so-called “lump of labor fallacy” --- fallacy being the key word. The problem, say heroic defenders of commensalism, is that a zero-sum view of the economy presupposes that there is a fixed number of jobs available, whereas in reality that number is flexible/dynamic. The gainfully employed immigrant now has money to spend, and his spending will be someone else’s income, thereby creating more jobs. Hinduism/Buddhism son h8ers of commensalism even more thoroughly via their belief in “nondualism”--- there is no “me” or “you” or “gain” or “loss” because we are all part of the same big shitty experience called “existence.”

But you know what? It doesn’t really matter whether or not commensalism exists or whether or not life is a zero-sum game. Because there’s also a very fancy sociological term for people who hate when something good happens to someone else: assholes. 

If you hear that someone got an A when you got a B, and your first thought is “Fuck that guy! He’s going to steal my seat at Stanford!” then guess what? You suck. You have a myopic perspective on reality and you’re pointlessly spreading negativity across a planet that already has enough shit to deal with, thank you very much. You must be removed from the gene pool.

Do you really wanna go through life finding misery in others' joy? Why not embrace mutualism instead, and think of all success as pooled, and do your best to accept the truth of St. Paul McCartney --- that in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take.

Look, all I’m really trying to say is this: someone got to impregnate January Jones. Am I sad that it wasn’t me? Yes. Should I be sad? No. Because I still have a chance with Mila Kunis, and the fact is I’m happy for that evil son of a bitch who stole my girl and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next. 

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