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The Game Never Named, the Addendum Never Spoken

Remember that silly game we used to play with fortune cookies from Chinese restaurants? Maybe people still play it. It’s the one where you read your fortune and tack on “… in bed” to the end of the sentence – like, “You will soon meet a mysterious stranger … in bed.” The supplemental phrase usually fits fairly smoothly onto the given fortune, and generates a few chuckles from listeners.

Here’s a new game in a similar vein, but this one doesn’t engender much laughter. First, take a look at the statements below. See if you can identify which are true versus which are false.

We can’t end poverty…

We can’t end homelessness …

We can’t feed the hungry …

We can’t have livable wages …

We can’t have a universal basic income so all people have the basic necessities to live …

We can’t end sweatshop labor …

We can’t work less …

We can’t produce less …

We can’t consume less …

We can’t have universal, single-payer healthcare …

We can’t have clean, unpolluted water …

We can’t have clean, unpolluted air …

We can’t generate all energy from renewable sources …

We can’t use less energy …

We can’t admit that cell phones and wifi might be dangerous  …

We can’t admit that the internet might do more harm than good …

We can’t acknowledge the detrimental effects of many technologies …

We can’t reduce or eliminate our use of plastics …

We can’t address overpopulation …

We can’t acknowledge the morality of having fewer or no offspring …

We can’t reduce our use of pharmaceuticals …

We can’t reduce our need for medical care …

We can’t shift our focus from treatment of disease to eliminating the causes of disease …

We can’t acknowledge that carcinogens cause cancer in humans …

We can’t admit that the vast majority of illnesses are not genetic in origin …

We can’t admit the vast majority of modern illnesses are a result of our industrial society…

We can’t acknowledge that most current psychological issues are a result of social problems …

We can’t reduce or eliminate our use of pesticides …

We can’t grow all food using agroecological methods …

We can’t eliminate industrial agriculture …

We can’t eliminate factory farms …

We can’t drastically reduce our consumption of meat …

We can’t end the exploitation and torture of other species …

We can’t acknowledge the environmental destructiveness of air travel …

We can’t drastically reduce automobile use …

We can’t use the precautionary principle …

We can’t admit that science is not technology …

We can’t admit that some academic research is nonsense …

We can’t admit that peer-review in research is often invalid …

We can’t admit experts can be wrong and/or biased …

We can’t acknowledge other, non-academic ways of knowing …

We can’t have equal access to high-quality, free K-university public education (and eliminate all private and charter schools) …

We can’t allow journalists to tell the truth …

We can’t allow a vibrant independent media system …

We can’t reduce emissions of greenhouse gases …

We can’t reduce species extinction …

We can’t preserve ancient sea turtles …

We can’t save the coral reefs …

We can’t save the polar bears …

We can’t eliminate nuclear power ….

We can’t eliminate nuclear arms …

We can’t end the production of arms…

We can’t end war …

We can’t regulate industry …

We can’t have a truly open democracy …

We can’t abandon the two-party system …

We can’t end subsidies to multi-million (and billion) dollar corporations …

We can’t put a cap on individual wealth …

We can’t admit that economic success is unethical …

We can’t admit that individual wealth amid a backdrop of poverty is unethical …

We can’t admit that the pursuit of wealth is psychopathic …

We can’t admit that American culture is increasingly psychopathic …

We can’t eliminate the need for charity …

We can’t admonish materialism …

We can’t admonish consumerism …

We can’t end economic growth …

We can’t acknowledge that health care is a human right, not a commodity …

We can’t acknowledge that housing is a human right, not a commodity …

We can’t acknowledge that water is a human right, not a commodity …

We can’t acknowledge that food is a human right, not a commodity …

We can’t prioritize health and safety over comfort and convenience …

We can’t prioritize people over profit …

We can’t acknowledge that we are all born with equal potential …

We can’t acknowledge that we are not all born with equal privilege and opportunity …

We can’t sacrifice for the benefit of others …

We can’t sacrifice for the sake of the planet …

We can’t remember history …

We can’t connect dots …

We can’t look at the big picture …

We can’t prioritize quality over quantity …

We can’t have a more equitable society …

We can’t share the world’s resources …

We can’t live within ecological limits …

We can’t live sustainably …

If you follow conventional wisdom, listen to conventional media sources, or adhere to conventional dictates of American culture, you might think that nearly every statement is true.

But in reality, every sentence is false.

Unlike in the fortune cookie game where the phrase “in bed” is added to each fortune, our game has a twist. Our game is played all day, every day. In our game, the additional phrase is never spoken, but it permeates all of our thoughts and decisions, even those within the sacrosanct realm of science. The addendum is an underlying assumption, a tacit, presumed postscript to every stated social, political, economic, environmental, and health concept in our society. It is an idea that is implicit in every policy we make, universally accepted as a given. Most people have internalized the phrase so much they do not even realize it exists, let alone acts as appendix to almost all of the truths held by modern civilized societies. So, our unnamed, unknown game consists of adding this unspoken phrase to every aforementioned statement. The phrase is “… if we are to preserve capitalism.”

Imagine if we eradicated that unspoken addendum. Imagine what we could accomplish.

Imagine justice. Imagine equality. Imagine good health. Imagine ecological sustainability.

Imagine ending the game.

We can’t.

Can we?

More articles by:

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher. She can be reached at:  k_mattis@outlook.com.

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