Bingo, Ball and Booze
-- The Three "B's" ...
by Paul A. L. Hall.
I can almost remember the town in England, somewhere in the suburbs of London. Almost remember, but not quite. I should have kept a diary, but that's the problem with traveling light, at least in those days. Maybe now I could just leave it in the blogosphere as I go.
I was on the street selling underground newspapers. As I used to say, "underground and coffee ground". The best thing about being on the street is you can, as Woody Guthrie used to put it, "touch the people", meaning you could get out there and meet folks. I used to think I must have spoken with a million people in my twenty years of travel, but perhaps a more conservative estimate would be three hundred thousand. But as far as personally contacting people, for example, everyone that heard me sing on the street and that I got to say hi to, well that's over one million.
So one evening, I remember an elderly English gentleman stopped to talk with me about what he called the three B's. He kept insisting that I remember the method the government (in England) controlled the masses with was the three "B's", bingo, ball and booze. I mean, you never know. I might have been talking with someone who simply enjoyed bantering conspiracy theories about, or he might have been the equivalent of a retired James Bond or something. He asked me to repeat it a few times. So that's how he was able, in a way, to make sure it got at least as far as this blog I'm writing now, thirty years later.
At the time I imagined it unlikely that the governance of any nation would have to go to such lengths to install such a crowd control safeguard. I mean, the industries themselves were big enough, why should any political entity want a finger in the pie? But as I started to visit other parts of England, I began to see some evidence that the three b's might actually be in effect.
Once, I remember looking for a bathroom in a city somewhere up north. I was given permission at the door of a large motion picture theatre, the kind with the huge screens that they used to have everywhere back in the fifties. As I was going through the deserted lobby on the way to the facilities, I heard this bizarre, chanting sound echoing throughout the actual theater and a more bizarre high-pitched sound that seemed to come from everywhere. Thinking it to be some strange ritualistic event going on, and since there was no one around, I resolved to scamper up the carpeted steps a bit to take a little peek. I had a bird's eye view.
The auditorium, arranged in the typical amphitheater sort of setting with loge, orchestra, and balcony seating in front of a stage, was absolutely filled with people, or, to be more precise, ladies, all more or less in their later years. The high-pitched sound came from televisions, hundreds of them, very large ones, positioned at regular intervals throughout the entire seating arrangement. The whole place was very dimly lit, except for a spotlight trained on center stage, where there was this enormous ping-pong ball style randomizer of clear glass or plastic, and even from my vantage point, one could see the balls whirling around inside under the power of an internal blower of some sort.
I mean it's not uncommon any more. You see them all the time in those lottery drawings on television and such a devise was used to randomize the sequence of names appearing on ballots throughout California during the impromptu election that recalled governor Gray Davis this September of 2003 in which proceeding I voted just down the street. Each electoral district, I believe it is, had to have the names of the hundreds of people that anteed-up for the privilege of running for governor if Davis was recalled, printed in different random order so that no name would continually come first. In my district, the first two names on the ballot were both Schwarzenegger. Until then I thought there to be only one in that race.
Anyway, there they were a whole theater full of people, mostly ladies, it seemed, transfixed by the gleaming ping pong randomizer on stage. Regularly, a well-dressed gentleman would take the most recent ball as it slid down the transparent tube and out into a sort of trough. And then announce the letter and number imprinted on it to the waiting crowd in a low, droning voice that echoed throughout the auditorium on loud speakers in front, in back and on the sides. I just stared and then remembered about the three b's. Even if it weren't on purpose, this was big. It is conceivable that something that enormous could happen by itself, I mean, with something that popular, it had to be a big business.
But if someone wanted to control the segment of the population that didn't go for sports and might be absolute teetotalers, this was it. I stared at the crowd of attentive ladies. Not an empty seat in the house. With a pastime like this there wouldn't be time for social protestation or any other project. The government was safe. At least for the time being. They just would sit there for hours and hours waiting for the next ping pong ball to emerge. One at a time. Wow. These would be the hardest to control. They would have to have the most powerful of all the big three, the bingo "b", the first in the triptych!
And don't think it was confined to just England. What is it with this game? I remember once in Eastern Samoa, the other side of the planet, on a beautiful weekend day, I think it was a Saturday, I had to find someone at the public market. Now, the public market was in the capitol, Pango Pango.
You may think this is some exotic, off-the-wall place out in the middle of the ocean or something but think again. Pango Pango is the location of the deepest natural harbor in the world. It is the crossroads of the Pacific, at least when I was there back in 1978. It's a big stop-off place for container ships who use it's facilities as a sort of transfer point, causing a great container skyscraper to cut into the tropical skyline. Even though it may not look like much at first glance, it is. It's just that it's dwarfed by the volcanic mountains around it.
A fairly modern cable car spans the entire bay. At the time, I don't know if it still is, it was home base or at least one of the home bases for the American tuna fishing fleet and several Korean tuna fleets. They have a modern airport that accommodates international jumbo jets from continents and oceans away.
So when I went to find that person, I expected to see a huge market place bustling with activity. But they had shut the place down and what appeared to be thousands of people were sitting on the pavement -- you guessed it. Playing bingo. Lane after lane of the normally busy market, the entire area the equivalent of five or six city streets, loudspeakers blaring at regular intervals, people were attentively playing bingo.
Now, if people want to play that all day long, that's their choice. It is kind of fun. I thought it might be more interesting to try different words like "existentialist" or "antidisestablishmentarianism", but maybe that wouldn't work. Someone got the winning formula when they came up with the name "bingo". They started us out early in life singing about the old man who owned bingo the dog. Best damn advertising jingle they ever came up with. If they did, whoever they are. Probably it was just a cute song.
But have you ever noticed how seriously those guys take it? It's a kid's game, for crying out loud. Why bingo? What about slinky, or silly putty or old maids or snakes and ladders? Maybe even a more grown up game like checkers. No. It had to be bingo. That was the winner. And man, did it catch on. Whether the man with the three "b's" was spot on or not, it sure looked like there was something more going on than meets the eye. But even if not, "bingo" could go it alone. It could take over the world all by itself.
But the players take it so seriously. When I found the person in the market the only comment was that my clothes were unkempt. I mean, come on. Here I was at this miscarriage of human potential and they were worrying about my P.R. presentation. That's where I had to draw the line. It had to be institutionalized. Nobody was having any fun.
Well, after that I sort of forgot to check in an area if bingo had spread to their land or if these other countries had something else going on or what. But something really powerful is going on to prevent the section of the population that isn't neutralized by the other two b's (and those guys -- they're hopeless; if once they walk down the dark side of the farce, the twisted paths of ball or booze, just write them off as goners! -- easy shots, piece of cake). I'm not talking about the poor closet drinkers here, at least they have an excuse. Something else wiped their slate.
But what about those who really pose a problem to the sort of institution that would prefer the remnant, the most serious segment that could really do something if left to their devises, under the proverbial thumb of state control? Then you've gotta have the ultimate weapon to get the other statue-quo-threatening one tenth of the population who escaped unscathed. Who ever thought it? A gambling devise from a kid's game. But it worked, and that's all she wrote. Curtains. It must be the end of the world for sure. There was an old man who had an old dog and bingo was his name.
Forget trying to find out if Hussein tried to buy uranium in Africa. Forget the nukes. There's something far more sinister afoot here and there's only one solution. Regime Change. B-ten, I-nine, N-eight, G-seven, O-six, -- fivefourthreetwoone. apocalypse.
Okay. You could probably tell I was kidding. But the bingo thing was sort of incredible, I have to admit. So let's get serious for a minute, here.
In all our stories and works of fiction we look for the bad guys. In fact, I notice the terminology creeping into the military vernacular as well. It may be a public relations ploy or just an unconscious reaction. They're the bad guys. Get them. They may be or not, or partially or completely. When you make blanket statements, you can loose some of the effect if you have to go defining terms.
In the real world, it's the good guys who cause even more problems than the villains. Something just happened in the human condition to make us that way. But the bad guy thing is compounded by willful ignorance. So what is the greatest cause of global poverty, wars, political unrest, even catastrophic plagues and all sorts of other extreme failings in society? The disinterest of the common person. The everyday person in pursuit of disconnecting amusements such as gamboling, social drinking, and the worst of all, professional sports.
That's right, buddy, it was guys like you that caused world war two. That's a good one. Blame it on Hitler. Meanwhile there's the president throwing out the first baseball of the season. Tell me about it. The bottom line is if the three b's come into play in your world then you're a part of the cause. Because you couldn't give a damn. Oh, you claim you can indulge yourself and still get on with doing a good job, but you're kidding yourself. It's a front. All just a good show. No substance, no professionalism. Just enough to squeak by. A waste of a life, a waste of a contribution.
You want baseball? Go out and play some softball with the neighbors. So somebody can throw a ball, you want to make him a millionaire? No wonder so much money is tied up and going nowhere. Just so those guys can sit around and feel rich. It's the cheapest mind control there is and you're the stooge. So go ahead, waste a life. Just so you know. It's irresponsible. And not just that, it's the cause of the problem. Yet nobody dares look at it, no one dares bring the cancer into the light. You know why? They're scared to. They're scared of you. Does that make you feel good? Yeah, I'll bet it does.
Hey, whatever happened to Enron Stadium? There's a real one for you. What a bunch of creeps. Well, guess what, wise guy. This is the planet of death. You people made it that way with your little games. Just one of the crowd. Too many wars. A lot of people died and for what. They died so you could have the freedom to act responsibly and do your part. So what are you doing with it? Sitting around blowing paycheck after paycheck on the slots? Wasting your time off watching someone else play a game? Hanging out at the watering hole staring at a swizzle stick all night? Yeah, go ahead. You don't care. Okay. So you're the bad guys. You always were and you always will be till the inevitable world dictator shuts you down. Someday. And he won't need uranium from Africa to do it. All he'll have to do is help out the global poor and the starving and they'll do anything for him. They already know you don't care.