Cheating/Shortcuts Junta, Tuesday, December 4th

Next Tuesday the Junta will gather at DOC Wine Bar in Williamsburg to discuss the myriad ways shortcuts and cheating are a part of our lives.

We’ve all read about the sports scandals involving prominent athletes that have used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Lance Armstrong is but the latest superstar to fall from grace, but it seems like we haven’t been able to go a few months without a scandal in the last decade or so. PEDs have affected nearly every sport and their stories are often more nuanced than the outrage we feel at an athlete who may have inspired us and turned out to be a cheater. Lance Armstrong’s legacy of deceit will be intertwined with his LiveStrong Foundation, which has done a lot for cancer research and awareness. In the same way, herculean sluggers like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds may have sullied the hallowed record books of the national pastime, but their home-run chase may have been responsible for revitalizing baseball after the ugly strike of 1994.

Who amongst us hasn’t used an ambien or something similar to go to sleep? PEDs have permeated society in a way that is hard to get away from. Are we all hypocrites for expecting our athletes to avoid the temptation to find an edge when the stakes are so high while we blithely pop anti-depressants and seek a variety of stimulants to get us through the day? Where is the line drawn? There is also an argument in all of this about regulators and who is ultimately responsible—the athlete or a league that must enforce vigorous testing scandals. Does anyone believe that we as a society can truly police ourselves?

One Junta regular has been thinking about other aspects of how short-cuts are increasingly commonplace in our society. He is thinking in particular about gambling, specifically the poker craze, and how it represents a shift away from the idea that wealth and success is a result of work, that there is a long path leading to the goal of wealth. America is veering away from a nation of workers, and the poker craze, and more generally the growth of gambling, may be somehow symptomatic of that shift, a side effect of the move from a primary to a tertiary economy.

We’ve gone from Rockefeller to the Instagram billionaires. The long, work-focused path to wealth is disappearing, and the real American dream in the 21st century is not building an industrial empire but selling an idea for a quick fortune. There’s some link to instant gratification here, just as there is with cheating. Getting the result you want, now, without all the messy, tiring work. The mantra of today’s banker is “I’ll be gone” as he/she puts together esoteric financial products that no one can understand. It’s similar to the question mentioned above with sports—how can we achieve the right balance of regulation? Ethics and the law are different things.

There are other aspects of cheating/shortcuts we look forward to talking about, such as the growing movement towards legalizing marijuana (many of us may applaud the end of this prohibition style criminalization, but is it a shortcut to fiscal solvency for states and municipalities that have run out of options or can’t make hard decisions about their finances?) and the growing trend in schools and colleges of rampant cheating, abetted by technology.

We’re looking forward to your views on these rapidly evolving and particularly modern subjects.

Tues, Dec. 4th, 8pm. DOC Wine Bar is located at 83 N 7th St, Williamsburg, and accepts cash and AMEX only. All are welcome to join the discussion.

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