home Tlönistas, Volumen 4, Volumen 4 - Número 6 [4.6-26] How low can you go? | Janine Berger

[4.6-26] How low can you go? | Janine Berger

By Janine Berger





It is November 7th, and I have reluctantly torn myself away from all social media and news services to write this piece as my dear neighbors to the south prepare to elect the next leader of the so-called “free world”. God, I hope they make the right choice.

Of course, soon it will be our turn here…February is just around the corner, folks.

This particular U.S. election cycle, in addition to providing me with the best reality TV I’ve ever seen, got me thinking a lot about the values that I try to teach my students and my own daughter.

On the one hand, we want the next generation to grow up having the courage of their convictions, to know how to stand and fight for what they believe in.

On the other hand, at this university especially, we pride ourselves on teaching respect for the inherent humanity in each other.

This can be difficult to reconcile. How do you respect someone you are sure is a dangerous, immoral idiot? Pick any topic: bullfighting, racism, abortion, Palestine, football, vegetarianism…how do you really feel about the people on the other side of those fences? I have found myself blocking people who disagree with me on social media because I couldn’t stand the endless, pointless arguments.

This is, of course, the real danger. If you surround yourself only with people who see things the way you do, you end up in a giant echo chamber circulating brilliantly witty insults against the other side that the other side will never see. This is not tolerance and healthy debate, this is meaningless cheerleading. And it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be, what a university education is about.

That’s how I came to realize the real point of the Trump/Clinton debates and rallies many of us watched or read about: on the surface, the aim seemed to be for each candidate to present their positions and push their message, hopefully to swing undecided voters their way. But the real point was to drive home as many insults against the other candidate as possible in an arena where the other side would actually listen, and the real winner was whoever did it best.

As a teacher and as a mother, and as a human being, I find that disgusting.

As a game designer, I found it inspiring.

Michelle Obama, in reference to morally correct election campaign behaviour, promised “if they go low, we go high”, they being the opposition, we being the apparent standard bearers for common decency.

So this game is called HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? and it can work for any elections in any country.


You’ll need as many players as there are major candidates, so if you wanted to play the U.S. version, you’d need someone to play Trump and someone to play Clinton. You would also need someone to play the moderator and you would need an audience. Each “candidate” would need to prepare by finding 20 direct quotes related to their political platform.

Game play:

Candidates take turns to present their platforms. Each candidate may have 30 seconds for opening remarks. On each subsequent turn, each candidate must find a way to use a minimum of one quote every 15 seconds, otherwise the moderator cuts them off and the turn passes to the other candidate. The game is over when one of the candidates has used up all of their quotes. There are no points for achieving this.


Points are awarded by the audience during the debate on the number and quality of insults the candidates direct at their opponent, and these points are what determine the “winner” of the debate by the end of the game.

Final note

This game is more of a thought experiment than an actual game because it isn’t meant to be really played. It’s just a way to think past the showmanship and the hype and think about the issues. Notice how the points in game are awarded ironically and have nothing whatsoever to do with the serious business of politics. Yet this is exactly how social media seems to operate. And it’s true everywhere, not just in the US.

Wherever you are, whatever your beliefs, think before you vote.

Post script

It is now the day after… Donald J. Trump is about to become the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world. It may seem like the politics of division have won.

But I have hope and I have faith. We must continue teaching, and learning, and above all, playing, because despite our differences, this is how we experience and share our deepest humanity.



Foto: File:2016 presidential debate at WikiConference North America 2016.jpg (tomada de: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2016_presidential_debate_at_WikiConference_North_America_2016.jpg)

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