I have been reading a book of short story murder mysteries, and in The Man Who Liked Toys by Leslie Charteris, I read these words:
“I remember the manager of one of the biggest novelty manufacturers in the world telling me that the soundest test of any idea for a new toy was whether it would appeal to a middle-aged business man. It’s true, of course. It’s so true that it’s almost stopped being a joke—the father who plays with his little boy’s birthday presents so energetically that the little boy has to shove off and smoke papa’s pipe. Every middle-aged business man has that strain of childishness in him somewhere, because without it he would never want to spend his life gathering more paper millions than he can ever spend, and building up rickety castles of golden cards that are always ready to topple over and he built up again. It’s just a glorified kid’s game with a box of bricks. If all the mighty earth-shaking business men weren’t like that they could never have built up an economic system in which the fate of nations, all the hunger and happiness and achievement of the world, was locked up in bars of yellow tooth-stopping.”
What struck me about this (aside from a child smoking his father’s pipe and the words “yellow tooth-stopping” for gold fillings) was how surprisingly relevant this description is today even though it is now eighty-four years since this was written. This story was first published in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, but it could have been written yesterday.
In this passage, there is the assumption that a business person would be male, which is less true today than it was then, but still recognizable. When I look at pictures of boards of directors of businesses today, I still see mostly white men.
Does that notion of “building up rickety castles of golden cards” still apply? I suspect that it does. When I read the news every day, I see stories of politicians and business leaders making decisions that wind up negatively affecting thousands of ordinary working and middle-class people. Are they simply playing with toys at our expense? Do they view us as children who can be shoved aside? Is the fate of nations tied up in the wealth of the childlike powerful few? The answer to all those questions is, sadly, “Yes”.
That being the case, let’s all stop treating them as if they were somehow wiser, or better, or more mature than the rest of us. They clearly are not. They are just playing with expensive toys and shoving aside everyone over whom they have control. It’s time to remind them that the toys they are playing with are ours, and we want them back.
If they won’t give them back, there’s no point in pouting or whining or throwing a tantrum. They will ignore us. So, what can we do? We could go and tell mom (or whichever political party is currently in opposition), or we could just start a new game with different toys. Yes, I like that idea best.