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Shall We Play 'Let's Pretend'?

When I was a child, in the absence of technological substitutions, it seemed a matter of natural course that my hours at play should be spent in recourse to my mind as the most fertile place in which to seek a source of entertainment.

Right up until my teens I would happily play games (for hours on end) that involved no more sophisticated a tool than what could be imagined. The mind is a wonderful thing! 

​Pretending seemed second nature, and it seemed that all of my playmates were endowed with a similar ability. We could interact in a make believe world with utmost compatibility, without difficulty or question. The rules were never hard to follow, and they never had to be spoken. We knew them implicitly.

​Realities could be created in an instant, and although they might be interrupted by the school bell, encroaching nighttime or inclement weather, we could resume our revelries and total immersion in the ‘other-worldly’ places we conjured, as soon as circumstances permitted. My memories (which I won’t bore you with) are quite specific and the details of those childhood games do not elude me, despite the fact that I have not indulged in such distracting activities for well over 40 years.

I would have to say that the games were not always completely harmless in their imaginings. Some involved a crossover into the realms of adult pursuits, reflecting what was seen on the media. Simulating 'War' or 'Cowboys and Indians' was always a favourite. Nonetheless, there was no real violence and in a harmless fantasy world, nobody ever got seriously hurt. And if things became too rambunctious or seemed to be threatening to get out of hand, some adult bystander would invariably make an intervention to bring us back to reality, reminding us that we could hurt ourselves, or worse, somebody else. Of course, we never thanked them for their enforced wisdom. They were killjoys and spoilsports. As soon as their backs were turned, the antics would recommence with a vengeance. It was all good fun.

It’s not in my nature to look back ruefully at what has been but is now no more. I well recognise that the apparently halcyon nature of my mind-play filled days appears wonderful in retrospect because of the escape these activities offered from a harsher reality. I do not venerate them or hanker after them. I do not dwell upon them. If they happen to surface in my consciousness for a moment, I observe them with a certain pleasure and a wry smile. I am comfortable to have moved on and to be exploring the world about us from a more realistic, if less pleasant, and infinitely more threatening standpoint.

In fact, I believe that if escapist tendencies were to have followed me into adulthood, if I drew a veil of make believe over what comes to pass in my life today, I would do untold damage to those around me, and even more to myself. Fortunately, neither I nor any of my playmates turned out to be dangerous psychopaths. Ultimately we could distinguish between what was pretend and what was real; what was right and what was wrong; what was harmless and what would be harmful. We did this simply by growing up. Ultimately you just instinctively know that playing ‘let’s pretend’ isn’t a reflection of the way the world is or should be. You become aware that fantasies can be harmful.

Yet it occurred to me today that although my ‘let’s pretend’ adventures have long since ceased, for countless others, the propensity for a modicum of self deception still exists. People actually need it to allow their personal perspective on life to become acceptable, even in their own minds. As I toyed with this thought, I began to see the game all around me, being played not by a few, but by billions of fully grown, mature adults all over the planet. The game is deceptively simple and I had to marvel at the apparent mind melding of the players in their all encompassing complicity. I guess the rules are not too hard to follow, and they never have to be spoken. People know them implicitly. The game goes like this:

Let’s pretend that because we can walk and talk and build things, that we’re the most important things on the planet.Let’s pretend that in fact, the lives of pretty much everything else that isn’t like us don’t matter two hoots.Let’s pretend that we have the right to take the lives of all other beings, if the fancy takes us.Let’s pretend that they don’t mind or care if we do that.Let’s pretend that they have no feelings or emotions or even a purpose to their lives other than to keep us happy.Let’s pretend that killing them won’t cause any heartbreak, misery, grief, pain, suffering, torture or agony.Let’s pretend that when we see pictures of suffering and slaughter that we had no part in causing it.Let’s pretend it’s totally not our fault.Let’s pretend that we only need to extend compassion to our own kind.Let’s pretend there are no repercussions for what we allow that will affect us.Let’s pretend that because everybody else is playing the game that it’s OK.Let’s pretend that anyone who isn’t playing the game is a killjoy and a spoil-sport.Let’s pretend that if we decided to stop playing, everybody else would still carry on, so we might as well carry on too!Let’s pretend we are powerless and can nothing about it.Let’s pretend that facts like “If I stopped playing between 70-90 animals per year would get to live” are made up to spoil the game.Let’s pretend that even though, deep down, we know the game is vile and wrong, it doesn’t really matter.Let’s pretend that it’s O.K. to play this game everyday.

Are you playing this game?

The game unnecessarily destroys billions of lives every year.

It’s time to stop pretending. It’s time to stop deceiving yourself. It’s time to stop playing. Now. Today.

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