For years I’ve been trying to find a science fiction story I read a long, long time ago which describes the contemporary situation in Western civilization. And now, thanks to a helpful reader, I can tell you about it.
The story was written by the great Philip K. Dick, who has managed to become famous posthumously for his books made into films — Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report — without people understanding his genius. War Game was published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine’s December 1959 issue.
Now, tell me if you think Dick predicted his future, our present.
Here’s the plot: The aliens on Ganymede want to invade and conquer the Earth. They have a clever plan for softening up the target. The main character, an Earth Customs Service investigator, is called in for an important assignment.
Ganymede, his superior tells him, wants to export three toys to earth. According to Earth Intelligence, one of them — they don’t know which — is a deadly weapon. But Earth people are crazy for Ganymede novelties so the political pressure is on to import anything that isn’t threatening. The investigator’s assignment is to discover which toy is the dangerous one.
Most of the story is about his trying to figure out the answer. One toy is a virtual reality set — pretty clever of Dick to imagine that in 1959 — so that a child can wear goggles and equipment to believe, for example, that he’s a cowboy.
The second toy is a set of toy soldiers and a castle. The soldiers advance carefully and eventually capture the castle, and it is transformed into something else.
The final toy is a board game, like Monopoly. The investigator seems to dismiss it as the suspect weapon pretty quickly.
Finally, he concludes that the castle with the toy soldiers transforms itself into a bomb. He recommends that this is the subversive toy that should be banned. He’s congratulated on a good job done and the other two toys are imported by Earth.
At the story’s end, a few months later, the investigator comes home to find his family playing the Ganymede board game. Everyone loves it; the game has become a best-seller.
The problem is that the way to win the game is by going bankrupt. The worse the trades you make, the better you do in the game. And so his kids are indoctrinated into failing, into the belief that it is a good idea to give away a lot for very little in return. Ganymede is planning to bankrupt the Earth through indoctrination and easily take it over.
So the moral is that the ultimate threat is not military — the toy soldiers — but ideological.
How does this story parallel the contemporary West’s situation? Do you have to ask? Because Americans and Europeans are being indoctrinated to think that the weaker, less religious and patriotic, more deeply in debt, and wallowing in guilt their societies are, the better. The first one to go bankrupt — in every sense of the word — wins.