Delusions of Grandeur - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Delusions of Grandeur


So, let’s start with my hands. They’re ordinary hands. I can pour orange juice, make my wife a waffle, start my car, shave, do a part of my swimming with my hands. I am just a mortal with that set of hands.

But in a drawer near my bed is a revolver. With that piece of metal in my hands, I am a god. I can stretch out my hands and point that piece of metal and squeeze another piece of metal — and I’m become the god of death. If I stretch out my naked hands towards someone and curl my right index finger, it just looks stupid and it is stupid.

But if I have a gun in my hands and it’s loaded and I make the same gesture, I can take a man’s life effortlessly. Think of the power that gives me, if only in my imagination. I’m no longer a mere weak mortal with that gun. I’m Superman.

Why on earth would I — or any other gun owner — want to give up that feeling? Why would I want someone to cast a vote somewhere to demote me from deity to mortal?

So, as I was thinking about this, a horrifying thought splashed over my brain. Yes, having that pistol makes me feel powerful. But what must it feel like to command an entire army? To deploy rockets and spacecraft and nuclear weapons and eradicate entire planets? What must it feel like to have unlimited machine guns and ammo and take on alien beings and blow them to pieces?

But that’s entirely the feeling that gamers have when they play their video games. This was borne in upon me with stunning power just this afternoon, this blazing hot, staggeringly hot Monday, as I was walking into Pavilions, my neighborhood market. Sitting on a ledge in front of the store were the two nerdiest nerds you ever saw in your life: total losers, goofy, pitiful losers.

But what were they doing? On their smartphones, they were playing video games from which came an endless chorus of explosions, louder explosions, screams, and grunts of triumph. Yes, these two sad sacks were in their own imaginary world — as powerful as Stalin or Mao Tse-tung or Curtis LeMay on their phones. They were destroyers of worlds. They were as mighty as Genghis Khan. No. Mightier than that by far.

More than 170 million Americans play video games. Thirty-three percent of American men play them regularly. These people are being fed the most massive delusions imaginable. Many of these people are capable, hard working men and women. But many of them are still in their mom’s basement or hanging out at the mall doing zilch.

And why should they do otherwise? Why would they want to flip burgers or drive for Lyft or rake leaves when they could be Masters of the Universe?

We are teaching tens of millions of our kids — or allowing them to teach themselves — that they are omnipotent gods, when they are basically schlemiels. I don’t see what good can possibly come of a whole generation thus divorced from reality, effort, discipline, risk and reward, and adult responsibility.

Of course, there are a few gamers who make a living and a business from their games. More power to ’em. But they are rare birds indeed. For most of them, it’s just about avoiding reality. That is not going to turn out well for them or the nation. Nations are built on work — not on running from truth. The truth is that life is not single player shoot ’em ups or space creatures or capturing planets. Reality is a messy, difficult time-consuming slog for most people, with occasional glimpses of glory. It involves toil, tears, and sweat. That’s not the world those kids at Pavilions were in. Why would they be if they can avoid it? Or, to put it another way, how are you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Grand Theft Auto?

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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