Sojourner's Blog

June 20, 2011

The Americana Game

Filed under: Uncategorized — brucehartford @ 11:59 am

The Americana Game was created by SDS at San Francisco State in April of 1968 (the semester before the student strike for Third World studies) as a way of communicating our dystopian view of American society.

More Photos of Americana Game
Americana Game Schema and Plan
Americana Game article in The Movement newspaper.

Laying out the American Game

Laying Out the American Game

The game was laid out on the central lawn and composed of paths marked by lines of rope on the grass that players walked along. The lines were divided into segments of American life with “Choice” and “Chance” points directing people to different paths. Posted on each path were facts, photo collages, and hand-written commentary signs giving our jaundiced (and, yes, sometimes bitterly angry) view of that segment of life. The commentaries were not sophisticated or arcane political analyses, rather they were the political equivalent of leaflets. But unlike our typical flyers, they used sarcasm and humor instead of slogans and obscure jargon.

The game paths were:

  • Mainline: childhood to college to activism
  • Black/Latino (Ghetto)
  • Draft, Army, Vietnam
  • Working Class
  • Middle Class
  • Hippy/Artist
Students playing the American Game

Students Playing the Americana Game

We laid out the game early one morning, and in the two days it was up before the administration tore it down, hundred and hundreds of students played it — walking the lines and reading the signs. It generated a lot of comment and discussion.

Some students accused us of presenting an “unbalanced” view of society and failing to be “academically objective.” Charges to which we proudly pled guilty, citing the 1st Amendment right to express strong opinions, and then countering with the class and political biases of the supposedly impartial content of the courses we experienced every day at S.F. State.

But perhaps the most lasting effect was on ourselves within SDS — the result of the discussions, debates (okay, knock-down, drag-out arguments) that we went through planning the game, creating the content, and writing the commentary signs.

Americana Game Photos

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:56 am

Photos of the Americana Game by SDS
San Francisco State, 1968

Laying out the American Game

Laying Out the American Game

Students Playing the Americana Game

Students playing the American Game

Students Playing the Americana Game

Question Authority and You End Up in Jail

Americana Game Schema and Plan

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:53 am

AMERICANA GAME SCHEMATIC PLAN

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 1. Socialization.

Everyone starts at Mainline, Section 1. Our sardonic view of growing up in the 1950s and early 60s, the lies, myths, distortions, materialist values and corrupt politics.

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 2. High School.

Our view of high school from a point of view somewhat different from that of the school principal and PTA.

[CHANCE] RACE Flip a card to learn if you’re white, Black, or Latino.

* Congratulations! You’re white, continue up the Mainline.
* Congratulations! You’re Black/Latino. Take the Ghetto path.

[CHOICE #1] on the Mainline. Choose a path:

1. Continue up the Mainline to college.
2. Drop out and join the Working Class path (start at the sign with the green balloon).

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 3. College.

Our opinion of our college experience from a point of quite at odds with that of the administration — our critique of college life and the role that the university plays in society.

[CHOICE #2] on the Mainline. Choose a path:

1. Be a docile student. Follow the Career path to Middle-Class life.
2. Become a student rebel activist. Continue up the Mainline.
3. Fuck the whole thing. Take the Drop Out path.

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 4. Student Activism

Re-cap of recent political struggles on campus (anti-ROTC, demand for Third World studies, Vietnam & draft protests, student rights, etc). Police & arrests on campus, etc. Administration suppression of free speech & thought, etc. Critiques of liberal Democratic Party politics.

[CHOICE #3] on the Mainline. Choose a path:

1. Continue on as a post-college political activist/organizer
2. Reform the system from within. Cross-over to the Middle Class path.

MAINLINE PATH, SECTION 5. Activist/Organizer

[CHANCE] DRAFT. Now that you’re out of college and your student deferment has expired, flip a card to learn if you’ve been drafted.

* Greetings! Uncle Sam wants you. Go to the Induction Center. (Sign with the red balloon)
* Congrats! You escaped the draft! Continue on up the Mainline.

Life as a radical political activist/organizer. Triumphs and heartbreaks. Problems, choices and strategies.

[CHANCE] FATE.

* Sorry, you’ve been assassinated by the cops. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.
* Sorry, you’ve been falsely imprisoned. Go directly to jail.
* Lucky you! Continue on organizing and struggling.

Radical organizer/activist continued. Meetings, protests, building grass- roots political power.

BLACK/LATINO (GHETTO) PATH.

[CHANCE] DRAFT. Now that you’re 18 and out of high school, flip a card to learn if you’ve been drafted.

* Greetings! Uncle Sam wants you. Go to the Induction Center. (Sign with the red balloon)
* Congrats! You escaped the draft! Continue along the Ghetto line.

BLACK/LATINO (GHETTO) PATH, Section 1. Life in the Ghetto.

Life in the ghetto. Poverty. Racism and discrimination in employment & housing. Police repression. “Urban renewal” (AKA “Negro removal”). “Job training” programs leading directly to the Army.

[CHANCE] DRUGS.

* You’ve gotten hooked on smack. Turn down the Junkie path.
* You’ve avoided addiction/alcoholism, continue along the Ghetto line.

JUNKIE PATH. The “high life.”

Life as an addict — miserable and short. Where’s all this skag coming from anyway, and who’s getting rich? Effect on your family. Jail. No help or treatment for junkies or other society rejects. Death in an alley with a needle in your arm. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.

BLACK/LATINO (GHETTO) PATH, Section 2. Struggling for a better life.

Racism on the job, tokenism, last-hired-first-fired. Black/Latino in a white middle-class.

[CHOICE] Choose a path:

1. Affluence, acceptance, accommodation. Turn right down the Lackey Line.
2. Resistance & change. Turn left up the Resistance Line.

LACKEY PATH. Selling your soul for a home in the suburbs.

Becoming the “first of your race to …” Ahhh, the joys of power and affluence, leaving the old neighborhood (and family) behind (way behind). Life as an Oreo.

RESISTANCE PATH, SECTION 1. Struggling for change.

Fighting for justice, issues great and small. Cops. Repression. Urban uprisings.

[CHANCE] FATE.

* Sorry, you were killed by cops in a revolt. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.
* Sorry, you’ve been sentenced to 20 years. Go directly to jail.
* Lucky you! Continue struggling.

RESISTANCE PATH, SECTION 2. Building a better world.

Continuing the struggle. Community organizing, building political power. Victories and defeats large and small. La luta continua.

INDUCTION CENTER (Red balloon).

[CHOICE] Induction.

1. Step across the line. Continue up the Army line.
2. Refuse induction. Go directly to jail.

ARMY PATH, SECTION 1. Basic Training

The misery and abuse of basic training, and the political indoctrination and socialization that underlies it. “The spirit of the bayonet is to kill” (whoever we tell you to kill). Smedley Butler quote.

[CHANCE] ORDERS TO…

* You’ve been assigned to Europe. Take the Garrison path.
* Oh, goody! You’ve being sent to Vietnam. Continue ahead.

GARRISON PATH. You’re in the Army now.

Life in the service outside of Vietnam. The world-wide political-economic role of U.S. military. Maintaining the global corporate order.

Congratulations! You’ve served your country well (or at least the corporate rulers thereof) and gotten a “good” discharge. As a newly discharged veteran, we welcome you to life in the Unemployment line. Go to Choice #1 on the Working Class line (the sign with the green balloon).

ARMY PATH, SECTION 2. Vietnam.

Vietnam! Vietnam! Lies. War. Racism. Drugs. The politics behind the war. Our noble “allies.” Who dies, who gets rich.

[CHANCE] FATE.

* That boy on a bicycle turned out to be a young guerrilla with a grenade. You didn’t survive. Thanks for playing the Americana Game.

* That carelessly-aimed napalm bomb almost missed you. Proceed on ahead to the V.A. Hospital.

* Congratulations! You survived (at least physically). As a newly discharged veteran, we welcome you to life in the Unemployment line. Go to Choice #1 on the Working Class line (the sign with the green balloon).

ARMY PATH, SECTION 3. V.A. Hospital.

How the government really treats its wounded heroes.

WORKING CLASS PATH

(Note: “Working Class” & “Middle Class” were very generalized distinctions of income-level, workplace power, and overall life-style.)

Start at the sign with the green balloon, after passing Draft Chance or finishing Army service).

[CHOICE] #1 on the Working Class line. Work or don’t.

1. Get a job. Continue along the Working Class line.
2. Drop out. Turn down the Hippy Path.

WORKING CLASS PATH, SECTION 1.

Life as a blue-collar or service worker. Low wages, lack of dignity & respect, speed-up & layoffs. What’s this talk about a union, aren’t they all rackets run by gangsters and reds?

[CHOICE] #2 on the Working Class line.

1. Join the union & go on strike. Continue up the Working Class path.
2. Become a scab. Take the path to the right.

WORKING CLASS PATH, SECTION 2. On Strike.

Why strike? Life on the strike line. Scabs & cops. Trying to survive without an income. -The union bosses sell you out.

[CHOICE] #3 on the Working Class line.

1. Fight on against both corporate and union bosses. Continue up the Working Class path.
2. “You can’t fight City Hall.” Turn right down the AFL Line

WORKING CLASS PATH, SECTION 3. Defying the Bosses

Rank & file activism against both the corporate and union bosses. Organizing a caucus. Snitches & stool pigeons. Struggling for union democracy. Wildcat strike. A long hard road ahead.

SCAB LINE

Turning your back on your friends and co-workers for material rewards. Learning new words like “Schmuck.”

AFL LINE

Acquiescing and copping out. Feathering your own nest. Dead end, thanks for playing the Americana Game.

HIPPY PATH, Section 1. Turn on, tune in, drop out.

Life on the Streets in the Summer of Love. Who needs money when you have love and pot? Living free off the grid ain’t so easy. Life as a free-spirit artist/writer/performer. Now you know why they call them “pigs.” Hippy capitalism, dealing dope.

[CHOICE]

1. Continue down the Hippy path
2. Cross over to political resistance & organizing (blue balloon)

HIPPY PATH, Section 2. Coming Down is Such a Bummer

Syphilis and the Free Clinic. Love turns to violence at Altamont Pass. Uh- oh, you smoked all the pot you were supposed to sell on consignment, your dealer is going to be pissed.

[CHANCE]

* You were warned about sharing needles. Welcome to the Hepatitis ward.
* This urban scene’s a drag. Off to a commune in the country.

HIPPY PATH, Section 3. Country living, commune style.

Hey, bean sprouts or pot, this farm work is hard. What’s the difference between a collective committee and a boss? Parents/pastors/teachers tried to mind-fuck/control you — now that you’re free, you have a guru.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 1. Grinding out the Degree.

Student careerism, kissing the ass of the professor class. Don’t make waves. It’s not what you know but the contacts you cultivate. Student government as career enhancement.

[CHANCE] DRAFT. Oh, shit! You’ve graduated and your student deferment has expired, flip a card to learn if you’ve been drafted.

* Greetings! Uncle Sam wants you. Go to the Induction Center. (Sign with the red balloon)
* Congrats! You escaped the draft! Continue up the Middle Class line.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 2. Anesthetize, fit in, sell out.

A functionary in a gray flannel suit. Life in the suburbs, bland, boring, and banal. Building that career, conscience and creativity not required.

[CHOICE] Choose your poison.

1. Corporate manager. Take the money line.
2. Government service. Take the bureaucrat line.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 3. Corporate manager, the money line.

Money money money, self self self. Climbing the corporate ladder. Middle management.

MIDDLE CLASS PATH, Section 4. Government bureaucracy line.

A cog in the wheels of power, you turn and turn and turn without a care of what the machine is producing. Keep the trains running on time and you’ll be safe and secure (though not rich).

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