Play, Fun and Terrorism

I’m working on an upcoming project about the concept of ‘play.’ As I pour over research from non-profits and academics about this seemingly frivolous act (which is deceptively, evolutionarily deep), I’ve become absolutely fascinated at how imperative play is to the human condition.

Like everyone else, I was horrified by the terrorist attack in Paris last week. And, also like everyone else, I’ve been trying to figure out why. An article on Slate about why terrorists chose, of everywhere in Paris, the Bataclan, a restaurant and a soccer game between friendly rivals has intrigued me the most, including this sentence that sums up what I’ve been studying about play:

They targeted the young, multiethnic, bohemians of Paris, people who likely have limited resources of money and endless capacity for the enjoyment of life.

Endless capacity for the enjoyment of life.

In Seattle in 2006, a 27-year-old guy I’ll call K.H. emailed around to find out about local raves and dance parties. He found one and, after hanging out with new friends for a few weeks, attended an after-party (totally coincidentally, at the home of someone I used to date).

After hanging out at the house for a while, he went back to his car to arm himself. Then, he spray-painted the word ‘NOW’ on the sidewalk. Then, he walked up to his new friends, announced “There’s enough for everyone!” and shot seven people, killing five in what came to be known as the Capitol Hill Massacre. He then killed himself.

K.H. had written about being disgusted with the ravers’ lifestyle, especially their sexual freedom. In high school, he and his twin brother had been voted ‘least spirited.’ And he’d once been cited for destroying an art installation moose sculpture that was earmarked for charity.

Pure, unadulterated evil.
Pure, unadulterated evil.

I hate when politicians give that empty ‘They hate our freedom’ speech. That’s like saying ‘They hate our air’ or ‘They hate our soil.’ Give me more than that. Like anyone who’s not an expert, I have fuck-all idea what I’m talking about with terrorism, but I do know quite a bit about play and what the lack of it can do. I want to see a politician get up and say “They hate our freedom to be playful, have fun, go listen to tongue-in-cheek-named bands like The Eagles of Death Metal, eat dinner with friends, and feel joy, flow, or awe.”

The National Institute for Play agrees. Check out this blog post from 2014, which is quite literally entitled:

Play Deprivation … A Leading Indicator of Mass Murder

I do improv, standup, and comedy writing from time to time. Sometimes my colleagues fret about putting their talents into comedy writing instead of something more serious. I have told many friends to remember that we are very, very slowly helping rid the world of mass murderers.

When you try to search for the antonym of terrorist, you can’t find it. lists dozens of synonyms, but not a single antonym. lists 162 synonyms, 0 antonyms. The antonyms for terrorism are what you might expect: calm, peace, system, organization.

But I would add one for terrorist: a, um … player (?). One who has the capacity to enjoy life, or at the very least, doesn’t feel the need to murder people who do.