Chicken: a Dangerous Game
By Bart Vogelzang

First encountered as a child, “Chicken” is a game that tests one’s resolve and courage, to be rewarded by bragging rights, or punished by ignominy. Whilst a seemingly innocent game, there are sometimes extremely dangerous consequences if it turns out that both parties have equal amounts of courage and resolve to win. Depending on the specifics of the ‘game’, there can be a loss of life if neither side gives way.

There have been instances of kids cutting themselves by throwing knives at each other, maiming and killing each other as their bikes collide violently in kamikaze-like attacks, and even innocent people getting hurt as cars explode into each other on public highways. So what is the reason for these ‘games’?

In most instances it is simply a matter of the drive for social acceptance, or, more accurately, social dominance. The ‘winner’ feels they have the right to brag and be known as courageous and therefore somehow ‘virtuous’, with the loser, the person who ‘gives way’, being seen as not only a coward, but a completely vanquished inferior. Sadly, these displays of aggressive action completely ignore the reality of the situation, and that is the inherent dangers of the game itself. To have any validity in the eyes of the beholders, there needs to be extreme danger, and that danger needs to then be ignored or discounted by the participants. They do that, and much to their great dismay, they die in their stupid quest to be the dominant. The very act of taking those risks shows they are rather more primitive than refined, and more unthinking than a modern responsible person really should be. However, that is one of the things we repeatedly encounter as we age to maturity; with all the attendant painful lessons, should we survive them, making us more discreet in the challenges we decide to accept.

Sometimes though, “Chicken” comes along, not from a need for social dominance but because of direct and opposite opinions held by those involved. Both sides are completely ‘right’ in their opinions, as far as each is concerned, and neither side is willing to give way. Even though the consequences of not giving way may well be at least as catastrophic as the fiery crash of two cars on a public roadway in busy downtown, each party wants to dominate and push their own ‘correct’ idea to the very edge of destruction of each. Even though both parties can see that their actions in playing ‘chicken’ could possibly end in complete disaster for everyone, they continue. Why?

Sadly, the pushing of this envelope is a throwback to the old chicken games played as we grew up. It is so ingrained in us that caving in will label us as ‘wrong’, and also a ‘coward’ and totally inferior, that we simply cannot stop the headlong heedless charge to oblivion. What is needed from at least one side is that allowing the crash of the courageous titans is not only the worst possible scenario, but understanding that the person NOT stepping back from the brink of disaster is the more primitive being, one who is willing to risk the destruction of everything and all for that possible moment of emotional glory.

The truly advanced and responsible person will make the decision for the greater good, knowing that even worse than allowing the ‘other side’ to win, is sacrificing everything and everyone. It takes a big person, indeed a huge person, to step away, knowing that they are going to be castigated and demeaned, albeit unjustly, by all those other primitives who cannot see beyond their immediate emotional needs.