Had a lovely weekend break a while back, visiting parents ahead of a birthday and Mother's Day. We stayed in Harrogate, significantly reducing the average age... The change of routine gives you an opportunity to read and to watch things late in the evening that you wouldn't normally get to see. 'The Bank Job' for example. It prompted this blog.
The 'grand finale' involved two people who collectively had won £100,000. This is divided equally between them and placed in two attache cases, one each. Each of the finalists is also given a second attache case full of newspaper cut into the form of bank notes. An attache case of 'cash' and an attache case of 'trash'. Each finalist then has a minute or so to persuade the other to hand over th attache case of cash. Of course, if both follow through on an agreement to give the other the case of cash, both win - they each go home with £50,000. But what if one reneges? What if one, in good faith, hands over their case of cash, but the other dishonestly gives their case full of trash? Then the cheat has both their case of cash plus their fellow finalist's case of cash. In the last 'grand final' both finalists cheated on the other and neither went away with any of the money...
Anyway, the one we saw featured a guy called Scott who one the way to this grand-final had won £198,000. As far as it's possible to tell on such shows, he seemed a pleasant bloke. He was generous in victory, modest and honest about his luck. His co-finalist was Stacey, who really was lucky to be in the 'grand final'. As the best runner-up in the series, she had never won any of the qualifying events. In the first two rounds of the final, she scraped through. It was classic, British under-dog fare and everyone it seemed was very happy that they both made it to the final showdown in the grand final.
How would they behave? Scott made the case simply. 'Let's both do what's right, I'm going to give you my cash, you do the same, then in two minutes time we can both be celebrating and leave with the money and our integrity'. Stacey agreed, Scott said 'look me in the eyes and promise that you're going to do this'. Stacey said 'I'm going to do it'. Drum roll, countdown, the two finalists point to the case they are going to hand over. The cases are placed in front of them and in a synchronised burst of opening, the contents of each is revealed. Scott has given Stacey his £50,000. Stacey has given Scott a case full of newspaper. The crowd cheer. As the noise dies down Stacey says 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I had to do it, you had already won all that money'. Scott replies 'I'm glad you won some money, but you should have kept your word'. Stacey left £100,000 richer, but with a bankrupt character. Scott it seemed left richer than if he had won a million....
A game show predicated on greed to increase viewing figures, ensuring higher profits for the production company. Advertisers willing to pay a premium to have their products associated with it so more people will buy their goods increasing their profits.
But let's not be totally anti-Stacey... Scott had already won £198,000. He could have said 'Stacey, I've heard a bit of your background. I've already won a life-changing amount of money. I'll give you my cash - give me your trash. I'll spare you from that temptation, go ahead and do it with my permission and blessing'
We took Janet's mum to lunch at a carvery for an early Mother's Day treat... I got stuck behind someone who kept trying to balance the extra roast potato on top of the pyramid of food that he could barely carry... when he'd finally done that, he drowned the food in every type of gravy there was. Didn't want to miss out on anything. He'd paid for it, he was going to take it - even if he then left half of it on his plate at the end....
Made me think. This blog was written in the season of Lent. A time when traditionally we like to prove that we are in control of our animal instincts. We can give up that chocolate, that TV programme, the internet. In doing so we demonstrate that we are more than an evolved collection of uncontrollable urges. Yet on this simple weekend, the evidence suggests that we are not. Dawkins and Darwin were right after all.
As Stacey screwed Scott the crowd cheered. As greed kicked integrity into touch, the crowd cheered. As Pilate condemned Jesus, the crowd cheered.
When we exercise self-control, when we refuse to be animals, heaven cheers. Which crowd's applause are you listening to?