Date Posted: November 2, 2011
Print Edition: October 26, 2011
Our history professors have given us a billion reasons why Rome fell, ranging from mass lead poisoning to moral decay. Now I’m going to give you the one reason why the West will fall, so that one day, when you are huddled in a lice-infested bath tub, chewing your last piece of dog tendon, and hoping the Wi-Fi tribe doesn’t sacrifice you before their cruel god (an iPad on a stick), you can remember that I saw it all coming.
Not that anybody will listen. I’m always giving helpful advice to people, who generally don’t take it, only to, generally, have bad things happen to them. Take Maximus from the Roman documentary Gladiator. I’m always telling him things like “You see that narcissistic, incestuous, scumball over there? The one named after a common bathroom fixture, Commodus? Yeah? Stab him.” But no matter how many times I tell him, Maximus never listens to me, and inevitably, he dies at the end of the movie. I’ve taken to trying to stab Commodus myself, which I suspect is why my friends have stopped inviting me over for movie nights.
But anyway, I was about to tell you the reason that you will die hairless, alone, and possibly radioactive. The reason why I would not suggest you invest in bonds or RESPs for your children’s future. Instead I advise you to buy a nice car (as I did recently), several tons of canned goods, and an automatic firearm. Because Rome* is about to fall, and the reason?
Now I realize some of you are skeptical, but let me explain. Here in the West, everybody under 30 has played Super Mario and survived the Bowser/Bridge Over Troubled Lava part, just as everyone over 30 has gone to Catholic school and survived the Cold War. Obviously, just as Catholic school instilled the over 30 crowd with a fear of nuns, and the Cold War taught them existential paranoia, Super Mario has left its mark on the new generation. This mark is not (surprise!) very positive because Super Mario happens to the product of a Japanese company called Nintendo which used to be heavily into the love hotel industry before it decided to focus on mustached plumbers. What is a love hotel you ask? Well it’s a special place where a man and a woman… do things like the Romans used to do a lot back in Rome, which is possibly why they didn’t notice the barbarians coming in 410 B.C. until they (the barbarians) had already sacked the city.
There are no love hotels in Super Mario, at least as far as I can tell. What there are a lot of, though, are talking mushrooms, magic carpets and winged turtles, all things that make me wonder what exactly Nintendo serves on the beverage cart at its offices. Also, the game strongly implies that a common plumber can save the world and carry on a public relationship with a princess, which is, I believe, in direct violation of the capitalist class structure as defined by Karl Marx**
But the real problem I have with Super Mario (especially Super Mario 64) is that Mario can do pretty much whatever he wants and there aren’t any consequences. He jumps off cliffs, he sets himself on fire, he is constantly trespassing in Bowser’s castle and jumping in pipes which apparently lead to alternate dimensions, and yet the absolutely worst thing that happens to him is he has to restart the level. The under-30 crowd has totally absorbed this lesson, and they are now busy applying it. They’re out there right now, building powerful and possibly sociopathic supercomputers, letting Michael Bay direct movies about children’s toys, even wearing sweater vests in public. “Hang the consequence!” they say, “There’s not even a level to restart!” Which is true because in real life if you step on a pipe outside your front door and a giant carnivorous plant springs out and eats you, you don’t restart the level, you just die, and then the plant eats your loved ones, and your pets, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who visit every Tuesday.
But the under-30 crowd doesn’t get this, especially because in Super Mario if Mario ever gets stuck in a truly dire situation – his little plumber butt against the wall with dozens of angry turtles closing in – he pulls a simple trick. He just starts grabbing coins, and before you know it he’s got a couple extra lives. All of a sudden, even if the turtles do manage to send our favourite plumber to the big toilet in the sky, he’ll respawn better off than before! Do you realize what this has taught us impressionable under-30s?
Yes, of course you do. The supreme important lesson we gleaned from Super Mario is this: “Money is God.” We know that if we get enough coin, the turtles can’t even touch us, heck, they might even join up once they realize how much more we’ll pay than Bowser! Plus, in Super Mario 64 coins actually restore health, if you can believe it. “I’ll cure your lung cancer for 10,000 coins,” is something we under-thirties someday expect to hear doctors tell us, “otherwise you’ll have to restart the level.”
As you can see, this is the end of society as we know it. I thought I’d warn you, although really it’s far too late in the process for you to actual stop anything. Myself, I think I’m going to go try Nintendo’s new Super Mario Galaxy game, in which Mario not only collects coins and defeats turtles, but also manipulates the laws of gravity to do his bidding. Or perhaps I should just take another stab at Commodus, so to speak, and try to preserve what’s left of my tenuous grip on reality.
*A city of great depravity, incomprehensible sports, and beautiful, exotic women, which is exactly how terrorists view the West. Coincidence? Ha!
**Famous for his hit movie, Class Wars: Return of the Proletariat.