A Monetized Sense of Meaning
Watched first episode of The Squid Game on Netflix; surprisingly worthwhile, somehow banks on the success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019). Main character is Seong Gi-hun, chauffeur and gambling addict who participates in a mysterious game in hope of overcoming his financial burdens. You can see him, penniless, downtrodden, struggling to spend a dignified moment with his daughter, desperate to earn the trust of mother and community, his gambling addiction fed by a helpless desire to put a quick end to his misery.
However dramatized, Seong’s troubled relationship with money seemed relatable. In a world of monetized interactions, money translates into efficacy at making things happen. Ability to produce cash, we have made it so our sense of self-worth is informed by it. A monetized sense of personal efficacy, monetary value as a monetized sense of meaning. With efficacy monetized, the game changes; goal becomes trying to obtain cash with least burden. Optimization. Arbitrage. Burden-free cash generation, holy grail in the monetized world.
Mid-episode, a mysterious man in a suit presents Seong a strange opportunity: Play a quick game of ddakji, get 100,000 KRW (~85 USD) each time you win, be slapped on the face each time you lose. Cash in hand, a smiling Seong emerges from the game, his face red and soar from countless slapping. Money can make the most ridiculous things seem meaningful. A false sense of meaning.