Recently walking through a huge Casino in Macau one phrase kept popping into my head “Adult Disneyland = Social Scientists Lab“. For the obtuse symbolism of false wealth was so overpowering, particularly in it’s contrast with the lack of happiness shown by many spending their time, money and spirit within. So many questions:
- are people really duped into thinking that this is luxury ?
- do people redesign their self identity so that they feel successful because they are in this casino ?
- why the obsessive displays of real, and artificial, wealth ?
- is the human spirit so diminished that people can only realise happiness through materialism ?
Now, it could be argued that it’s only the people who visit the vast casinos who have become wealth worshippers, if that were true then it would still apply to a huge number of people in Macau, Vegas etc every year. However, I think much of this post can also be applied to shopping malls (people have a day out at the mall, other forms of gambling such as horse racing, and all those who list their goal in life as ‘being rich’).
To borrow some themes from Baudrillard’s work:
These casinos are about transforming the imagination into virtual reality. Human imagination is a wonderful thing, to be nourished and valued. Virtual Reality however, it could be argued is a constraint on the human imagination as it takes the imagination and makes it an artificial simulation of reality. (Let’s talk about hyper-reality later).
Macau is a fascinating place for the wandering psychologist, anthropologist or postmodernist sociologist. In Macau the authorities have knocked down old ‘authentic’ favelas and replaced them with a new synthetic attractions: the plastic volcanoe, next to the moorish village, next to the venetian street. Despite having wonderfully international authentic historical architecture (Portugese & Chinese old buildings) this reality is deemed better replaced by the fabricated illusions of the plastic Colosseum and volcano. The hyper-real replaces the real.