Thursday, April 02, 2015

More Fool Me

I am a big fan of April Fool's day. Every year I try catch a few people out. My Dad tells me he has set an alarm to avoid communicating with me on the day. I had to use the fact that I was well outside his time zone to make an attempt this year. 

So, yesterday's post about the Global Passport wasn't true. All the links were to real articles though and I am a strong believer that borders are silly. Sometimes our intuitions fail us. We think people will steal jobs. We point to anecdotes about foreigners doing bad stuff as if locals are angels. We base our view of the world on stories we encounter rather than stepping back and looking at the evidence. Very few of us are natural statisticians. We tend to think our experience represents reality more than it does.

This is changing though in the same way as it is becoming harder and harder to play April Fool's jokes. Most of my friends have cottoned on to me, but even my shoo-ins are getting savvier. In order to catch people now, I have to tell them something they really want to believe so that they ignore all the other evidence to the contrary. That is because life now comes with comments.

When I was at university, the guys and girls had separate (that is another debate for another time) residences on either side of the now infamous UCT Rhodes statue. We shared a dining hall though. One April Fool's I woke up early having made a very official looking announcement which I pinned to the doors. The notice read that from the end of the week the guys would no longer be eating with the ladies. We had let the team down in terms of behaviour, and until we could, as a group, behave like gentlemen, we would be eating by ourselves. Hook. Line. Sinker.

The doors of Smuts Hall, UCT

I waited till 12pm, as is the rule, to let people know that it wasn't true and to allow some very upset varsity students to reclaim their happy place. Nowadays you can't do that. Just one person needs to add a comment to burst the bubble. A simple '1 April?' and the game is up.

This is true of April Fools, and it is true of politics, and it is true of bigotry. It becomes harder and harder to hide from billions of eyes and frictionless communication. It means the only way we can be fooled is by believing things we want to believe. Since if we step back, open our eyes, and listen - the world will move forward.
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