Why Do We Fool Others?

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Why Do We Fool Others?

If you have the guts, enjoy April Fools’ Day by fooling yourself, says

Dr. Ali Khwaja

The old proverb says “You can fool some people all the time, all the people for some time, but not all the people all the time.” Indian politicians have proven the saying wrong !

It starts with our need to gossip, talk uncharitably about others who are not present, seek security in numbers when many others are also gossiping. Gossip is used as a means to cover our own faults and short-comings. Many of us enjoy jokes at others’ expense, when we know that the same thing would not at all be funny if it happened to us. We relish pointing fingers in absentia, exaggerating, passing on from one ear to another. When this becomes an obsession, we become restless either when we know there is some gossip that has not reached us, or in the desire to quickly pass it on to someone else when we hear about it.

Thinking, and trying to convince ourselves, that the other person is a fool, is an indirect way of boosting our own self-esteem. The underlying message is that “I would never do such a thing” or “I will never put myself in such a situation.” But this feeling does not last, and we need to keep reinforcing it periodically by putting down others or cracking jokes at their expense.

Sometimes we like to fool those who we know well, at other times we do it to complete strangers. In the earlier case it is often to get even, or one-up on someone we feel is better than us, or is getting a better deal in life than us. The latter case is an indication of trying to get vicarious pleasure, hurting someone who has never done anything to us, or getting a thrill out of seeing someone embarrassed or hurt. Sometimes we fool others to gain a better position for ourselves, sometimes we do it “just for kicks”. And funnily, the dividing line between these is not very finite. But one thing I am convinced about is that it is a habit which becomes an obsession if not controlled.

Another reason why we fool each other is because most of us are gullible enough to be fooled. The day after the Japan nuclear disaster, sms were floating all over the place that radiation is hitting Bangalore, and we should not go out if it rains. Basic human logic says that it is impossible – if Bangalore is hit by radiation, then one-third of the world is gone. The funny part is that instead of verifying with knowledgeable experts, we kept forwarding the sms to others, creating panic and anxiety. An interesting fact is that we get easily fooled when we are part of big crowd, believing that “everyone cannot be a fool.” And tricksters often take advantage of it. How many “blade companies” have fooled investors only through numbers!

Sense of Humour is often measured as the capacity of a person to laugh at himself. Instead of trying to put down others, gossip, take advantage of weaknesses, if we focus on our own selves, use others to learn (even from their mistakes) we can create a wonderful world around us. If you can allow yourself to be made a fool or the butt of jokes, if you can take life lightly even when others seem to be putting you down, then you have proven to the Fools that you are definitely not one.

Perhaps the most common reason why we fool others is to prove to others (and more so to ourselves) that “I am not a fool – because I can fool others.” Isn’t that the most foolish logic? Life is good, let us laugh WITH others, not AT others

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