Tuesday, 1 April 2014


For something a little different this week, I am have transcribed a newspaper article just as it appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser in 1950 – No jokes, no fooling around, this is legit.

The first day of April has long been known as 'All Fools' Day.' It was a time when practical jokes were
often enacted at the cost of credulous and unsuspecting persons. They were sent on vain errands, disturbed by false alarms) and lured to imaginary appointments. These practical jokes were almost always childish* and sometimes cruel. There is a perverse strain in human nature which finds satisfaction in seeing other people in ridiculous and humiliating situations. The satisfaction is all the greater if the victims be individuals who, by reason of their age and dignity, are normally in a position of superiority. The downfall of a portly and pompous-old gentleman excites a mirth not aroused when asimilar experience happens to a small boy. Perhaps it is good that the mere vanities of place and power should be periodically exposed to ridicule. A lively sense of humour is a great asset to any person or any people. If the Germans had possessed it, they would surely have never permitted the rise of Hitler!
Laughter is often the best answer to the pretensions of an inflated egotism. Sometimes, However, laughter may have a less commendable significance. St. Jude's epistle criticises those who' rail at dignities.' This exactly describes what may be described as the 'low-brow' attitude to life. People unable to appreciate the beauties of nature, art and literature,the achievements of science and the high concerns of philosophy and religion, are often disposed to mock at what is above and beyond them. They compensate for their own inferiority by 'de-bunking' the values in which they are themselves deficient. They measure the scope of reality by the poor yard-stick of their capacity for understanding. If they cannot gain equality with their 'betters' by raising themselves up, they seek to do it by pulling the others down. Any sort of greatness is an offence to mediocrity. This, it is to be feared, is the psychological explanation of much of the false 'egalitarianism' so prevalent today, not least in Australia. People are hindered from being and doing their best for fear of the ridicule of those who are meanly contented to dwell on lower levels of character and achievement While it maybe good to laugh at fools, it is altogether bad to laugh with them. 'The laughter of fools is as the crackling of thorns under a pot.'

This is well illustrated by recalling the origin of the 'All Fools' Day' observances. In the Middle Ages the season of Passion-ride was marked by the performance of open-air dramas or Tnirade plays in which the Saviour's sufferings were depicted for the benefit of those whose illiteracy prevented them from reading the Gospel narratives. Christ was led to Annas, then from Annas to Caiaphas, then from Caiaphas to Pilate, then from Pilate to Herod and back again. ' At every stage of this dolorous pilgrimage, His kingly claims were heartlessly parodied. It seems that ill-conditioned persons profanely reproduced this mock cry, but did so at the expense of friends and neighbours . Such doings were first popular in France, where, the victims were called 'poissons d'Avril' or 'April-fish.' Later these celebrations spread to other countries until they became general throughout Christendom. It is indeed curious that behaviour of this kind should have had a religious origin, but so it was. The fact that 'All Fools' Day' is not much noticed in Australia may well be a matter for congratulation. The good humour which sees the funny side of things and lightens life's burden with seemly jests was nevermore needed, but the ill humour which draws amusement from the exploitation of stupid credulity is at bottom anti-social and therefore to be avoided by all who want to leave the world a little better than they found it.

© 2014 Allen Tiller

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