Monday, June 7, 2021

Plague of Fools

We imagine that the greatest miseries in the world are created by villains.  But there is another group that causes most of the harm in our daily lives.  It is the bona fide, unadulterated, omnipresent asshole.  I'm sorry, that's vulgar.  Let's, for the purpose of this article, call them fools.  

You hear about a child getting hit by a car in front of his house.  Did a maniacally laughing villain come speeding down the road with the specific purpose of harming a child?  No, the child likely fell victim to a person who was texting while driving.  Yes, an asshole. . . um. . . I mean, a fool. 

Look at It's a Wonderful Life (1946).  The film's villain, a greedy banker named Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), spends years trying to take down the hero, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who manages Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.  But who is it that finally takes down Bailey?  It is his eccentric uncle, Billy.  A fool.  

Uncle Billy is in the bank to deposit $8,000 of the Building and Loan's money.  And how does Uncle Billy lose the money?  He should be giving his undivided attention to the important task at hand.  But he notices Potter entering the bank and he digresses to taunt the Bailey nemesis with news of his nephew receiving the Medal of Honor.  

What happens next is summarized on Wikipedia as follows:

. . . [Billy] unintentionally wraps the envelope of cash in Potter's newspaper and hands it to Potter. Potter finds the envelope but says nothing, while Billy cannot recall how he misplaced the cash. With a bank examiner reviewing the company's records, George realizes scandal and criminal charges will follow.
The point could be made that the man was punished for his foolish gloating.  Pride Goeth Before a Fall.  My sister, a former university controller, sees George Bailey as a fool for entrusting his incompetent uncle to stroll across town with fat envelope of cash.  

For every villain, there are of course dozens of enablers, which are another sort of fool.  Without the enabler, the villain could never execute their evil deeds.  Here we have Potter's caretaker (Frank Hagney) looking on silently as Potter steals Billy's cash.

So, to all the world's fools, I say, "Phooey!"  [Vulgarity was removed from this statement.]

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