April Fool's Day
According to Wikipedia "April Fools' Day or April Fool's Day (sometimes called All Fools' Day) is an annual celebration commemorated on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April Fools". It appears to be a pan-european custom, with many countries having a broadly similar tradition of playing pranks of creating bogus events. However, little is known about the origins of April Fools and what was its initial historical or social meaning. April Fool’s Day is another tradition that has been subsumed into the mainstream over time. Today various websites, TV stations and newspapers will be churning out faux stories and photoshopped pictures in an attempt to be amusing and join in the "fun". All to varying degrees of success. It can be seen as either mildly amusing or yet another example of the Pavlovian, emotional push button culture that we live in these days. Organised "fun" run by big business, which is soulless, aimed at the lowest common denominator and often achieving the opposite of what is seeks to do.
Many of the traditions that we maintain as a society, began with honest intentions. Such things as public holidays, religious observance or the simple celebration of a group or ideal are prime examples of this. Inevitably the meaning of many of these traditions can become diluted over time. They can become exercises in marketing or tedious institutions perpetuated by those with an agenda. For me April Fool's Day is the embodiment of this concept. An exquisitely unfunny ritual that is inflicted upon us by those who don't realise (or care) that the activity is totally arbitrary. Furthermore, if you criticise it or point out its short comings you are frequently derided. “Don’t you have a sense of humour?” or “why are you being such a kill joy?” But these are pointless deflectionary statements that fail to address legitimate complaint. Sadly such rhetorical tactics are common place these days.
From my perspective, fun, humour and laughter are organic things. I hate the concept of organised corporate fun. That it is something to be martialled and stage managed by self-appointed arbiters. However, one can argue that if you don’t like the hoaxes and false headlines that will no doubts be widespread today, simply limit your online activity. Ultimately, this sort of low-level April Fool’s “japery” is not the main problem. You can argue that it contributes to the infantilization of society and lowers the cultural bar, but it is not alone in doing that. No, what really concerns and infuriates me is that in various offices, schools and other institutions today, people will be using the bogus cover of April Fool’s to “prank” colleagues. And by “prank”, I mean bully, humiliate and just generally harm someone else for their own amusement. In my thirty-year working career, I’ve seen this happen numerous times. Usually in all male environments. It may start with hiding possessions or sabotaging equipment; things designed to inconvenience or confuse. But I’ve also seen people tied to a window pole with roller towel and left.
I despise, loath and abhor "prank culture". It is founded upon psychological torture and bullying, but disingenuously tries to justify itself by usurping the cultural acceptance of humour. The go to mantra of prank perpetrators that "it's just a joke" is an utter lie. Something arbitrarily trotted out to justify being cruel to someone. Any alleged "humorous" endeavour that seeks to take away someone's dignity, holds them up to ridicule or make them feel small is patently not a joke. It is simply recreational spite. Humour, wit and satire are powerful tools and in an unequal society should be used to punch up and not down. Pranking of the type I’ve described can also have a more sinister dimension. It can be motivated by prejudice and bigotry and therefore weaponised. In the case of the individual who was mummified with roller towel, they were ultimately targeted because they were a Jehovah’s Witness.
We live in an age where if someone’s experience does not correlate with our own, there is a tendency to be dismissive of it. I’m sure there are those who will say “I like don’t mind the website hoaxes and the funny news headlines. I’ve never seen or been on the receiving end of an unpleasant prank”. The erroneous conclusion is that I’m over reacting or simply trying to be some sort of “fun police”. But the reality is there are people who have dreaded the approach of April 1st for several weeks now, because they know that someone is planning to mess with them. Conversely there are also appalling people who have been counting down the days to this point in time, because it provides them with a semi-legitimate excuse to persecute someone for their own personal pleasure. April Fool’s Day is frankly one tradition I’d quite happily like to see wither on the vine. It has out lived any usefulness it ever had and is now just a liability.