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Follies great and small
Dispatches from the People are Strange Department

I was at a community game night recently and got roped into a table of Dungeons & Dragons. Only the young dungeonmaster had D&D experience, and she was obviously having a blast while the rest of us were mystified at first and ultimately bored.

Knowing she just had to be a fan of the Netflix series, I asked her, “Have you watched Stranger Things?” (which is set in the 1980s and opens with Our Four Geeky Middle School Heroes engaged in a game of D&D, whose final move segues into related mayhem and mystery).

“I watched the first season and liked it a lot,” our gamemaster sniffed, “but now that it’s become so popular I don’t know that I’m going to watch season two.”

“It’s still great,” I shrugged. Inside I was laughing — partly at her proud geek snobbery, but mostly at myself. I flashed on all the times I thought I was ahead of the crowd, outside of the crowd, and hopefully better than the crowd — then dropped some interest like a hot rock when the crowd suddenly rushed in, ruined the thing and, demolished my outsider cool.

Some of us so much want to avoid being part of the crowd that we’d let the crowd dictate what personal pleasures we’re allowed to enjoy.


A few days later, an acquaintance told me about his remarkable near-death experience — after which he immediately quit smoking, got in shape, and dropped 50 pounds.

I gave him the kudos he deserved. But I also thought about the ND survivors who do the opposite. You and I might take near death as a warning to shape up (physically or spiritually or both). But apparently a significant minority of survivors will drink more, smoke more, eat worse, party harder, and generally do even more of whatever led them into trouble in the first place. Their reasoning: “I should be dead. This extra time is a freebie, and I’m going to take it to the max!”

Get extra life; use it for advanced self-destruction. I guess it makes sense to somebody.


A woman I knew got badly hurt in a phony tax avoidance scheme. Thereafter, she became a righteously feared scourge of every such schemer and scammer who dared show his face. With research, facts, and blistering rhetoric she shredded their claims.

Yet all the while, she continued to fall for every shady multi-level marketing scheme and baseless “prosperity” scam that dropped in front of her — and she tried to drag friends into them, too.

She could not see that they were the very same thing she was so vigorously and intelligently opposing.


The telegenic fraudster Uri Geller used to have an assistant who’d help him pull off his famous “authentic” psychokinetic deeds. One act of fakery I recall was the assistant walking down the street behind Geller and an interviewer, tossing spoons into the air so they’d “magically materialize” in front of his boss and the presumably dazzled and bamboozled third party.

I’m going by memory on this one, but the assistant eventually got so fed up that he revealed many details of the frauds in a tell-all. (Though amateur magician Johnny Carson, teamed in 1973 with professional magician James Randi, did the initial, well-deserved hit on Geller.)

But here’s the catch: Although the assistant knew Geller was a fraud, was privy to deep details of the fakery, and was even engaged in an expose — if he hadn’t been in on a particular trick himself, he still believed it was real telekinisis. In one case, he left Geller sleeping in an apartment and returned to find his employer “still sleeping.” But somehow a large potted plant had moved from inside the apartment to the hallway outside. Proof of true psychic power! It could only have been done by Geller’s amazing mind while he slept!

“Miraculous powers” are so strikingly trivial — and P.T. Barnum (or whoever really said that about the frequency of suckers) was so right.

Oh, and some people thought Carson and Randi’s beautiful debunking of Geller was “unfair” to the sensitive, magical soul. It didn’t hurt his career at all.


We are a remarkably strange species.

For folly, you could also point to the infamous folks who move from some statist hellhole to a freer place, then immediately start agitating for the very sort of laws, regulations, and enforcement practices that create statist hellholes.

That seems to be mostly ignorance — merely a common failure to connect cause with effect. But it sure is ignorance of most shockingly willful variety. And way beyond merely self-destructive.

And how about governments everywhere, whose promises and programs fail every time, but whose extravagant claims millions still fall for?

Then there’s “democratic socialism,” the Green New Deal, and oddest of all, Modern Monetary Theory. All as impossible as pink unicorns, all appealing to people in a position to know better.

Yep, we’re strange. And we so often seem to adopt our destructive strangeness on purpose.


I have nothing more to say about it than that. Just a humble, pocket-sized observation that humans are pure wonders of self-willed self-deception when they set their minds to the task. Which is a blatantly unoriginal statement, of course, but I thought these were interestingly diverse examples of the trait.

Maybe you whip-smart readers, will have something to add.


  1. Pat
    Pat June 11, 2019 4:30 am

    How about the libertarian who wants to live in a free society yet insists the LP is the most effective way to get there.

  2. E. Garrett Perry
    E. Garrett Perry June 11, 2019 6:58 am

    Sovereign Citizens/Freemen are my favourites. They insist that they’ve Cracked The Code of the vast, nigh-omnipotent Conspiracy which rules the Entire Planet and has assassinated every important figure from Abe Lincoln right through to Yitzak Yabin. Furthermore, that not only does their Super Secret Squirrel System For Billions Of Free Dollars and Total Freedom From Consequences -work- (which it doesn’t and never has), but that The Conspiracy has, is, and will continue to allow Sovereigns to exploit these “Kings X!” loopholes in The Code. They killed JFK in front of millions if these imbiciles are to be believed, but they leave Kletus (who also has papers claiming that he is Consul to St. Kitts, a Papal Knight Of St. John Of Malta, and the Clerk of the True Supreme Court) alive to spread his magic methods.


  3. david
    david June 11, 2019 7:15 am

    Self-willed self- deception is also a likely explanation for my consistent failures at choosing appropriate women for relationships. Ha!

  4. larryarnold
    larryarnold June 11, 2019 7:14 pm

    Unfortunately, the people you are describing are the reason all of us get spam and telemarketing calls.

  5. Top W Kone
    Top W Kone June 12, 2019 6:01 am

    I’ve been playing D&D since 79, and I understand the young DM’s excitement about the game with new players. I was that guy at one time.

    Like with anything you love and want to share with others, you can’t just force it down or dump a load of it at once. Little by little with lots of praise for the small steps they take. Correct the errors later and gently.

  6. Joel
    Joel June 12, 2019 6:54 am

    I’m always perplexed by “small government” conservatives who want the government out of their lives and hate democrats for being fascist totalitarians – but also have been stampeded into fearing illegal aliens so much that their only possible solution is to give the federal government 100% veto power over whether anyone is allowed to hold a job through things like eVerify.

  7. Noah Body
    Noah Body June 12, 2019 2:19 pm

    How about the naive anarchists who believe that only government can be evil, do bad things, cause problems, etc. If we just get rid of the government, we will be living in paradise.

    Just like the communists believe if they just get rid of capitalism, we will be living in paradise.

    Both camps ignore human nature, or think it can be changed if the right “ism” is in place.

    This is not directed at Claire, but to some of the idealists I have encountered.

  8. Robert Betts
    Robert Betts June 12, 2019 6:44 pm

    Bored with D&D! Sacrilege! 😉

  9. Noah Body
    Noah Body June 13, 2019 11:38 am

    And: Republicans who claim to believe in the free market . . . except when the local nuclear power plant is going to be shut down because it isn’t economically competitive in the marketplace. Then said Republicans propose bailout schemes which would stick it to taxpayers and ratepayers throughout the state, so their cash cow plant can still operate, thereby generating taxes to the local community.

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