Nobody likes to play the fool

I’m convinced that dogs know something humans don’t. They must. And I’m not referring to the animal’s “sixth sense” that scientists say we as human beings lost thousands of years ago during different phases of evolution. No, I’m referring to a dog’s ability to manipulate its owner, using a waggly tail, brown eyes and floppy ears to get its way.

My dog and I have developed a routine. Every day, when I get home from work, she waddles down the stairs and out the front door for outside play time. She’s fed at seven o’clock and goes for a walk at eight before her second wind of play at nine o’clock and then she passes out on the living room floor by ten.

When I got home the other day, she greeted me at the door with a toy in her mouth, expecting me to take her outside; she stared at a still empty food bowl just before seven, expecting me to feed her; and she sat next to the front door at eight because she expected me to take her for a walk. Sure, this could just be a habitual routine on her part but another thought crossed my mind ... maybe I work for her. All this time, I thought I was in control, but maybe I’m wrong and I’ve just been gullible enough to think that I’m calling all the shots.

My little self-revelation got me thinking just how often people are duped into believing that they have the upper hand when if fact, they’ve been disillusioned or misinformed, and not always by a lovable set of big brown eyes and a fluffy butt, as is the case with man’s best friend.

The 19th century American showman, entertainer, and scam artist P.T. Barnum is often credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Unfortunately, despite the advances science and technology since Barnham’s day, not much has changed in the way of human behavior. We’ve all been fooled into doing something we never though we would do, going places we never wanted to go, watching movies that we would be embarrassed to be seen watching, and buying things we don’t need but are convinced that we can’t live without – the list goes on and on and each time we succumb to our own impulse, it becomes just one more thing to add to a long list of regret.

The truth is, Barnum was a genius. Like my dog, he could play on people’s emotions, believing that people should serve him and he never gave without taking first (I didn’t say he was a sensitive genius). When he passed away, I think his new found sense of how to best use manipulative propaganda stuck around. The problem is nobody likes to play the fool, and there’s a big difference between manipulation and persuasion. Anyone who’s seen a 60-second TV infomercial selling something as stupid as “citykitty,” the toilet training program for cats, can attest that Barnham’s spirit of manipulation – telling people what they want to hear – is still very much alive and well (I’ve seen citykitty advertised more than once, so that manipulative sales pitch must be working for some people).

Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of the Barnham philosophy, the tactic of disillusionment by telling people only what they want to hear, at a local level with the hydraulic fracturing debate in Chenango County. Manipulative propaganda certainly exists on both sides of the fracking argument, and some pro and anti frackers are not hesitating to use it to prove their point.

People are naturally gullible. They can be deceived, tricked, and ultimately, persuaded into believing the most outrageous things, even convinced that they’re winning when they’re really losing. Just a little food for thought.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunshawn.

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