OPINION

John Malouff: Foolish actions can have life-changing consequences

Jacob Anthony Chansley, centre, an Arizona man, was one of those arrested for the storming of the US Capitol building in Washington. Picture: AP
Jacob Anthony Chansley, centre, an Arizona man, was one of those arrested for the storming of the US Capitol building in Washington. Picture: AP

People can be dopes. If you stormed a capitol with a murderous mob would you livestream yourself? Various Americans did in the Capitol insurrection. They are facing job loss, huge legal fees, and years in prison.

If you murdered someone, would you write a novel in which you describe exactly how you committed the murder? Krystian Bala did.

Bala murdered a merchant he thought was having an affair with Bala's wife. The police had no good clues, no suspect.

Three years later, Bala wrote his first novel, Amok, in which he described how he committed the murder.

At about the same time the police uncovered a few physical clues pointing to Bala. He is now in prison. The book was later made into a movie, so don't criticise him too much.

If you worked as an arson investigator and you enjoyed setting fires yourself, would you argue with the lead investigators about the cause of a deadly fire you had set? John Orr did - he insisted the fire was caused by arson. Suspicion fell on him and his uncanny ability in prior cases to identify how fires had started. Evidence then came by the bushel. He now is in prison.

You may have read about burglars who left their wallet with ID at the crime scene. Have you read about burglars who died when they tried to squeeze down a chimney and did not make it?

Criminals are not the only ones who do dumb things.

Biologist Richard Dawkins once asked an applicant for admission to Oxford to estimate how many generations they would have to go back to find a common ancestor.

She looked him up and down and replied: "Back to the apes." She did not gain admission.

I once was driving a long way to see my parents, and a music cassette got stuck in the player.

As I struggled to get it out, while driving at high speed, the road curved left.

I kept going straight. I looked up and saw a light-reflector pole directly ahead. I turned the wheel left and braked.

My car struck the pole and spun into the oncoming lane. If there had been a car coming, I would not be around now.

I bet you have done foolish things at times. It is hard to avoid making mistakes, especially when we do something new - like storming a national capitol.

As Erasmus said in his classic In Praise of Folly, no one is wise all the time.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story Our foolish actions can have devastating consequences first appeared on The Canberra Times.