About 35 years ago, I was walking towards home with some friends, one of whom was an older lady with a heart condition. I spied another friend hiding in the bushes up ahead. Knowing her, I realized she was preparing to leap out of the bush to scare my older friend. I realized it was intended to be a prank, but also realized that she was not aware of the older lady's heart problem. Fearing that her heart might not withstand the momentary fright, I made a split-second decision to diffuse the prank by greeting my friend loudly in the bush. I was not inclined to presume that the prank would have been harmless; any momentary "jollies" from the prank simply wasn't worth the risk.
Up until that moment I myself had been somewhat of a prankster, but afterwards never again pulled another prank. That incident was a learning experience for me. I pondered just what was entailed in the execution of a prank. Usually it involves one or more people deciding that they will contrive a situation that provokes a desired emotional reaction in another person (or maybe several people are targeted). Usually the desired emotional reaction is one of discomfort to the targeted person(s): humiliation, fright, frustration, disorientation, anger, etc. The goal is invariably the amusement of those perpetrating the prank. I've often heard it described as "one person toying with another person". That actually says quite a lot about the prank - and its underlying immorality.
People are not toys. They are human beings, created in the image and likeness of God and deserve to be treated with dignity at all times. That means that they are never to be manipulated, let alone for mere amusement: not even for "just a few moments". It is the epitome of arrogance to presume to tinker with someone's emotions, often not caring about them and what they may be enduring in their lives at the time pranksters target them. And yes, I include myself in that accusation for things I did when I was younger and a lot more stupid. I can only thank Our Lord that when I was pulling pranks, social media had not yet been invented for now pranks are memorialized for all to see whenever they want, motivating pranksters all the more. Another downside to the internet medium is that anyone taking issue with the prank is met with all sorts of venom.
Here is a video of a father pulling a prank on his toddler daughter. Needless to say she has no choice in the matter but she's young enough - now - not to realize what's happening. I do direct your attention to the comments posted thereon. A few of us voiced objection to the video. Notice how we are pounced upon with a great deal of vituperation. We are told we have "serious issues" and need "personality transplants" all because we didn't join all the chortling. But they all "love" the puzzled expressions on the child's face; in other words, her disorientation was "cute" but those of us who sympathized with the child were scorned. Perhaps it's because we spoke too much truth to consciences and/or we didn't go along with the prescribed "group-think".
Here's another. Here we have the perpetrators impersonating police officers and actually getting into the cars of the victims. What right did they have to pull the people over and interrupt their lives even if just for ten minutes? Yes, they did show the folks who laughed at it; did they apologize to those who weren't charmed by the waste of their time? As far as the police impersonation goes, that's bad enough (last time I checked it was a crime to impersonate a police officer). I sincerely hope that those weren't real police officers engaged in that nonsense for that would be an unconscionable misappropriation of citizens' tax dollars.
Then there's this. Actors impersonating elderly people are crossing the street with the deliberate intent of hindering cars and frustrating their drivers. Obstruction of traffic is a crime for very good reason. As I said (and my friends agreed) there is no justification for treating the drivers as so many toys to be prodded for their reactions. Those conducting the prank obviously didn't consider that the drivers might need to be about their business, nor did they give a damn. They just had to get their internet fame and yocks, no matter the impact on other people.
As I said in the first three paragraphs, I no longer believe that participation in pranks is morally acceptable. Those perpetrating the pranks are failing, even refusing, to treat their targets with the respect and charity that is due to them as human beings. It doesn't matter that the prank may last only a few minutes. No one has the right to toy with another person, especially for mere amusement.
I offer this as food for thought.
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