Monday, 13 August 2012

Angels of Confidence and Demons of Doubt

I’m sure that I must have mentioned my old acquaintance the Doubt Demon before. In case I haven’t, I’m going to quote from something that I wrote a while ago. It’s actually aimed at parents of school age children, but the principle holds good , I think : -
Meet the Confidence Angel and the Doubt Demon

Cast your mind back to when you were a kid yourself and you used to watch Tom and Jerry cartoons. If you missed out on this wonderful experience I can only offer you my sympathy. In several of the cartoons Tom or Jerry – let’s say Tom for the sake of argument - would be presented with a moral dilemma. At this moment two tiny figures would pop up on either of his shoulders. On one shoulder would be a little Tom complete with white nightie, harp, wings and halo. This figure would urge Tom to do the right thing. On the other shoulder would be an equally tiny Tom, this one in a red devil suit complete with forked tail, horns and pitchfork. This one would urge doing him to do the opposite. Inevitably Tom would choose to go along with the devil, with hilariously disastrous consequences.

Now you’ve got this picture in your head, I want you to imagine that there are two tiny figures sitting on your children’s shoulders. The angel is our Confidence Angel. This one tells your children that they are brilliant, fantastic, that they can cope with anything that school and life throws at them. The devil is the Doubt Demon. The Doubt Demon is constantly wearing your children down, whispering to them that they are useless, a failure and an embarrassment to everyone concerned. And just as happens in the cartoons, the Doubt Demon is a lot louder, a lot more insistent, and a lot easier for your kids to listen to than the Confidence Angel. And just as disastrous too- although there’s nothing funny about it.

As with kids, also with quizzers. Case in point. It was my last quiz before Spain last night, and yes, we scraped home by a point, but the fact is that it shouldn’t have been quite that close. The Doubt Demon got to me. Now, in the past I’ve mentioned what I immodestly describe as Clark’s Taxonomy of Questions. As you’ll remember all questions can be divided into 4 broad categories, namely
The questions you know that you know
The questions you know that you don’t know
The questions you don’t know that you know
The questions you don’t know that you don’t know

Now, as I’m sure you know, the first two categories present you with no problems. You’ll never get the first sort wrong, and any points you get for the second type are a bonus, because you don’t know them. However the third category is very fertile soil for the Doubt Demon to sow his evil seeds.

We were asked a question something along the lines of
The Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship is the setting for which satirical TV show ?
Now, I knew that we weren’t dealing with “Yes Minister” as that’s Administrative Affairs. I had a vision of something about a government spin doctor, and I was sure Pete Capaldi was in it. True enough, but could I remember the name ? No. I came up with the name Spin City, but couldn’t remember where the hell that name had come from. OK, now, just about 30 seconds before handing over time the title “The Thick of It” popped into my mind. At which point the Doubt Demon popped up on my shoulder and said ,
”Oh, so you’re going to change your first answer, are you ? That’s a bit brave, isn’t it ? Going to feel stupid if you cross out a correct answer, aren’t you ? Don’t you think you’re better off leaving it there ? “ The upshot of which is that I didn’t write down The Thick of It – the correct answer. Never actually having seen The Thick of It doesn’t actually make it any better, since it would have been an even better answer had I written it down, for exactly the same reason. Mind you, I did cross out a correct answer and replaced it with a wrong answer in the second half, just to even things up, as it were. Still, at least in the TV themes music round I managed to spot the original opening theme music to “Auf Weidersehen Pet.” The more famous “That’s Living Alright” was actually used over the end credits.

I’ll miss the Sunday quiz for the next couple of weeks, but there we are, one has to make sacrifices sometimes.

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