No matter how foolish the actions of people may appear to others, those actions make perfect sense to the perpetrator, at least in the moment. Thus we routinely encounter what I choose to call strategic foolishness, the engagement in words and deeds which are viewed negatively by outside observers but which serve some personal strategy or just purpose in the mind of the one speaking and acting.
I have observed this concept of strategic foolishness set forth in a recent movie in which a main character explained how he managed to survive prison by acting more insane than those who threatened him with harm. He became mad to escape madness.
I also hear a similar explanation offered as justification for certain political posturing which is normally viewed as unbecoming. By implication what seems unjustifiable becomes proper if there is a higher purpose behind what is otherwise to be condemned. In a very real sense, strategic foolishness is a kindred term to necessary evil and a corollary to the expression “the end justifies the means”.
I guess the old expression” sly like a fox” is another way of suggesting that what appears self defeating is actually smart. It is thought that, by lulling the opponent to sleep by an apparent show of incompetence, that advantage can be gained in the struggle.
Of course, if there is such a thing as strategic foolishness, we can never know for sure that what we see as foolish is as foolish as we think. If it serves a purpose in the mind of the apparently foolish one, then for him or her it is far from foolish. By extension this means that actions which an outsider perceives as evil are not evil as far as the actor is concerned.
The very suggestion of strategic foolishness calls into question the whole idea that I can be the judge of another man or woman. If from the outside, I cannot differentiate between actions that are totally improper from those which may be justified as strategic foolishness or necessary evil, then I am incapable as a judge of others. Therefore, to set forth any one of these terms to explain and justify any actions, personal or political, is equivalent to denying the right of anyone to judge another.
For the religiously minded, the idea of strategic foolishness should come to mind in relationship to Jesus. No one before or since has proclaimed so much that seemed preposterous to the human mind, no matter its cultural or historical setting. For the most part the foolishness of Jesus has been completely ignored by those who propose to follow him. If the foolishness of Jesus had a strategy, as far as the average church member is concerned it is indiscernible. If there is any end to “loving like Jesus", it appears to be self annihilation.
Could the righteousness of Christ actually appear so absurd? What positive strategic end could possibly be served by meekness, humility, and non-violence? Why can we so readily accept humanly derived foolishness as sometimes wise and essential while the foolishness of the author and finisher of our faith is so readily dismissed as disastrous?