Making assumptions is a very human activity.
A friend of mine was a good tennis player. He accepted an invitation to a social occasion where he met an attractive young woman who also enjoyed playing tennis. She agreed to his suggestion that they play a game. Once the game started, he realised that he was not going to be, as he thought, the one to impress. Afterwards she told him she had been playing at Wimbledon the week before.
Mike was head of our Art Department. Carol, a member of his department, brought her husband Paul to a staff do. Mike got talking to him and found that he liked cricket. “Bring a team from your place and play our staff. We’ll see if you’re any good.” The next day Mike remarked to Carol that Paul seemed keen on cricket. “Yes”, said Carol, “He played for Pakistan!”
Mildly embarrassing for those involved.
This week sees the start of the latest Homeless Football World Cup. Interviewed in the Big Issue, Co-founder Mel Young describes how, back in 2003 when he was waiting for the first Homeless World Cup to begin, he heard a noise and realised it was applause for a Dutch team of footballers making their way down to the pitch from their accommodation.
“Something very profound had happened because the day before these people are being spat on in the street. Or the media is talking about them as if they’re the reason for the collapse of the country’s GDP or whatever. As if they’re all evil. All that’s happened is we’ve created a football pitch, put soccer tops on them and the whole place is applauding them. It’s the same person, we just changed the backdrop.”
And it’s the backdrop that creates our assumptions.