How much do we truly value the truth? Sure we talk about it; we complain about it when we don’t get it; we have even gone to war over the idea of it and destroyed relationships over the lack of it, but do we really value the truth? Or, like much of our lives, is it just a false value, a mythical thing, a posit that while we are willing to use the lack of it to our own advantage, we never expect actually to apply it to ourselves.
How often have you been told or professed to others that you would not have gotten in trouble if you had just told the truth? Children hear this invective from their parents allthe time—starting at a very early age. “I won’t get mad if you get an “F” in hopscotch just as long as you tell me the truth!” Children learn early on that to follow this advice is simply a path to self-perpetuated disaster. They learn that while mom and dad may say that they want the truth while they are in the middle of being angry over the grade and the lie, it is still the bad grade that rules this equation.
The first time the poor kid follows this advice and comes clean, they learn the real truth: it’s the grade, not the lie, which got mom and dad upset, and the punishment is still the same. The truth they learn is that telling the truth changes naught. Once this happens, then little Mary or Johnny revert to obfuscation and equivocation. It is simply a survival instinct at work.
Thou shalt not lie! This is a phrase drilled into almost all of us from a very early age. Most often, those doing the drilling lie routinely multiple times a day. While we do not know that they, in fact, routinely lie at the time they are doing the drilling, that is one of the few truths we often discern very early.
We have created numerous gradations of lies to accommodate this dichotomy—some socially acceptable and others beyond the pale. The list includes nuanced measures of our prevarications like the little white lie, the “that’s in a bit of a grey area” lie, the shades of grey lie, the justifiable lie, the “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” lie, the naked lie, the self-serving lie, the heinous lie, and the whopper. But perhaps the most prevalent and seemingly acceptable of all is the “Politician’s Lie.”
No honey; your rear end does not look fat in that dress!
I have no idea what you’re talking about; I did not look at that woman with the big breasts!
Gee Boss; your one of the few people that really look great in those orange plaid golf shorts!
I swear; I know I sent that reply in e-mail before the deadline. I even turned on the read receipt thingy, but now I can’t seem to find it!
Day in and day out, we lie, and we rationalize all of these fabrications as just getting along, not hurting others needlessly, or protecting ourselves.
We all profess to draw a line in the gradation of prevarication, often at the point that a lie goes to foster personal gain. If asked, most of us will say that lying for personal gain is one of the worst kinds of perjurious behavior. We all agree and routinely make statements like this, yet we live our day-to-day lives evidencing little value for the truth. For example, we purchase products. Often the ones we buy the most are the ones with the most inventive lies attached to them. We have integrated the desire for consumer products into our existence so much that we incorporate the advertising lies into our belief systems. Warner-Lambert sold us Listerine based on lies for years. It took the federal government almost 100 years to get them to stop advertising it was a cure for the common cold.
We love being deceived so much; we constantly look for those products, services, and events that offer the most unbelievable claims. God forbid, if anyone exposes the lies to us—the happy consumers. We love these lies so much we may even get violent to preserve the myth. What? You don’t believe this? Go to a group of professional wrestling fans and tell them it’s fake! Just make sure you have on some fast shoes before you do!
If you still don’t believe this, consider politics. We so love the lies that bring us dreams of utopia, that we have developed a full-time occupation for people who we will handsomely reward just for lying to us. If we value the truth so much, why do we willingly acknowledge that all politicians lie? They do! We all know that they do! And, we often elect the ones that lie to us most often, and with the most outlandish lies. We have evolved an entire professional social class of people that we pay to lie to us.
And do you know who lies to us the most, with the most believable lies? Well, We do, of course! You see, we lie to ourselves most of all. We know much of what we hear is not true, yet we willingly believe it and often propagate the same falsehoods. Maybe we believe that if more people believe the same thing that I believe, it might become true. Or at least, I won’t be the only fool!
Just something for us all to consider as we prepare to vote the next time.