by David Norris 5/19/15
Lincoln was fond of asking, “If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” “Five!”, his audience would invariably respond. “The correct answer”, he would point out, “is four; calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg, calling lies truth doesn’t make them truth.”
There is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9
Why do we lie? This is neither a rhetorical or theoretical question. It has troubled my mentation since I was a boy, and still does to this day, now in my fifties.
My mother didn’t have a problem with me slipping up and making mistakes as a child, she knew what ‘little boys were made of’. Raising my brother and me alone brought that reality home on a daily basis. She would never condone lying though; her admonishment to “tell the truth and shame the devil” still rings in my ears. Being raised in the Catholic faith and attending parochial school drove this message home even further.[pullquote]…how much lying is a part of our daily lives. That we lie to the extent we do was surprising to me. There is a spectrum of lying.[/pullquote] Disregarding my own trail of lies and fabrications as a child, in my pre-teens, I began to notice inconsistencies in the things people said, especially adults, in particular my mother. It was if someone flipped a switch in me, and suddenly I was ‘gifted’ with the ability to recognize dishonesty. It was a subtle sensitivity at first, but later came more fully on-line when I reached high school.…“She’s lying…they’re lying”.
Once in high school most of the adults around me became suspect and could not be trusted. I could understand why so many of my peers lashed out against ‘the man’, and talked about revolution and bringing down ‘the establishment’. Some wore berets, and shouted slogans and put up posters. Others went to secret meetings and spouted ideology. It never crossed my naïve mind that my peers and I were being misled, just by a different set of adults, with a different set of lies.
Conveniently during this period, I continued to avoid examining my own deceptions and prevarications.
When I reached my thirties, I had the good fortune of meeting a mentor who exceeded my passion for knowledge and the pursuit of understanding. I entered into a period of deep study which included an examination of world history and human civilization, as well as a deeper scrutiny of myself. As we peeled back the layers of time, and the layers of self, I realized that much of what I thought I knew about humankind in general and myself in particular was no more than assorted presumptions and opinions.
In many ways, the history of humanity is a history of lying. I had not realized, until examining my own behavior, how much lying is a part of our daily lives. That we lie to the extent we do was surprising to me. There is a spectrum of lying. Sometimes we will lie reflexively about innocuous things unnecessarily because it is our habit, while other times we boldly wield falsehoods like poisons used to corrupt, and swords used to conquer.
The more I sought out the truth, the more was revealed in layer upon layer of lies. I began to appreciate what my mentor had said, that without a certain level of maturity, intelligence, and self-awareness, many cannot handle truth.
There are at least 40 words in the English language that describe lying.
Lying rivals baseball as our national past-time. Not to say that the United States holds a monopoly on deceitfulness. One needs only look to Russia and China, as two prime examples of leaders in lying. Clearly we are not the only nation on earth that practices the art of subterfuge. However, the U.S. has certainly created a particular refinement of dishonesty; here we call it the industries of advertising and marketing. Those in politics and government make use of these ‘technologies’ on a daily basis.
The most damaging and heinous lies we tell, are those we tell to ourselves.
Recently I heard a story about a local high school choir that was putting on an original opera written by their director. At the last minute the show was postponed from its premiere. Apparently one person (who some say carried a grudge against members of the choir) called an organization by the name of “Americans United” to complain that the opera had (Christian) religious themes in it.
Seeing as this organization’s mission was to ‘protect the population’ from any infringement of the separation between church and state, it contacted the school systems administration and threatened them with a law suit if the opera was performed at the school.
The more I read about it, the more upset I became. I found it ironic that one of the hot-button issues in American schools these days is ‘bullying’, and in this case a group of local school kids were being bullied by a national organization. The spineless high school administrator that was tasked with protecting them, eventually kow-towed to the Washington bully, “grateful to them” for having allowed for a ‘compromise’. This national organization is lying through its manipulative re-interpretation of the second amendment, and upon examination shows ties to the communist party revealing its true agenda. The high school bureaucrat also lied by trying to spin this as some kind of ‘victory’ for the school. How come this case of bullying and lying isn’t making national headlines?
I wonder what the kids involved think about all this? I know many of their parents and members of the community are really upset. Are the kids looking at us adults thinking, “these adults don’t have our backs, they can’t be trusted”? Is a cycle repeating itself?
Humans are social creatures that seek to organize themselves. They organize under various schools of thought, ideologies, economies, cultural traditions, religions, and charismatic personalities….tribes basically. Each one believing it is special and important. We are insecure creatures and often organize out of fear….”what will happen if…”? We need to feel right, feel superior, feel safe and secure.
The current government, so-called left wing progressives (a.k.a. : marxists, socialists, communists), is the trending ideology, they are the ‘tribe’ on the move, the “ones to watch”. They do not see themselves as destroyers or corrupters, but rather as saviors. They passionately believe in their mission. Unfortunately, no matter what their best intentions may have been, they are only paving a utopian road to hell by becoming that which they sought to get rid of….bullies and liars.
We do not see in our impassioned zealotry; that we are behaving just like those we railed against growing up as rebellious teens.
We have become the new bullies. And our children, if they are paying attention, are witnessing us behave this way.
We lie to protect, to win, to control, to be safe and secure, to continue holding on to our belief systems. We lie to keep our opinions and assumptions together, and to protect our previous scores of lies. We lie because we are afraid. We lie to survive.
Is much of humanities thrashing about over which way is the ‘right way’ to follow, ultimately just about that, survival, and nothing more?
With all our important sounding words and noble ideals, are we just fooling ourselves?
Is there nothing new under the Sun? • (1622 views)