Saturday, May 08, 2010

wouldn't let it lie

Lies. Everybody tells them. Everyone expects them. We can't handle the truth - we actually want people to tell us lies. We tell so many lies we even lie to ourselves. What's the biggest lie we tell? When we tell children: "You shouldn't tell lies."

What's the difference between the lies we accept and expect and the lies we despise? Some lies we tell to spare other people's feelings. But a lot of lies we think are sparing other people's feelings we're just telling because we can't be bothered to deal with other people's feelings. Other lies we might tell because we're "playing the game", or because "everyone does it", like lying on your CV or to the dole. But if you have to tell lies to get by, how come we tell kids not to tell lies. Shouldn't we be telling them: "fuck yeah tell lies, you're going to need the practice"?

Perhaps kids just naturally tell so many lies - since the human race is such a naturally duplicitous species - that when we tell them not to we're merely pruning an already abundant fruit bush of its most egregious branches. Perhaps the end result is a happy medium between our innate desire to lie continuously, about every possible aspect of our lives, and society's need for a certain level of honesty in order to function.

Of course what we really mean is: Don't tell me lies. Or at least don't tell me the sort of lies that I don't want to hear. Tell me no end of lies about how good-looking I am, or clever, or how much you liked my blog. And I'll tell you the same. And tell me lies to make it all easier, where to be honest I can't be bothered to hear the truth any more than you can be bothered to tell it. But not the sort of lie where I actually want to know the truth. Where the lie makes me worse off.

How do you tell the difference? This is actually a perfect example of the dilemma: I could say I knew, but I'd be lying. Maybe you want me to lie, to make thia blog post that much more interesting. Or maybe you want the 'truth', because you only want blog posts with well-verified factual information (in which case, what the hell are you doing here?). So now I don't know whether to tell you a lie about whether I know whether you should tell a lie. Are you going to take that lying down?

Then there's politics. Politicians routinely lie - think: I care about your concerns; I only want to serve the public; When I'm elected I will do this, this and this; We're all in it together; Whatever I do will be in the national interest, etc - and we expect nothing less. Consider a politician who tells the truth, if your imagination can stretch that far. It's not a story that gets off the first page. Not only do politicians lie to us, but we lie to them. For example, when we say we want politicians to be honest. Or when we say we want 'real' politicians, not slick media constructs.

We even lie to the pollsters. The polling firms have something called the Shy Tory Factor, where they bump up the Tory percentage because they think a lot of people are too ashamed to admit that they're going to vote Conservative. Now I don't know, but it strikes me that if you won't admit who you're going to vote for, even to a complete stranger who most likely doesn't care, or if you are in a party that people are too ashamed to admit to voting for, maybe you just need to take a good look at yourself. Lying to strangers is a particularly stupid form of lying, unless of course they're asking directions.

And let's not get started on how the land lies.