Monday, July 10, 2017

Pants on Fire....

Someone said recently that we're living in a 'post fact' world.  That sounds suspiciously like they want it to be okay that lying has become so common that it is now acceptable.

I don't buy it for one second.

So, let's take a look at why telling the truth is not only not obsolete, but one of the key factors in keeping a civil society civil.  For starters, there is our legal system that would become meaningless and unable to function if we no longer have any distinction between truth and falsehood.  When a witness is about to testify in a civil or criminal proceeding, they are required to stipulate under oath that they are about to, "....tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth."  So, imagine if this morphed into something like, "Do you swear to tell the truth only when it is convenient and causes you no difficulty whatsoever, so help you God?"

The entire system breaks down.  Once we embrace the idea that 'truth' is a relative concept, no longer anchored in 'reality', whatever that is, we have no firm ground to establish guilt or innocence, culpability or exoneration.

Here's an example from the real world: a few years ago, my step-son and I were riding motorcycles on a beautiful October day, not far from home.  A sub-contractor was re-building that particular road and had set-up a construction zone.  We knew this and were riding accordingly. As the crew tore-up the original road, into baseball sized chunks of rubble, they created a situation wherein we rode into a 'booby trap'.  The requisite "PAVEMENT ENDS" sign was missing, and the rubble zone began on a curve at the top of a hill.  By the time we could see what was in front of was too late to even slow down and we were only going about 30-35mph,

Long story, short: I crashed.  I was injured and my motorcycle was totaled.  Two years passed before the inevitable law suit came to court, and when a local police officer was asked, under oath, about the absence of the 'PAVEMENT ENDS",  he answered, "I don't recall."  In fact, I had angrily confronted him at the scene with the question: "Where the hell was the 'Pavement Ends' sign?"  But, now he was lying because it served his purpose. Maybe the contractor got to him, or maybe he just didn't want to be known as having taken the side of an 'outsider' against a local business.  I will never know why he lied, but at that moment the case was lost. Truth and, ultimately, justice took a back seat to self-preservation and self-interest that day. Apparently, the fact that this officer of the law was giving sworn testimony meant very little.  He had already given himself permission to lie.

And now we are entering a period in American history where some people, including the president of the United States, want us to believe that this is the new normal. If it suits your own interests, lying is okay, even necessary. The moral imperative to tell the truth has been retired, and, let's be honest, it was just for boy scouts and suckers anyhow, right?  Personal and professional integrity is now an endangered species.

If we are to accept this idea, we are leaving firm ground behind permanently and venturing out onto a vast peat-bog of unknown hazards.  Peat-bogs are famously treacherous and a person can step on a thin spot and go right through, perhaps even disappear completely and not be able to find their way back to the surface. Glub!

But, lying becoming widely accepted as a practice has much, much wider and darker implications than just those for the legal world.  Start to imagine what the overall quality of life becomes when you can no longer trust what anybody says.  Is it even possible to have a society remain livable when trust is gone?  Your doctor could feel justified in lying because he/she just doesn't want to be the bearer of terrible news....or because he/she should have seen the tiny indications of cancer on your imaging results, and knows it was an oversight, i.e. a litigable mistake.

How about relationships?  There has always been a degree of lying between spouses and partners, but it has also always been considered low-life behavior.  So, is it okay now?  Husbands and wives can just lie their asses off and feel fine about it?  This doesn't sound like a solid foundation for any kind of marriage, friendship, partnership or professional relationship.  Once trust is set aside and we have a feeling of not quite trusting anybody or anything we're told.....what is left? It makes me queasy just thinking about living that way.

We are already living in a society that seemingly causes depression. And, that is actually not a very controversial statement.

"From 1999 to 2012 the percentage of Americans on antidepressants increased from 6.8% to 13%, according to a report published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)". And a larger number of children are taking them every year. If you look at what people are dealing with on a daily basis, your reaction might be similar to mine: "Little wonder."  In a country that once prided itself on having inspired ideals and was the gold standard of Freedom, we now have an over-abundance of hatred, venomous invective directed at fellow Americans, much of it racially and socio-economically inspired.  It is becoming more difficult to identify anything one might call 'the meaning of life'.  For many Americans life has indeed become depressing, and stressful. There are many causes of this national malaise, but that is for another day.

And, now we're being pummeled with the idea that we don't need to know 'facts', that we should just accept that because some self-interested Donald Trump...says something, it must be true.

Well, I'm not buying it, and I hope you won't either. A lie is still A LIE. And, invariably, lies are told in order to deceive, and to gain some kind of advantage by that deception. Trump wants us to believe that Russia had nothing to do with his getting elected because it's going to be a big problem for him that they did. So, he lies. It's the easy way forward. And, he has appointed lots of people who are willing to lie for him....about almost anything you can name: health care, taxes, jobs, terrorists, inauguration crowd-size, three million fraudulent voters  and on and on. He lies because that is all he knows how to do. He's been doing it all of his business life and apparently doesn't see the harm in it. If you believe him, he's won. And a large segment of Americans do believe him. And, many of them know he's lying but accept that is just what you have to do to be effective against those who tell a different story.

 For people who accept that lying is a viable strategy for 'getting ahead', or thwarting the opposition, life is not and never was a morality play. It is a reality-tv contest, a lot like Survivor, and you do what you need to do to win.  When Boston Rob was called to task by a fellow contestant who trusted him and was then back-stabbed by him, Boston Rob's response was, "Hey, we're playin' for a million bucks up here."  Lying, cheating, back-stabbing are all okay if that's what it takes to win in today's world. Right?

When one of his 'spinners', Kellyanne Conway, introduced the concept of 'alternative facts' on camera, you could see her wince. She said it as if she half-expected it to be thrown back in her face. And, it has been, time and again. There may be a part of America that is ready to abandon the truth, but there are still legions of us who will never accept that a lie has any value or credibility. The only'value' of a lie is in it's ability to deceive. It's that simple. If you are ready and willing to be deceived then I question your intelligence and your personal integrity.

So, carry-on, America.  If you think we will achieve a level of harmony, peace and LIVABILITY, a society that a sane person would imagine creating and enjoy living in each lying and always trying to gain the upper hand by taking advantage of others, especially those less advantaged, you are just deceiving yourself.  We will NOT get there that way, but if you don't believe that, just keep on doing what you're doing and you'll find out that, hell, that's what they make Ambien and Prozac for.

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