Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lying to Ourselves

Searching for a passage in a book I've read many years ago, I came across another one I've forgotten. In his book, The Social Contract, Robert Ardrey refers to many examples in nature where it is evident that we lie in order to survive. We, meaning all creatures, lie to each other about appearance and intention quite well. So it is in our nature that we lie well to others. What is a wonder, he writes, is that we as humans lie to ourselves equally as well.

We tend to stick to a theory, (platform, idea, name it what you will,) even when all evidence or our experience points to the contrary, with a tenacity that sometimes takes us to a catastrophe before we can admit wrong. That in order to survive we may have to do harm to others, is accepted; but what is in our nature that we wish to do the same to ourselves? Is it that we practiced lying so much that we cannot admit that truth works better, saves us more pain, and perhaps less suffering in the long run?

If examined lying in nature is much older than telling truth. After all, throughout our evolution we had to use much trickery to convince animals much fiercer than us, so we had to "fake it to make it". When divine teachings entered our consciousness, we were ready to adapt ourselves into larger societies, we call civilizations, so you might even argue that telling the truth, besides being a divine guidance toward good, is also a luxury of safety and superiority; or, in a word, confidence.

So, is it the lack of confidence that allows us to lie to ourselves as well as to others? That strutting ourselves in front of an audience makes us look better, more powerful and more successful, is a given and it also gives us confidence. Which in turn, it also fuels us to do it more, and because we do it, we excuse others for doing the same. All in their turn, all in lesser or greater extent, until it all collapses.

Thoughts such as the above kept running through my brain while listening to the hearings which I shall dub: Politicians vs Corporations vs Financial Gurus over the financial mess we are in. As the house of cards collapses, each wishes to dump the entire fault on one sector or another, still denying their own role in the creation of it. What strikes me as scary however is that one sector of the the three seems to have the superior position in this triangle and that is the Politicians.

Politicians seem to have perfected lying to others as well as themselves to an art form; the evidence is that they keep being re-elected no matter what fault they bear in the creation. They seem also to be able to bring down, put away, punish many with the same, greater or lesser role. In other words, they wield the greater power perhaps as a result of perfecting lying, to both themselves and others, without conscience.

But in order for them to have this much power, We the People had to have a hand in it. This society we built was based on the truth that: All Men Were Created Equal with Certain Inalienable Rights. That means, my friends, that we all bear the responsibility with what we do, with our lives and in our society. You could say that when our Society was built it was not lying to itself.

So what happened to telling the truth? What happened to that ethical stance of being honest for our greater good as individuals and as society? I have a feeling it went by the wayside when we became less confident in ourselves; when we handed over more and more power to our Governments starting with the Income Tax; it went by the wayside when we did not hold Politicians accountable for their promises and allowing them throughout these many years to lie to us more and more. Using the excuse that "all Politicians lie, (chuckle)", we kept lying to ourselves that it was OK because everybody lies. Truth went by the wayside when we left our conscience behind.

Perhaps we are not realizing that we are regressing to a less civilized version of ourselves as we keep lying to ourselves and we allow others to lie to us without limits. Perhaps it is in our nature far too deep to correct. Perhaps it's for our survival. Perhaps it's for our demise.

"That we lie successfully to each other is natural; that we successfully lie to ourselves is a natural wonder." Robert Ardrey in The Social Contract


1 comment:

Sue's views said...

Nice piece, Anni! I think we should make our politicians take a lie detector test during one of the debates!