Monday, May 10, 2010


We all lie. Lying seems to be an integral part of human nature. I don't like lying, but I do it--as seldom as possible, but I do it. There are an infinite number of types of lies, but lying is basically a defense mechanism; we do it most commonly as a form of self protection when the truth may get us into trouble.

While truth is often subjective (it is absolutely true that I hate mushrooms, for example, while it may also be absolutely true that you love them), it is in fact largely malleable to some degree based on each individual's interpretation and experience. But in the final analysis, lies fall into two basic categories: those told of perceived necessity and those told solely to gain some advantage. Because lying is ubiquitous, the former vastly outnumber the latter, but it is the latter that can and often do result in incalculable damage.

The vast majority of lies are simple responses to questions, and therefore largely subjective based on the liar's personal opinion. They are often gentle lies to protect the feeling of others. ("Do these pants make me look fat?" "Do you really think I have a chance?") Children and teenagers, who do not yet fully understand the consequences of their lies on others, are particularly good at them ("No one likes you!"). It is the lies of adults--those who know full well the consequences of their lies and simply do not care--which are inconceivably unforgivable. The sole purpose of deliberate, calculated, predatory lies typified by the contents of any computer's spam folder ("My dear friend. I am Mrs Mjeba Qnobe, widow of the Finance Minister....") is to take advantage of the trust, hopes, innocence or gullibility of others is inexcusably contemptible and the sociopaths who create them deserve a far more harsh and severe punishment than they will ever receive. They should be infinitely grateful that I am not omnipotent, for I would be a wrathful god, indeed.

We are lied to constantly, and what bothers me most is that corporate liars not only know full well they are lying to us, but they know we know they are lying to us, and they just don't care. The most egregious and common of these lies are the ubiquitous "Your call is very important to us," and "Due to an unexpectedly high volume of calls...." Any company which said just "Thanks for calling. We'll get to you as soon as we can" would have my business for life.

The sad fact is that we live in a world of lies and liars. We have been conditioned to being immersed in a cesspool of lies, and we accept even the most obvious of predatory lies without a word--a fact of which the liars take full advantage. Lies are toxic and erosive, eating away at the most solid of beliefs, yet we are surrounded by them, and we breathe deeply. By our unwillingness to stand up to a lie, we become complicit in it. (Interestingly, there is a website called Snopes which does an excellent job of debunking the lies scattered like pollen over the internet. I urge you to check it out the next time you find yourself readily accepting some claim your mind tells you is not true.)

As I say, I lie of perceived necessity from time to time--though even then I prefer to evade or sidestep whenever possible. I honestly can say I cannot recall ever having lied solely to gain an advantage, though I undoubtedly have. And I would never knowingly lie specifically to hurt another human being--even one who I hold in utter contempt (and while there aren't very many of these individuals, there are some). This does not make me a saint. I hope it makes me a responsible human being, and it is not egocentrism to say I wish there were many, many more like me.

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