The Lies We Live

Photo by Ruby Glimmer from Flickr

Photo by Ruby Glimmer from Flickr

Lies are woven into our lives from early childhood to the end of our lives.  They are so pervasive that many go unnoticed and barely cause a flutter.  Certain lies are so common, as a matter of fact,  that we may not even classify them as lies.

Here are the most common culprits:

Oxymorons–a combination of contradictory or incongruous words

My son swears that military intellgence fits this category. The more cynical among us would also add business ethics and personal computer. But most people would more readily place pairs like white darkness, silent scream and jumbo shrimp on this list.

Euphemisms–an agreeable word used in place of an offensive one sometime to spare feelings, other times to deceive.

rest room for toilet
working girl for prostitute
pass on for die
Nazis termed relocation camp for concentration camp

Weasel words–words used to evade or retreat from a direct statement

Saying the Corvette is virtually handmade means it’s not handmade, since virtually means not in fact.

Doublespeak–a type of euphemism that is uttered in bad faith, deliberately constructed for political purposes, thus usually being used by the government or politicians

Predawn vertical insertion –used by the Bush administration to refer to the invasion of Granada by parachutists

Wastewater conveyance facility — sewage plant

Ethnic cleansing–Serbian government’s term for forcibly removing and massacring Serbia’s Muslim population

This week we’ve explored deception in many forms and situations. It’s clear that lying at all levels is a prevalent part of our lives and that all of us are culprits as well as victims of it.

The good thing about knowing better is it’s the first step toward doing better. Perhaps the knowledge you gained this week about lies can help you avoid deception in all of its forms. Let me know what you think.

First published 2-15-08

Lies, Damned Lies and Our Way of Life

Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. ”

Where does that place advertising and politics? We all know advertisers lie. We expect them to lie.

We may act appalled when one of their lies is uncovered, but we know full well, for example, that no safe product will cause us to lose 10 lbs in three days. That’s why that disclaimer (that regulations force them to provide ) written in fine print races across the bottom of the screen during weight loss TV commercials. Some argue that we are co-conspirators with advertisers since we allow ourselves to be deceived.

I agree. We so much want to believe that we allow ourselves to be deceived.

Just as we suspend our belief to enjoy a movie, many of us suspend our belief for sustained periods of time.

Advertisers are the most clever liars of all because they find out what we want most and promise to give it to us. Even when their lies are discovered, we forgive them and buy their products again and again.
We all seem to want things that are fast, cheap, and good.

The truth is that we can only have two of these at a time. If something is fast and cheap, it’s not likely be good. If it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast. And, if it’s fast and good, it definitely won’t be cheap. And yet, we keep hoping for all three.

Politicians are not as clever as advertisers at lying. Like advertisers, they try to tell us what we want to hear, but they don’t have as much money and time to craft their deceptions. So, they take the short cuts of evasion and distraction.

There is no law forbidding politicians from lying. It’s up to us to determine to believe, confirm or discover the truth of what they say.

Before we look down on advertisers or politicians for lying, you must know that lying is a common part of our everyday life. We are socialized to lie from an early age, and sometimes punished for telling the truth and rewarded for lying.

As a child, for example, it was in my best interest to tell my mother what she wanted to hear, such as when she inquired “Are you calling me a liar?” rather than to tell her the truth that she was lying. Because I lied to her, I lived to tell you this story.

What’s your take on deception? Tell the truth now.

How Tangled are the Webs You Weave?

spiderweb by moonjazz Flickr
Photo by moonjazz on Flickr<

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott

Although I was less than thrilled to give up that whole Saturday to attend Traffic School, I must admit it was entertaining.

The teacher was a retired deputy sheriff who created an informal environment and kept things fun by telling self-deprecating jokes and gently ribbing attendees. He took away any pressure we might be feeling by assuring us that we would all pass. He insisted on participation by encouraging the class to ask questions about the law.

Out of 100 attendess, at least half of the class seemed to be 17 to 19 year-olds. The funniest parts of the class were the questions from teenagers retelling scenarios where they tried to portray themselves as innocent and win sympathy if not exoneration from us.

During the discussion about probable cause, one 19 year old asked if it was legal to stop someone for appearing to be drowsy. The teacher asked him to give more detail. He said one morning he was driving at 6 AM and a cop pulled him over for appearing drowsy.

The teacher inquired, “Why were you driving at 6 AM. Were you headed home from an all night party?”

The kid said with a straight face ”No, I just got up one morning at 6 AM and started driving.”

The teacher tried to get to the bottom of this, “Where were you going?”

“Nowhere,” the kid raised his eyebrows, “I was just driving.”

The teacher repeated what the kid said: “So you just got up at 6 AM, went to your car, and started driving?”

“Yes,” affirmed the kid with raised eyebrows. The class burst out laughing.

The kid gave up trying to convince us.

The teacher assured us that appearing drowsy is probable cause for a cop to pull you over.

This episode got me to thinking about the lies we tell. Stay tuned for more on lies.