We come from a land that is a strange contradiction. On one hand, we have the mythical stories of Harischandra the king who would rather die than speak falsehoods and the real-life stories of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation, who is considered the beacon of honesty for the country. Then we have our reality. We step out into the real world beyond these stories and we are hit with the corruption that plagues our country. From getting a simple driving license to winning an election, there is rampant corruption, dishonesty, and utter disregard for the rules. We seem to be the “let’s be dishonest unless someone is watching” category most of the time.
But, according to the latest statistics, we are not the most corrupt country in the world. Not even in the top 10. And, if we notice, corruption scandals are something that makes breaking news on a regular basis across demographics- developed and developing countries. So why is this quality that is present in all the religious texts so elusive to mankind? “Thou shalt not lie”.
Let’s forget countries. If we brought it down to an individual level, we all lie on a daily basis. That compliment we are forced to give; That ‘valid’ excuse we give to worm out of a situation; That “awwwww” at other people’s baby pictures because it is the polite thing to do… the list is endless. Civilized, cultured life is all an elaborately woven tapestry of pretty lies masquerading in various seemingly virtuous costumes.
We tell others all kinds of lies. Today’s most public forum is social media. Happy families everywhere. Beautiful locations. Flawlessly airbrushed pictures. Colour corrected vacation spots. Just unrealistic perfection all around. Everybody dishing up their own version of fantasies for the world to be ‘polite’ about.
And then there are the lies that we tell ourselves. We justify why we did something that we knew was not the right thing to do. We try to make ourselves feel better because we are ‘at least” better than the person next door who is worse, according to our judgment. We tell ourselves stories that would help us sleep at night.
And what about the people who don’t know how to lie? Like a ‘Sheldon cooper’ ?. He who doesn’t know how to lie is a terrible misfit in our society and will suffer the consequences of it. They cannot have friends. They will not be promoted. And they certainly cannot be successful in most ways that the society at large defines as success. There is research that shows that children who lie are more intelligent and likely to succeed later in life (Dr. Kang Lee’s study).
Success today, as defined by the world at large, is the ability to be efficient at lying. Whether it is about ‘slightly’ bending the laws to your convenience, faking the books, greasing some palms, sucking up to your boss, taking credit for something you did not do, or compromising on your integrity in some way, success today is about selling small chips of your soul.
But do we really want to be told the truth all the time? Do I want to be told I am fat, skinny, ugly, dumb? When I dress up, do I want to receive compliments, even if they are fake, or be told that my clothes are horribly out of fashion or my hairstyle looks ridiculously on me? Do I want to be friends with Sheldon Cooper or Leonard Hofstadter? Forget the ‘righteous’ thing to do… What will make me happier? It is giving and receiving lies. And I think humanity has signed up for just that. Let me just live in the momentary glow rather than be put down by the negativity of the truth. I know there are definitely times when we don’t want to be made a fool off, like the emperor’s new clothes. But for most other times, we are happy coasting on this comfortable cloud of social politeness.
And finally, we all hope to have those two people in our lives who will be real with us. Who will tell us that the world is complimenting us in public and mocking us in private. Who will give it to us ‘straight’; Who will protect us from our own stupidities. We cannot have too many of those. It would be too much of a good thing 🙂 But I believe two is a good number. Those are the folks, who are looking out for us, got our backs or simply don’t care what we think of them 🙂