Oh, The Lies We Tell… Are Spreading Like A Virus?

You realize the extent to which human beings have a problem with truth when the list of the types of lies we tell totals eight — from error and omission to exaggeration and fabrication with deception, denial, restructuring and minimization in between. Although it has many synonyms from candour to veracity — there’s only one type of honesty.
So the next time somebody begins a discussion with “I won’t lie to you” listen very carefully because that person may be about to make a historical statement. In order to rise above this thick fog of misinformation we’re currently stumbling through, we might all have to walk around pushing wheel barrows, hooked up to lie detectors that are in them.
In the myth of the chopped-down cherry tree, a young George Washington uttered those famous words: “I cannot tell a lie, Pa.” Later, as a man made wealthy by owning, leasing and managing 317 slaves, Washington was rumoured to smile through a set of wooden teeth. In fact he extracted the teeth from slaves to fashion various sets of dentures for himself. So when asked about freedom for his human chattel he said: “I do not think they would be benefitted by that, thereby lying through another man’s teeth.
The recent history of lies reveals some real doozies.
“In today’s regulatory environment, it’s virtually impossible to violate the rules.” After bilking 11,800 clients out of $18 billion and now serving a 150-year prison sentence, even Bernie Madoff believes he may’ve misspoke.
“There’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” He didn’t. After eight years of a war that killed 4,550 American soldiers and 266,427 Iraqi civilians, former Vice-President Dick Chaney still can’t fess up to that lie.
“Cigarette smoking is no more addictive than coffee, tea or Twinkies.” With half a million Americans still dying every year from smoking, the tobacco industry giants — “Not a cough in a carload” — have now paid out over $200 billion in medical settlements.
General Paul von Hindenburg’s big lie that Germany got stabbed in the back and did not lose WWI was swallowed whole by a battered and angry populace. Hitler rode that lie to power in the 1930s and WWII cost the lives of 20 million soldiers, 40 million civilians and the genocide of six million Jews.
Right now tens of millions of Americans believe Trump’s big lie that a perfectly legitimate and entirely honest election was ‘stolen’ from them. This lie sent thousands of his cult followers to storm the Capitol on January 6th and may yet lead to a civil war. In their last national war, the oxymoronically named Civil War, 650,000 Americans died.
I was thinking about lies the other day when I was being interviewed by my doctor?
“Tobacco?” Never.
“Prescription drugs?” None.
“Alcohol?” Ah, well, a couple of glasses of wine with dinner.
And you know what happened when I said that? Nothing! No siren went off. The doctor did not reframe the question. No game show host said: “Oh, sorry! Wrong answer. But our contestant still goes home with some cash, a Hamilton Beach toaster oven and the two-day New Year’s Eve party package in Winnipeg.”
It’s estimated that about 40% of people lie about how much they drink. In Britain where 75% of people drink well above the recommended daily alcohol limit, it’s way worse. The University College of London compared alcohol sales to confessed consumption and found a gap you could drive a beer truck through!
I once knew a guy, a great guy and a tough athlete who had no problem with the truth when it came to his own bad habits.
Asked by his doctor about alcohol consumption, it went like this…
“Ah, couple of beers at lunch.”
Doctor makes a “good” check mark on his form.
“Then once we finish eighteen, a few more in the clubhouse.”
Doctor erases “good” check mark.
“Once I get home, I’ll make myself a nice big Manhattan… maybe two.”
Doctor makes several “bad” check marks on his chart.
“Then the wife and I will share a bottle of wine with dinner.”
Doctor snaps pen in half on clipboard and asks, pleadingly: “Is that all?!?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Until after dinner when I’ll have a brandy with a cigar… or two.”
Horrified, the doctor asks: “Two brandies or two cigars?!?”
Answer: “Yeah.”
That’s when the doctor asked him to donate his liver to science… and not after he dies, but right there in the clinic at the end of the interview!
Lying is becoming easier and more commonplace with “It must have gone to spam” or “No, really, I’m almost there. Five minutes.” The gross inefficiency of Bell Telephone’s service gives lies like “My phone died” and “I did not get that message” a lot of credibility.
Shoe size, waist size, height, weight and age — people have a great deal of trouble with the accuracy of numbers that relate to their bodies.
The set up: “Honey, does my butt look big in these pants?”
The lie: “What? Oh, no. Of course not!”
I know this untruthful mode we’re operating in is unlikely to improve any time soon but couldn’t we at least acknowledge our disrespect for honesty by putting a hand behind our backs and crossing our fingers when we talk?
For a comment or a signed copy of The Dog Rules – Damn Near Everything
email: williamjthomas@gmail.com

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