Recently I read a story about the Greek philosopher, Diogenes (4th century) who traveled thousands of miles to find a truthful man. Sadly, he couldn’t find one. What was true then is true now also. Lies, deceits and distortions are predominantly evident in our daily lives and politics. Seems like these are the essential tools for becoming a profession politician. LOL, Lie or lose! Unfortunately, public and media don’t like to hear or speak truth either. As most of us are not independent thinkers, we like to hear only the stories that fit our preconceived notions. The most vulnerable are those who have put some kind of label on themselves. Thus, their labels guide them to action instead of their faculty.
We have found Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Eric Holder, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and everyone else caught in a web of lies. The worst thing is that all of them support their untruthfulness with passion. Statements like, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, (Bill Clinton)” “Read my lips-no new taxes (George H W Bush),” “I am not a crook, (Richard Nixon),” “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it (Barack Obama)’ still haunt our ears.
Lying, deception and distortion are not the traits of the present-day politicians only. Let’s look at history. Lyndon B. Johnson, who repeatedly promised during the 1964 presidential campaign, “We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” At the very same time and with Johnson’s approval, the Pentagon was drawing up plans to send the first wave of more than 100,000 American servicemen to Vietnam.
The election campaign between presidential candidates John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was nasty and bitter and involved extreme lies and accusations. Adams’ campaign said Jackson was an adulterer for having a relationship with a married woman (his own wife). And they said Rachel (Andrew Jackson’s wife) was a bigamist for having two husbands and thus she was declared an adulterer too. Jackson believed that those attacks had hastened his wife’s death.
Campaign war between Thomas Jefferson and his VP Aron Burr got down-and-dirty. The campaign of 1800 between the two is supposed to be the nastiest in the history of presidential elections. This was the only election in history where a vice president had run against the president he was currently serving under. Jefferson hired a writer to pen insults rather than dirty his own hands. One of his nasty lines said that Adams was a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Considering that our elected politicians are our own reflection, we shouldn’t blame them wholly for their dishonesties. Just think of all the small, petty untruths we engage in our daily lives. When we are asked a very basic question like how old we are, a lie is often used in lieu of the truth. We also tell a lie to avoid conflict or avoid hurting someone’s feelings. For example, when we know we are inconvenienced when someone asks for our help, we are often not honest with our answers, saying instead that we will be happy to help even when we know very well this isn’t true; or we even make up a story based on a falsehood to get out of the situation.
We don’t speak the truth because we don’t want to hurt or offend the other person. When someone confronts us for derogatory statements, we often respond by saying: “I didn’t quite say that,” or “You didn’t understand me.” We lie on income- tax and expense accounts. We often engage ourselves in one-upmanship to impress others by making false stories about expensive vacations or about our heritage. We, very often, do not regard these lies as a serious offences because for us they are actually quite harmless. In fact, we are often led to believe that engaging in these kinds of lies actually benefits us. Our politicians being personification of the time we live in (past, present and future) indulge in cover-up lies, conspiratorial lies and so on. So, if we need honest politicians, we need to change ourselves first.
This widespread cultural acceptance of lying is one of the main reasons why we don’t have honest politicians. The very categories of truth versus falsehood, facts versus lies seem to have been obliterated. Consequently, the possibility of lying has become boundless and are met with little or no resistance when we lie. Therefore, lies, deceptions and distortions have become mandatory in politics all over the world. First step we should take against this is rid ourselves of any kind of labeling and start thinking independently.
“But liars we can never trust,
Even when they say what is true.
And he who does one fault at first
And lies to hide it, makes it two.” –Isaac Watts