February 25, 2021

Are we voluntarily living a life of lies?

5 min read

The strategy of instilling fear in our childhood was so effective that it is carried on into life, including in the political realm, where politicians have become adept at creating a bogeyman to make the citizens and voters do their bidding.

WOULD anyone call me mad if I say that the majority of us are mostly living a voluntary life of lies?

Not only do we live the lies but believe and defend those lies as the immutable truth. The lies have become so pervasive over the centuries and entrenched in our psyche that most of us will find it hard to swim out of the pool of deceit even though it is hurting us. In fact, we would detest and even be willing to punish severely those who unravel the deceit that is engulfing our lives. He will be ostracised, labelled an insane person or a disrupter of peace or simply brushed aside as an idiotic fool who is bound to be unsuccessful in life – for the idea that the majority can actually be living a life of lies is unthinkable. We may even advise him, who wants to save our lives, to be pragmatic and realistic enough to embrace the lies!

The defensive behaviour towards rejecting the truth, especially when that is not the norm, is understandable. The truth may be viewed as an affront to the personal self and everything that the person’s life is based on – his values, his perception of life, the superstructure within which he grew up, the education he had received and so on. In short, short term survival of the self in the pool of deceit is considered more important than the long-term sustainability of human survivability through thinking, understanding and accepting the truth. Truth is an objective fact but lies have to be fabricated and repeated over a period of time. Recognising facts requires research, active thinking, and verification efforts.

On the other hand, a preconceived, prejudiced, ignorant or denial mindset will not be able to accept facts even if it is staring in the face. It becomes a psychological habit to simply accept what is repeated by the majority and carry on with the current mindset. It is easier to believe what you are used to than to think outside the norm.

At the most “unharmful” level, we employ lies to our own children to instill fear and to command obedience. How many of us have grown up being frightened by a fictitious ghost, monster or an evil man to do the bidding of the adults around us? How many of us still do that to our children today? We do this to achieve a short term goal to instil obedience to a particular command.

This strategy of instilling fear in our childhood was so effective that it is carried on into life, including in the political realm. This is why politicians have become adept at creating fictitious ghosts, monsters or an evil enemy to make the citizens and voters do their bidding.

Like the children that we were, we tend to believe instead of thinking or analysing the truth of what the politicians or vested interest persons are scaring us with. Hence, it is very easy to stir up division and even violence among otherwise peaceful people by stoking up racial and religious fears. We walk into the trap of division and enmity when we ought to know it will hurt us all. We easily become blinded to the fact that we are actually human beings with similar human hopes, dreams, sufferings and fears.

Politics and lying have become synonymous globally. In politics, perception is said to be everything and if perception can be constructed on a bed of lies, so be it. The political ends justify the immoral and dangerous means employed. The classic strategy of divide and rule constantly employed by politicians by creating fictitious enemies and distrust among human beings is a lie that has often worked. The polity is divided into ethnic, religious and various other artificial social constructs. Each of the community is given a perception of being under siege by the other communities. The idea is to create a mindset of us versus them and the political leader projects himself as the one who is able to hold the polity together in unity.

Having created the artificial fears in the community, he comes along as the person who can assuage those fears. Thus the lie of racism, and religious bigotry is given political credence even though the truth is that divisiveness of this nature will ultimately hurt the nation in the long run.

What is ironical is that even some of the supposedly intelligent segment of society like the academics or the allegedly spiritual also support the lies.

There are numerous other occasions where we employ lies in our personal lives, both socially and personally, to achieve certain goals or mindsets. Understandably some of the lies are meant to “protect” someone else, for example, the so called “white lies”. The lies that should concern us are the lies that continue to have a destructive effect on our lives, individually and collectively, deliberately or recklessly.

The realm of religion is another area where lies are spun at record levels just like politics. Just like organised politics, organised religion requires uniformity of appearance, thought and action.

Like politics, religion requires loyalty to the “belief or cause”, and the more insane the loyalty, the better for the “master leader”. It becomes easier for the manipulator to make rallying cries and move people like herds for a dubious cause by simply employing symbolism, promises of rewards and threats of punishment and crowd identity. The many violent, inhumane and extremists’ acts perpetrated in the name of various religions around the world testify to how effective lying is to make adherents do the unthinkable.

Religion has proven itself to be a powerful force to mobilise masses and if the masses are somehow convinced not to think but simply follow the appointed leader, then it becomes a potent force.

We pride ourselves that in the age of the “Internet of everything”, we have ready access to information. True that we have ready access to voluminous and diverse information, but human nature brings deceit and lies online with technological efficiency. Social media platforms such as WhatsApp groups, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so on have become opportunities for incorrigible liars to perfect the nature and presentation of lies.

Maybe it is the convenience of clicking the mouse and the illusion of anonymity.

The prevalence of fake news has not only become as common as the common cold but in some quarters become praised as a strategic tool for managing perceptions. Shameless liars and betrayers of trust use their skills to deceive as many people as they can in order to feed themselves and their families. In a sick and ailing society these cheats are glorified as strategists. Some of them are even exalted as leaders in their respective sectors and industries. There are many other areas of our lives where we unconsciously or habitually accept and defend lies. It is my belief that we must develop the courage and the willingness to want to think critically if we want to escape the chains of deceit engulfing out life.

The views expressed by the writer are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Star.

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