Let’s talk about lying. Now before we get into the meat of this subject we need to acknowledge something: Everybody lies. No, no no no, don’t give me that bullshit about your being a completely honest person, or about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree (for some reason) and then saying ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ The man was the first president. Presidents lie; it is a part of the job, whether it is to protect the nation from fear, or to manipulate them to do as they please. If George Washington never lied, then slavery would not have been welcome in the new nation and we probably would have been retaken by the crown. So lies are an inherent part of human nature, of our character, and the one we lie to most of all is ourself.
I mentioned George Washington and I suppose it is impossible to explore the nature of lying without first looking at the world of politics. Politicians are notorious liars and they always have been. Let’s quote Cicero: He says that lying “is a part of rhetorical training too—to admit criminal matters not subject to danger cleverly and with charm so that, if something foul is alleged which cannot be denied, you may defuse it with a humorous response and make the whole matter more dignified with a joke rather than an allegation.” Does this tactic sound in anyway familiar? And I am not just referring to Trump or Obama or the Clintons or whomever your hated illusion is. This is how cheating spouses get away with it, how workers who didn’t complete a project, how students who forgot to do their homework, how friends who steal and siblings and parents and every other relationship across the board of humanity. Lies are made into reality, we tell ourselves. We must stay true to our convictions. We have to believe our lies if we expect anyone else to believe them.
So why do we lie, anyway? Other than to cover things up, to get away with misdeeds and crimes, for what reason do we try to convince others of something that never was? We can ask this about religion and political ideology, of course, but here we are discussing lying on a more basic level. Why?
As a teacher and parent I noticed a certain divide between genders on the reason for lying. With men and boys lying almost always seems to be about covering something up, about trying to block someone from seeing wrongs, from recognizing crimes or immoral behavior. For men lying is more a reaction of panic, which is why so many of us are so terrible at it. But men lie in another way too–in exaggerations about their personal abilities and attributes. They seem so desperate for others to think that they are better than they are. Men create a whole mythology around themselves, of their daring exploits and amazing accomplishments. Boys who play, say, baseball, will have a game where they made a catch and clubbed a double and then go tell someone who wasn’t there that they hit for the cycle, stole two bases (including home) and threw a runner out at the plate. Why? For what reason? Does it really make the person feel better about themselves or simply more paranoid because, after all, what if someone finds out the truth?
Females are different in their lies. Of course some lies might be to cover things up, and plenty of them are exaggerations. but there is something deeper and more malicious (and ultimately more effective and believable) about women’s lies. Women often lie just to hurt people. Of course they are also the primary contributors to the ‘little white lie,’ a soft untruth to save another person’s feelings. But they are guilty of the other extreme too. Their lies are rarely told in panic. They have an organized end–a goal. And if you look to high school girls they are often meant to utterly destroy someone.
Girls are well known for inventing rumors about people they do not like. They might say, “Joanna fucked Carl Botts in the teacher bathroom yesterday. She’s probably pregnant.” Now there is no reason for this gossip if it isn’t actually true, but it is said anyway. And how is Joanna supposed to handle this? If she denies it won’t at least some of them think that she’s lying? Does a lie beget a lie? Is the truth so fragile that it can be altered in our perceptions?
Women also lie with precision digs, feasting on character flaws and the anxieties of another like a mosquito sucking out blood and replacing it with disease. They might say “Did you gain weight?” just to mess with someone who is clearly anxious about their body. Such things can go to extremes and create disorders like anorexia or various body type dismorphia. Girls might also say things for no reason at all, like that another’s boyfriend was flirting with somebody else. It is malicious, and it is for no reason at all. This is to say that females are usually much better liars than males.
Of course we cannot end this discussion without a look at Donald Trump. Trump lies about everything, even things that no one might care about. Here is a billionaire who claims be to worth ten billion dollars and refuses to release documents verifying this. What if he’s really only worth nine billion? Is this something that would really matter? Are there more than a hundred people in the world who would care? Is he not rich because of this? And yet he lies. He talks about his cock size in anxiety because he needs to prove something. He claims that he is this master deal maker when he really has no record of ever in his life making a deal that matters. And he has sank into a place where he believes his own lies so thoroughly–even the one’s he might contradict an hour later–that he insists his own truth is the only truth and has elevated his abilities to a level dangerous for a president to have. When the leader of a nation–any nation, but most particularly one as strong and influential as the the United States of America–believes that nothing they do could ever be wrong, no matter the consequences, you are in a position far worse than working for the company of a dishonest businessperson, where underlings are forced to lie to protect the lies. You are suddenly in mortal danger, because the leaders of all other nations are bound to be self-important egomaniacs as well. They are also professional liars. And some of them are better than others.
The worst problem with our current president is that he has convinced himself that he will always have the final word in world affairs, that he can effectively be petty and charge other nations for not bending to his will. And there is no doubt that this works with some nations. But what about the countries that could actually pose a threat, who might be led by deviously clever people who know how to manipulate the world far better than a crooked businessman only in it for himself; whose interests are limited and whose understanding of world affairs is nearly non-existent? What happens, to use a childhood metaphor, when you lose a round in the game of Life?
The consequences of lying on this scale are more than just the tragic attempted suicides and developing substance addictions that vicious school lies may help cause. No, the possible dangers of lies such as this are to everyone on the planet. And if protecting your dishonesty from being exposed is more important to you than the fate of the whole world, we are damned way before the match is lit.