Apparently, we are all liars :-)

I don’t even pretend to read every word in the newspapers here, but there are some columns that I catch whenever I can.  Kind of like I do with some of the opinion columns of the NY Times – Doud, Collins, Friedman, Krugman…what, you didn’t know I was a liberal at heart?  🙂

In the Indian newspapers, I like to read Shobha De, Santhosh Desai and Pritish Nandy.  Chetan Bhagat can be insightful sometimes and not so much other times but net-net it’s usually not a loss. The monsoons in Mumbai are making my commutes long drawn out expeditions these days, whether it is raining or not (why is that?). Therefore, I have more time than usual to read the newspapers (still a hard-copy paper habit here).

It Started With One, Little Newspaper Column

A recent column caught my attention – by Pritish Nandy, who has a knack for courting controversy (that’s what makes him so interesting), it was called The Magic of the Lie.  A good read, his opinion was as usual riddled with contention and irony.

His premise is simple – humans lie – they always have, and they always will.

His second premise is that there is a very good reason for all this lying. We don’t tell the truth because the truth is hard, and lies give us something good to believe in, as in –

“Lies are an integral part of our survival strategy. They are what make this world go round.”

He supports this premise with a sampling of historical, political, professional, religious, personal and relationship lies. Here’s an example –

“The calculus of all faith is a lie. The history we read is often a lie. It’s almost entirely documented by court historians hired by ruling dynasties to make them look good.. So their crimes are glossed over. The ugliness is airbrushed. So is the wanton bloodshed and brutality.

Much of what we call civilisation is a lie created to defend what is actually colonisation of the mind. Most nations are born out of carnage and tears. Yet we create new mythologies that lend a purpose to our sense of nationhood.”

Next Stop:  Research in Psychology

Of course I had to check up on these declarations to see how large his B.S. element and entertainment factor was.  And lo and behold, I found a treasure trove of articles and opinions on humans and lies. I’m not sure you are all ready for this. Think you can you handle it?

One good article I found was Why We Lie, easy to read and absorb while backed up by some serious research in psychology. It doesn’t even question the premise that we lie but just goes on to explain why we do it. Why do we do it?

“It boils down to the shifting sands of the self and trying to look good both to ourselves and others, experts say.”

…”Many animals engage in deception, or deliberately misleading another, but only humans are wired to deceive both themselves and others, researchers say. “

…”The study, published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, found that 60 percent of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation… 

“People almost lie reflexively,” Feldman says. “They don’t think about it as part of their normal social discourse.” But it is, the research showed.

…”We want to be agreeable, to make the social situation smoother or easier, and to avoid insulting others through disagreement or discord.”

So now you know.

And for a bit of a lesson in morality (from the same article):

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Not all lies are harmful.

In fact, sometimes lying is the best approach for protecting privacy and ourselves and others from malice, some researchers say.

Some deception, such as boasting and lies in the name of tact and politeness, can be classified as less than serious.

But bald-faced lies (whether they involve leaving out the truth or putting in something false), are harmful, as they corrode trust and intimacy—the glue of society.”

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Yikes! Enough already!!!  Now, back to what I started out with –

Nandy’s short post is an entertaining read. He’s even made it seem quite believable in parts. (It seems he may be on to something after all).

I can tell you more, but why don’t you just go read itIt’s short, it’s worth it and it’s only one click away…

Do come back and tell me what you think, one liar to another. 🙂

To An eBook On Nothing But…

Wait! I’m not done.  

Since I started at one place and as usual, meandered along to a couple more, I had to mention where this quest led me – to this ebook by best-selling author and neuroscientist, Sam Harris. It’s called (are you ready?) – Lying.

His premise? Since I know that only about .000001% of you will click on this link to find out more, here’s something  that will (maybe) make you check it out –

“In Lying, bestselling author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie.

He focuses on “white” lies—those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort—for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process”.

The book itself is short (the author calls it an essay and it can be read in less than an hour) but is packed with great advice. More than bald-faced lies, it really sheds any false beliefs about the ‘goodness quotient’ that people tend to apply to white lies – those lies that are told because you tell yourself you don’t want to hurt the person you are talking to.

Who is not guilty of a white lie…or a few? We tell ourselves that we are doing it to be kind, to do good, blah, blah, blah…

Contrary to the article above, Harris puts an emphasis on the importance of not giving into the comfort and ease of white lies with an assertion that they can be just as damaging as the other kind.

Possibly one of the best, most powerful (and yet such a simple) takeaway from this book is this:

Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity. Knowing that we will attempt to tell the truth, no matter what the circumstances, leaves us with little to prepare for. We can simply be ourselves.

Just because, as Mr. Nandy claims, everyone in the world is (consciously or not) lying, doesn’t mean you have to!

And Finally That Famous Indian Story

And last but not least, in support of Nandy, one only has to turn to the complex stories that are part of a famous Indian epic.

How much do you know about the deceit that embroils so many characters and stories of Mahabharata? Take for example the story of Drona and the crafty deceit involved in killing him – positively Machiavellian! Just one of the many, wondrous, intricate, interwoven stories of this famed epic from India. It tells you a lot about human (and godly!) nature, and would not have been the epic that it is without…lies.

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Really, Mr. Nandy, look what you started now!

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Posted on July 29, 2012, in india, people and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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