Thursday, November 3, 2011

Post #37 - Why Lie?

Challenger Crew
"Much has been written about the impulse to mislead, to deceive, and to cover-up. In a Washington Post column in 2007, Shankar Vedantam wrote about public figures who issued statements that didn't square with reality, but who appear to have believed the falsehoods or exaggerations they were offering up: Truman, who in his diary held that women and children would not be victims of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Clinton, who convinced himself that Lincoln Room visitors and persons pardoned by him were treated entirely properly; NASA officials, feeling that the O-ring problem discovered in the lead-up to the Challenger launch was “manageable.”

Why, Vedantam asked, would our evolving human psyche benefit from having a capacity for self-deception? The answer he found: because it is much easier to lie convincingly is one believes the lie oneself. He quoted Robert L. Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University: “Self-deception evolves in the service of deceit for two reasons. It improves your ability to fool others and, second, it reduces the cognitive costs of deception.” In other words, if what one says and what one believes are consonant, the emotional stress is lessened, even if the information presented is skewed or flatly false. Vedantam quotes Reagan advisor Lyn Nofziger as saying, about Reagan, that he was able to “convince himself that the truth is what he wants it to be. Most politicians are unable to do this, but they would give their eyeteeth if they could.”

At no time is this tendency greater than in times of war. Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general of 2500 years ago, held that “the whole art of war rests on deception.” Samuel Johnson said: “Among the calamities of war, may be justly numbered the diminution of love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates, and credulity encourages.” A person of faith – especially one entrusted with great power and authority -- must pray for discernment. During the Watergate period, what most distinguished the Hugh Sloan (a sector tier official of the Committee to Reelect the President) from his co-conspirators was his own sense of something being wrong. Others in the inner circle -- daily breathing the rarified air of the White House, more captivated by their own sense of importance, wishing to change the world -- failed to awaken to the illegality or immorality of the incremental choices they had made on their way to ultimate public disgrace.

Dr. M. Scott Peck, popular author of The Road Less Traveled, wrote on this confusion in his less-known book People of the Lie: the Hope for Healing Human Evil. He postulates that a type of narcissism lies at the core of those who become capable of serious evil.

"House" - Fox Broadcasting Company
"Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves. As life often threatens their self-image of perfection, they are often busily engaged in hating and destroying that life – usually in the name of righteousness.
"...Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie. This is why they are the “people of the lie.”...They cannot or will not tolerate the pain of self-reproach."

No comments:

Post a Comment