White lies. Black lies. & Other lies

I am sure there does not exist anyone on this earth who has not lied; sometime, some place, somewhere. In this respect, most of us begin early. As kids when faced with a difficult question from your Mother, the temptation to take the easier way out and make an innocuous excuse/lie is par for the course. When Fathers ask tough questions about studying or about our friends, again we do take some liberty with the truth. And creatively change reality to escape more difficult consequences. Bunking classes; catching a movie; trying a cigarette (or at times something stronger); continuing friendship with persons our parents feel are a bad influence : in all these, and many more similar challenging  circumstances, we take the easier way out and either indulge in half truths or blatant lies. And we easily explain to our conscience that it is for the “larger good/peace/happiness” or what have you. Have we all not played along in this game?

At one extreme end is  the famous white (? or black??) lie of Yudhishtir (encouraged by Krishna) who informed Drona that  “Ashwatthama hato” (Ashwatthama is dead) adding sotto voce “Naro wa Kunjarova aham nahi jananti”. This lie, from a true follower of Dharma like Yudhishtir, caused Guru Drona to disarm himself in grief of having lost his son. Thus, Drona the Commander of Kaurava army, who could not be defeated, was left defense less due to Krishna’s subterfuge.That lie has become an epitome of expediency. Of means v/s ends debate. All with very large scale consequences. Least of all being the “fact” that Yudhishtir was till then so pure a follower of Dharma that his chariot reportedly ran an inch above the earth surface: but this lie made him as much a mortal as all of us and his chariot after that never flew above the earth; but traveled on the surface of earth like all others’ chariots. A classic Puranic tale which also underlies that “gods” themselves are not above lies?

In more modern times our dear Mr President Trump’s inauguration attendance created its’ own controversy and gave birth to the concept of “alternative facts”. Though most of the world later debunked this terminology and as so accurately called out   on the air by NBC’s  Chuck Todd “Alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods!”. Nevertheless am sure the Trump brigade genuinely believed the alternate facts. And held firm their own image in their mind.

While both these examples are of epic proportions, world history gives us many many more in times of war and in times of peace. The fact remains that humans are not averse to modifying facts and reality to serve their own immediate need. The “spin doctors” whom Vance Packard way back in 1957 called the “Hidden Persuaders” are at it all the time. Creatively changing “facts” to suit their arguments the game is never fair and truthful. Always there is an axe to grind and a opinion to modify: after being subjected to interpretation and modification. Most of modern day marketing and advertising is creating impressions and hopes which may or may not be truthful. How many people do we know personally who have benefited from fairness creams? but that still is a huge market with it’s own followers.

I am frankly not too concerned with these “epic” lies and spins. As a student of human behavior, I am more interested in understanding why, and how, we everyday people also indulge in this “story telling” , and creatively altering reality and marshaling ( or hiding for that matter) facts as we live our lives, and express our opinions on a day to day basis. Do we not see the falsehood we profess? or is it so ingrained and so subtle that we do this “naturally” and without any sense of guilt?

This worries me a lot, as we cannot ever be sure whether what we are hearing or what we are being shown is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” . Philosophically and fundamentally, the more basic issue is : is there a common reality? or is each one of us living in our own world bound by our own reality which we cannot share?

Questions, questions, questions. And I can’t even appeal to Krishna to lead me to the answer!!!!!

Yours in quandary: vikas

5 Replies to “White lies. Black lies. & Other lies”

  1. Vikas, being a students of literature, I would like to draw your attention to three things (somehow I seem totally drawn to the figure of three things as you must have realised)

    1. Truths/falsehoods apart, there are alternative realities that we are exposed to or see, sometimes based on the situation to which we are exposed at other times our perception of them based on, what I will refer to, for want of a better word, as our personality (based on past experiences). So is there really one truth/reality?

    2. We are now in the post world and one of the accepted terms today is post truth. Refer to the article by Anubhav Pal bearing the title Facts in a post-truth world, Mumbai Mirror 14 Dec (http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/columns/columnists/anuvab-pal/facts-in-a-post-truth-world/articleshow/55972014.cms), it will add a different perspective to your dilemma

    3. Many a times people don’t tell truths because they perceive the other person incapable of understanding/appreciating them or find that the other person gets too judgmental, confrontational, harsh, cynical, critical or hurt by them – it is not a choice they should be allowed to make?

    I would thus like to ask whose truth and who decides?????……..Let the debate begin

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    1. Preeti
      Dont know anything about post – truth. Will read up on that.
      Other points you make are valid and I agree with the same
      Truth is never black and white and there are more than the 50 shades of grey in between
      Whose Trusth? Whose reality? Whose perspective? are really the question as perception guides all our actions and thoughts and not something like absolute reality
      a la the Heisenberg principle: maybe the very act of defining truth makes it shift and change?

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