Monday, December 05, 2005

A yardstick with which to beat yourself

A good measure of the extent to which you control your own life is how infrequently you feel obliged to lie.

I wince but I still apply that yardstick. It is actually measuring several things. It tells me about the level of duress, peer pressure etc. that thwarts my wishes [i.e. when people block my needs and greeds]. But also, assuming I can be honest with myself, it measures my mettle on matters of taking my medicine and what confrontations I will risk.

I hope I don't presume too much to suppose my workings are not that different from yours, dear readers. This metric works until you are so screwed up you no longer know when you are lying. It measures an aspect of what we casually refer to as character. You know, the stuff Kerry was said to lack and Dubya was said to possess. Yeah, right, character. Who couldn't use a little more character? Turns out having the courage to face consequences, the balls to earn the respect you need and the intelligence to see all the way to the second and third order consequences of a lie all add up to a personality nearly as effective as one who is utterly unconcerned with what others think, or perhaps an absolute naif who is also insensitive to pain. A liar, mind you, is desperately concerned with what others think. A simple person might always tell the truth, a stupid person often thinks just enough to suppose they would get away with a lie. I observe that being courageous is not a guarantee of being in control of your own life but is a necessary precondition more than wealth. Whether it is courage or a detachment from the opinions of others, this trait that helps put one in control seems to fit well in the personality profile Maslow describes as the reality centered self actualizer. Yes, "reality centered". The term must be nearly 50 years old. It is more than coincidence that it is echoed by the label "reality based" with which our bush league administration, oozing character as it does, has labeled some of its annoying citizens and press. The term, an unwitting gift, does emphasize a serious difference and distinction between the Bush administration and a profile of psychological health and maturity. It may only be an old theory of personality but the characteristics of Maslow's self actualizer are not well represented in the publicly visible levels of our executive branch today.

You can lose control of your life on all of Maslow's five levels. You can have control pried out of your hands or you might never have had it. It has been the executioner's experience that one almost gives away control by choosing the unknown future of a fib over the known immediate discomfort of being honest. If you were the last person on earth, would you still bend the facts from time to time? Its odd we lie to control other because I suspect that beyond lying as a measure of feeling we are not in control we might find truth telling is a tool to regain control in areas of our lives where we have an innate or earned right to be in control...but that is a topic for another post.

Given the pernicious dysfunction of the current administration in regard to getting its facts straight and giving the straight facts, I thought it worthwhile to try yet another examination of the nature of truth telling. Lying became a universally human occupation once our language faculties evolved to include "yes" and "no". On the shaky ssumption that Rummy, Rice, Rove and the rest are only human, I suggest we will understand the administration sooner by remembering human weakness is at work here and we will get them headed out of the dark woods of their self serving myths sooner if we cut them a bit of slack for being stuck trying to fill their level three and four needs. I don't know if Maslow would have agreed but I think institutions and ensembles of personalities always function a level below the level at which the constituent individuals are working. This means that lies the administration as a whole subscribes to are embraced to achieve advertised "security" needs (level 2). My hunch is that the ease and uniformity with which Whitehouse group-think descends to the lower common denominator [and the psychological hand writing on the wall "Colin will depart"] is just a symptom of how needy these people each were on their own. How this bunch ever styled themselves as Vulcans is beyond me, Ferengi would fit them a lot better. I am not the best informed examiner you could be reading but if I have reminded you that is not satisfactory to tackle honesty issues by only looking at the other guy, I hope I have helped.

1 comment:

Davo said...

I never 'lie'.. just play with words. Heh.