Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The many shades of dishonesty.

So, here it is: my very first blog. I can't promise you much in the area of actual reading enjoyment, but I do feel like these words might be useful in some sense or that--at the least--they might inspire the reader in some way. How? you may ask? Well, we'll just have to see. If they indeed are not inspirational at all, it probably doesn't matter anyway. You probably didn't discover what you are currently reading in an attempt to learn about those things you need to know more about; this is just one madman's ramblings posted in an attempt of catharsis, an exorcism of thoughts that haunt an already haunted mind. So read, if you will, and maybe I can make this a beneficial discussion for all involved, perhaps even myself.

I, just as every other human being that is alive or has ever lived, am capable of dishonesty and duplicity. Sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, the motivations for lying are selfish and a means to defraud another person. But there are times when chicanery is acceptable, even justified. For example, the "does this dress make me look fat" situation; how does one answer such a question, even if said dress makes its wearer resemble a shrink-wrapped package of link sausages? Any man confronted with such a quandary knows that it is far better to lie in this position than to speak the unflattering truth. The man knows that if he tells the woman that she does look fat, there would be hell to pay. If he values a peaceful--and indeed, a sexual--relationship with her, he realizes it is quite necessary to not tell her the truth. "No, baby", he says, "that dress looks amazing" is the best, if not necessarily an honest, response. There is nothing to gain here by telling the truth. So that is one way, and a fairly common one, that people can be dishonest and justified in doing so. 

Another lie that is perpetrated almost ubiquitously, at least in Christian nations, is the concept of Santa Claus. I don't know of a human being alive that didn't grow up believing that a rotund, bearded gentleman in a red suit flew around the world in one night delivering presents to all the good boys and girls from a reindeer-led sleigh. Most parents I know will allow their kids' belief in Santa Claus until the children are old enough to figure out for themselves that such a person cannot logically exist. I personally discovered it when I was about seven; I was in foster care and, when Christmas rolled around, presents were not delivered to me. I got some gifts, but I had to attend a church party to receive them. Children relish the idea of there being these supernatural entities like the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny because it gives them something to look forward to. As a parent (I'm not one, but know many), you allow them to believe in such silliness because it makes them happy to do so. I've known parents to do everything within their power to get something--anything--for their kids for Christmas just so they won't think that Santa Claus has forsaken them. We all know that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are imaginary, but we pretend for the children's sake that they're not. Good-natured lying, but lying nonetheless.

This next example might be a little more ambiguous than the previous two.... This one comes from personal experience and, while I find it to be absolutely justifiable, others may disagree. Once again, I'm not necessarily advocating dishonesty, but I am arguing the position that it is sometimes acceptable to lie, if the good gained from lying outweighs the risk of telling the truth. About five years ago, I was in the habit of going to different establishments to sing karaoke. It started off as a once-in-a-while type thing, but quickly became something I looked forward to on a near-nightly basis. It was fun, relatively inexpensive, and I met a lot of good people at the various bars I frequented, making some friendships I enjoy to this day. One November night, I was singing at a bar that was within walking distance from my apartment. There were quite a few people there whom I knew fairly well, one in particular whom I shall call "Jack". Jack was sitting at my table, and for all I knew he was a pretty cool cat. We were talking and he asked me if he could crash at my place for a few days until he got in touch with his mom, who lived out of state. He stated that he had had a disagreement with some roommates and he was trying to get out of there until he could move back to where he was from. My brain told me "no, you really don't need to start letting people stay with you; it destroys friendships", but I felt sorry for him and told him that it would be okay. He had a car, the use of which would benefit me while he was there, since I was spending a lot of money on cabs. Everything went fine at first, as it's prone to do. Just like in a romantic relationship, the parties are usually on their best behavior until the facade just fades away, ever so gradually. His mom sent him some money to come back with, but he decided that, if it was okay with me, he'd just as soon stay put. I made an agreement to him to pay x for rent and help with groceries in exchange for living with me. For the first few weeks, all was well. He lost his job as a security guard and started falling behind on his share of the bills. I was enrolled in college at the time, and was awaiting a check from my financial aid. Meanwhile, he spent what little money he could on beer and cigarettes, all the while saying he was looking for a job, although I know now that he wasn't too worried about it. He was, however, interested in the check I was waiting on. Since I was subsidizing him, things were a little tight financially and we were both suffering somewhat. When the check finally came in the mail, I decided that I was going to act as if it hadn't arrived yet, because he seemed so interested in it and I didn't want any problems. I'd already told him that if he couldn't pay his bills that he should reconsider moving back home with his mom. A thought that had crossed my mind was that he was planning on getting my money and dipping out with it. And I wasn't about to let that happen. 

I had had the check for about four or five days; it was deposited (without Jack's knowledge, natch) and I was sitting in my apartment, eating delivery pizza, when Jack comes back from wherever he'd been that day. I heard the key inside the lock, so I quickly shoved the pizza box under the table next to the couch where I was sitting. He came in, asked about the check yet again, to which I responded "still nothing" or something similar. He replied, "That sucks", or something like that, and then says, "Guess what? My car got hit earlier". I asked him to tell me about it, and he goes on to say that he was driving, was hit from the rear and spun into a telephone pole. He asked if I could reschedule my appointment since he didn't have a drivable car until it was repaired. I told him not to worry about it. I knew he was a lying bastard, but decided not to call him out. He came over to grab an ashtray from the table beside me and, lo and behold, he finds the pizza. He asked where it came from, since I'd been pretending that I didn't have any money to spend on stuff like that. I had grown tired of the charade, of course, and the fact that I knew he was lying to my face just made me angry enough to be honest. I told him I'd had the money all damned week and that it wasn't really his business. He wanted to know why I lied, so I replied that I had noticed his lack of effort in finding a job and his explicit interest in the check ever since he knew I was expecting it. And that I didn't want it to come up missing or to start a fight over his apparent sense of entitlement. He seemed to get terribly offended, and said that he'd have his belongings out of the apartment the next day. Storms off and leaves. As I already stated, I knew he was lying about the car, so I didn't feel bad about insinuating that he was a thief. I can't say that I've known him to steal, but I knew for a fact that he was a liar. The next day, he came to the apartment in his car; his unwrecked, looks-like-it-always-did fucking car. So he packed up and left. Haven't seen him since.

All that leads up to this: Was I justified in lying about having received my money just because I didn't trust him not to steal or otherwise try to obtain it from me? Was I also justified in assuming he was a thief because I knew he was a liar?  He had no reason to lie to me about having wrecked his car; if he had other things to do, then why not just say that he couldn't take me to my appointment? I would have understood and made other arrangements, and the matter would have been settled. It's my opinion that, if someone lies to you, especially for no good reason, they're of the character to steal you blind if given the opportunity. The dishonesty inherent in making a decision to lie is no different than that involved in choosing to steal. The fact that I didn't know--but suspected--his dishonesty when I got the check matters not; I feel that it is wise to be prudent and that my suspicion in this case was not unreasonable, and therefore, my deceit was entirely valid. Trust is a gift that should not be given lightly or without considerable thought. I have been betrayed several times before and since this incident by people that I thought worthy of such a gift and it has jaded my rationale for other potential recipients of it. It's indeed very unfortunate that many suffer for the sins of a few, but that's just the way it goes. Is it okay to lie to people if you expect them to be honest with you? No, it's not. But sometimes it's needed. Exigent circumstances sometimes call for a breaking of the rules. And in this world of charlatans and pretenders, one must occasionally fight fire with fire.


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