True Lies

I have for a long time now been amused by the ‘Liar paradox’. The statement “I am a liar” if true means that I am a liar but if I am a liar- how can my statement be the truth and thus I am NOT a liar. But if I am NOT a liar, why would I lie about BEING a Liar?
Going crazy yet?

The reason I’m going on about lies is because lies are the ultimate truth. Deception is the reason we are alive and kicking, instead of kicking the bucket. Why people lie is an one of the most interesting questions one can try to answer.

Nature has given rise to lying in many organisms:A relatively harmless animal may look like a harmful one to confuse predators or a dangerous and inedible creature might exhibit aposematic colouration.

The most Common example-A poison Dart Frog:220px-Yellow-banded.poison.dart.frog.arp

To me, the funniest thing is what happens in most inter-personal scenarios. Person A blatantly lies to Person B who fibs with equal vehemence to person A. Person A and person B know that they probably needn’t lie and they also know that the other person knows that they are lying but they do it anyway. This is called “being polite” and “socially correct”. These phrases are a great excuse to bull-shit each other and most importantly lie to themselves that they are getting away with it when they are actually not.

Lying takes its most dangerous form when we lie to ourselves and that prevents us from getting off our high horses or comfy couches to do any good that we might have any chance at all of doing. It’s the best buddy of Procrastination.

Lying to save one’s physical life is understandable but the most extreme type of lying is in human beings wherein lying  is done to save one’s social or emotional well-being.

According to animal behaviourists- the amount of lying is controlled in most animals because of the costs the liar has to incur. A male may pretend to be physically bigger  to impress the female but this extra embellishment might mean it has to carry more weight proportional to its body size-which might lead to its doom if fighting another contender. In most social animals, a compulsive liar is physically punished or socially ostracised, reducing instances of lying.

So it makes me wonder,why lying and deception (I still don’t know whether they should be considered different), so necessary yet mostly avoided by the animal kingdom (from the current animal behaviour studies) is not only used in the mundane lives of almost every human being but they don’t seem to be punished for it.

“How are you?” is a simple enough question but knowing people and social structure, hardly anyone can be trusted with an honest answer, so we stick with “I’m fine.” And the ‘honest truth’? My “true story” is just that. A fable made up so that I can live with myself and others. That globose mass in our heads has helped us develop language whose beauty would be lost without our capacity to relive memories. And the age-old form of entertainment of story telling is used at every turn in our lives. Everyone’s got  a minor form of PTSD perhaps. So everyone’s version of the same memory is confabulated to make it interesting, making family dinners crazy.

Funnily enough, it is slowly being realised that even in non-human animals, especially ones who are socially down-trodden are finding ingenious ways to trick the high-and mighty. Blatant bluffing is now being recognised in the animal kingdom. Ask the Rochester Biologists .

Low-ranking Capuchins (we know of their devious streak thanks to Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum) give alarm calls just when the group has discovered a rich source of food. Low-ranking Ververt monkeys conveniently forget to signal danger to the superior males and pray for them to be preyed upon. Antelopes like Topi have males signalling danger so that the females might be discouraged from leaving even though she has shown no interest in mating with the male. (so Typical)

But all is not horrible. In a relatively stable eco-system and social setting , the other group members get used to the liar and act accordingly- similar to us understanding ‘compulsive lying’ as the “nature” of a person”. Juveniles are not considered as reliable signalers.

We too might review our own ‘truths’ and view them from another perspective as we mature and as far as our egos permit. Empathy encourages us to want to believe in a lie which might be someone else’s dishonest truth.

SO, as matters stand, we are all LIARS- of different degrees for different purposes and perhaps that is what stops us from calling each others bluffs out loud all the time. And perhaps this knowledge is what keeps sceptics like me from indulging in secrets with almost anyone. Perhaps I am yet to come to terms with the honest, universal truth of the LIE because I hope that’s a lie too. The Largest Liar’s Paradox ever.







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