Life, especially of the civilised variety, would be impossible without a little subterfuge every now and then.
We wish a good day to someone we’d joyously see rot in hell, we compliment an ugly woman on how fetching she looks this morning, we tell our boss how much we love our tedious job. As a tactful person, I’m not going to mention fibs we tell to spouses, traffic cops or the Inland Revenue, but he who is without sin…
Some porkies are perfectly innocent, some are less so, yet all are part of what is in hackneyed English called the rich panoply of life. Take them away and it won’t be honesty that prevails but social chaos.
Another thing that unites all these little lies is that they are indeed little. Most of us speak the truth most of the time, which is why lies, when uncovered, become so noticeable by contrast. Nevertheless, they do only limited damage, outnumbered as they are by truths.
If, on the other hand, lies act as the base on which a giant structure is erected, then catastrophe beckons. A house divided may not stand, but one built on such a foundation will certainly collapse, as Bernie Madoff could tell you.
An Egyptian pyramid is still upright because it was built the right way up. Had it been balanced on its tip, it would have been reduced to rubble millennia ago, much to the chagrin of Egypt’s Tourist Board.
Western polity started out as a solid pyramid tapering up towards the sky, but it has since been turned upside down. The tip of thin lies is straining to support the giant structure, but it’s tottering. Even a gentle push can bring it down at any time.
Examples? One doesn’t know where to start.
Well, off the top, look at America’s ‘fiscal cliff’. New Year’s Eve negotiations spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden are being hailed as last-ditch salvation. That is, not to cut too fine a point, a lie.
Joe of course has all the right credentials. When running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988, he plagiarised a speech by Neil Kinnock, that heir to the laurels of Demosthenes, Cicero and history’s other great orators. I mean, who in his right mind would plagiarise Neil Kinnock? Not only is Joe a bit short on veracity, he can’t be excessively bright either.
A perfect man then to fashion a mendacious agreement with the Republicans, which is being treated as a firm hand not letting America fall off that proverbial cliff. What actually happened was that the country has been left teetering at the very edge. A fall hasn’t been prevented, it has been deferred.
Even assuming that tomorrow the House of Representatives passes the bill agreed in the Senate, and this is a big assumption, the effect on America’s $16-trillion debt (that’s 16 followed by 12 zeroes, in case you’re wondering) will be barely noticeable. While tax increases for middle-class families earning more than $450,000 will go into effect within days, along with new taxes on inheritance, capital and capital gains (all potentially more destructive than even higher income taxes), any specific spending cuts will have to be renegotiated in about three months – meaning that the same stumbling block will remain as firmly lodged as before.
At the same time, whatever minimal debt reductions could be achieved by raising taxes, and they are very minimal indeed, will be offset by extending unemployment benefits for a year.
In short, what we are seeing isn’t an exercise in decisive statesmanship but an attempt to flog a PR lie to the public. Come to think of it, this is what politics has become all over the world: a tissue of lies covering up a rotting body politic.
Crossing the Atlantic, the EU is an even more blatant example of an institution built on lies and sustained exclusively by them. When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, the signatories pretended, for public consumption, that they were founding nothing but a free-trade zone called the Common Market.
That was a lie. It’s just that the originators of eurofederalism, all those Monnets and Schumans, realised that a single European state was such a monstrous idea that the public would never swallow it in one fell swoop. Piecemeal drip-feed was the best they could hope for Europeans to digest.
To that effect they set up a systematic deception programme designed to claim one little power after another, until one day they’d all come together into a giant, irreversible entity. Starting like a python devouring its prey bit by bit, the entity would become like death: what it claimed it would never relinquish.
Thus, treaty by mendacious treaty, the Common Market became the European Economic Community in 1986, the European Union in 1992 and, in all likelihood, will become a United States of Europe in a year or two. Throughout, assorted federasts, like our own Edward Heath, were begging Brussels not to let the cat out of the bag. The ‘f’ word, as in federalism, wouldn’t be uttered until subterfuge was no longer necessary.
Now we are being fed another lie, that we must remain within the EU, if only in a Norway-like associate status, for otherwise we wouldn’t be able to trade with the 27. The public, anaesthetised to lies, doesn’t ask the most obvious question: why? Why must we abide by every law and regulation of another country in order to do business with it? Or perhaps the public is just too exhausted to ask such questions, for it knows that all it’ll get in response will be more lies.
This is the world we live in, ladies and gentlemen. So Happy New Year to all. May your wildest dreams, rather than your realistic expectations, come true.