Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: If You Hate This Post, Please Lie About It
I promise I'm not a liar.
November 20, 2015
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“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”
-Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
I credit the undertaking of my most recent challenge to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and what I have coined as Nick Carraway’s honesty complex. When unsure of which item from the List to metamorphose into a blog post, #18 caught my eye for no reason other than our A.P. English Language/American Literature curriculum. Gatsby readers can likely sympathize, as the aforementioned quote embodies an omnipresent theme in the novel that forces one to consider one’s own honesty…or for some of us, lack thereof.
This post is entirely contemplative primarily because nothing too wild came of my Day of Truth. Rather than recapping a day’s worth of not-particularly-notable conversations, I wanted to write about my views on lying as a practice. As an admittedly pessimistic person, I am fairly routed in the cynical belief that human beings are inherently self-serving. Thus, humans are automatically inclined to dishonesty in some occasions. However, contrary to popular understanding, this is not an intrinsically bad quality for humanity. Rather, it is quite beneficial. I am to the ardent belief that if people were 100% honest, we would descend into chaos and probably all kill each other to the degree of human extinction.
“But, Mack! If lying is necessary, why do we demonize it?”
We try to demonize lying because it’s easier than quantifying (and moreover, owning up to) the aspects of human nature that cause us to lie–need to protect oneself (“I’m late because there was crazy traffic out by my house”), need to protect others (“Yes, I love this gift, thank you so much!”), and need to protect social quota (“My day was good, thanks for asking.”), to name a few. We live in a society partial to labelling various caveats of our humanity as “intrinsically Good” or “intrinsically Bad”. Our survival instincts, considerate empathy, and social courtesy are beneficial to ourselves and innately beneficial to society, thus they are “Good”. Lying, however, is a little more complicated. Lying can hurt others. The biggest lies are often the most hurtful. Lying, thus, is “Bad”. But how can lying be “Bad” if its motivators are “Good”? Because great power comes great responsibility, and lying is a powerful tool that can be utilized in protection or wielded in maliciousness. Rather than accepting this responsibility with grace and accountability, society has decided to abstain altogether. Why can holistic honesty be so dangerous? It unjustly exempts us from the damage we cause just by being human beings. One can annihilate another human being verbally under the safeguard of “just being honest”, whereas a slight untruth could have saved both parties a great deal of grief. This is not to say that honesty has no place in society, which is why the issue of honesty/dishonesty can get so slippery. Did you hit someone’s car in the grocery store parking lot and consider driving off without leaving a note? You might want to fess up. Did your best friend buy you a gut-wrenchingly ugly sweater for Christmas? Might want to let that one slide without telling her acutely how hideous it is. This may seem like an obvious distinction, as these are both somewhat extreme examples, but you get the gist. As a society, we need to focus less on not lying and more on learning when lying is a more harmless alternative. This is not to say I condone lying as a lifestyle. I condone lying as an absolute last resort in the event that you’re protecting someone or being courteous. The cashier who asked how you day was does not want to hear a nine hour diatribe about how terrible you feel. Just say “Fine.” and move on like a normal human being.
With all that in mind, thanks as always for giving this headache of a dishonesty conundrum a read. Please comment your feelings, stories, etc. regarding or related to lies you have told, been told, or lying in general. Have a super safe two weeks, folks, and I’ll see you next time.
So long and goodnight,
Mackenzie Nicole O’Guin
Special thanks to Kat Mediavilla and Violet Cowdin as they sit behind me in this free laughing VERY LOUDLY at a video of a drunk man complaining about pants. You are the reason this 754-word post took me a whole hour to write.