The Truth About the Truth

26 Sep

I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty recently. This may in part be due to last week’s media coverage of the film The Invention of Lying. The picture was written and directed by Ricky Gervais, a multi-talented, incredibly talented and cleverly funny person. Gervais is a real English gem though oddly he is both adored and loathed by his countrymen; I see a lot of similarities between him and myself, except of course that all Englishmen adore me.

The film takes place in a world where no one can tell a lie. The characters speak the absolute truth at all times. It makes one wonder, is that sort of honesty desirable? Of course, we must have some sort of moral code, otherwise we would end up like monkeys in a monkey cage, although I do believe even monkeys have a moral code to keep them ending up like vultures in a vulture cage. But absolute honesty at all times? I don’t think so.

Now before you get your knickers in a twist, let me offer up some examples to clarify my position. Let’s say you have recently got married and your new husband asks you about his sexual prowess, compared to that of your previous lovers. Would it be morally right to humiliate the man by acknowledging the disappointment you felt on your honeymoon when you realised that you would never again get it like you got it that night with the tennis instructor at the La Manga Club during your Spanish holiday in 2006? Oh, the memories! Does lying seem so wrong in this situation? What about if your niece asks you if you think her mummy is the prettiest woman on Earth, when clearly your sister’s unattractiveness is what caused her to delay getting married and pregnant until she was well into her forties and desperate enough to accept the first man who would have her and also provides the genetic reason for the fact that your niece, too, will surely spend the majority of her adulthood a lonely spinster? Should you break this little girl’s heart with the truth?

Ultimately what it boils down to is this: lying is not a bad thing. Deep down, we all know that it’s dishonesty that keeps most of our relationships happy and healthy. Rarely does anyone need to really know the truth. That policeman didn’t need to know that you have a history of false accusations, just like my doctor didn’t need to know that the painkillers were actually intended for a use other than the one specified on the label. Why complicate matters with some pie-in-the-sky notion that sincerity is an admirable quality?

Gervais’ character in the film stops telling the truth. He also gets Jennifer Garner to sleep with him. Now tell me that’s not testament to the power of a lie.

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