Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Rhetoric/ῥητορικός continued...

Right, here's the deal...I hate lies. I hate liars.

If you're of my generation, the one who grew up watching the Back to the Future movies at the cinema, you'll be familiar with the scene where Marty McFly was called 'chicken' by Biff. Time after time, or rather movie after movie a character related to this Biff Tanner from either the present, future or past would end up challenging Marty with a version of the line: "What's the matter McFly...you chicken?" As children we knew what would be coming next and cringe as Marty loses the rag yet again with disastrous consequences.
I have the same reaction to being lied to. I lose it and I lose it big time.

Now I know that there are different types of lies and that we all lie to some extent during our lives. In fact you could say that we are surrounded by constant lies everyday and we have some. I laugh every time some cheap make up company touts a new mascara via an advert on TV.In front of our eyes in big bold writing we are told that this product will 'make your lashes appear 100% longer', '100% thicker' and a billion times more like Cheryl Cole's while the voice over artist proclaims the same thing. Flashed on screen at the same time are several disclaimers in very small writing telling us the truth, that the lashes were enhanced in post-production, that the lases were styled using 'natural' lash extensions but still sales go through the roof. Consumerism prevails and we accept the fantasy being sold to us. We accept lies because we want to. So it is the same with liars or certainly the ones I've come across? We accept that some people are liars and there is nothing we can do about it.

I've met liars of all types during my life and am unfortunate enough to have quite a few in my family. Some of these are recent additions to my extended family and some of these have been lifelong members. The only obvious advantage of being in the company of and being related to these people is that I can now spot a liar a mile away. With almost Tim Roth like perception, I can hear a lie before I've looked at the persons face. I had hoped that as I got older, I would have just accepted that some people lie, quite professionally and without thought because that is their nature. Like Quintilian, I should accept that while lies are not virtuous they are prevalent nonetheless. While the Roman orator accepted the existence and in the case of defending a client in court, that lies were necessary he also advocated that if you are to become a liar, then you must be good at it. You must be consistent, avoid contradiction and indeed, as the saying goes, have a good memory. He recognised that for some reason, falsehoods often slip the mind.

So what exactly is it that angers me about lying? Is it the act, the person or is it a bad liar? A lazy liar who through sheer barefaced cheek will just argue 'it wisnae me!' until you give up? The thing about liars is that they know someone will believe them, usually the one person you would like to inform of their deceitful actions and/or words. When we heard that fateful line "I did not have sexual relations with that woman', was I the only one who rolled their eyes? I think not. Clearly not having learned from his predecessor about non-denial denial, is it me or does it seem that we just accept that our legs are being pulled so frequently we must be glad we're not insects...


I wonder if perhaps, at the back of this, is some sort of jealousy. I, myself, have never possessed the ability to carry off a lie. It's like the colour green, I just don't suit it no matter what shade. On the occasions as a child where I attempted to lie, I was always caught. Possessing the type of face that gives everything away, I failed to convince anyone of my deceit. My earliest memory of really concocting a story and attempting to carry out a lie was to my parents. The local high school always had an early finish on the last day of term and as we progressed up the years, the last day of term was always rather light with pupils, bunking off with your mates being preferable to the post-war asbestos filled beige building. Around the age of 13 I thought I'd try this too. So over breakfast that morning I told my mum some vague version of what would be going on at school today. I can't remember what exactly I said but something must have given me away instantly. She waved me off to school with a squint and I promptly skipped down the road with my school bag in hand (perhaps it was the skipping? I was one of these may-I-be-excused-from-gym-because-I've-got-asthma kids) No sooner had I arrived in the house with my mates which was achieved by stealing the spare back door key, the front door burst open and my mother proceeded to roar at my classmates yelling that she'd tell their parents. I was mortified! My street-cred was down the pan and I was warned very sternly by my mother that I couldn't lie again. Couldn't because it was obvious I was rubbish at it and as my mother, she would instinctively know that I was fibbing.That was pretty much the end of my career as a liar. Of course as parents we fib to our kids either because religion/society demands it or because we deem it inappropriate for children to know the whole truth about certain things. Even at the tender age of eleven A has sussed out to look at my face if he's asking an awkward question or asking where his Easter eggs have gone (thus my assertion that the Easter Bunny recalled some faulty eggs no longer works). My OH tells me that its one of my best qualities and my lie-detecting abilities is one that he has learned to deal with.

So I've arrived at an impasse on two occasions with two separate family members. Not content to leave the mess that they have created alone, I've tried to be the bigger person and maturely negotiate a compromise and or/truce and then they both lied to me, to my face...

"Hey McFly..."

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