Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lies of the Poor in Spirit

essaysbysean.blogspot.com

Recently a close relative lied to me about another relative: Some people have no self-discipline.

“I once made a small decision never to lie again.

Maybe not so small, but it didn't seem like a big deal since I didn't see myself as someone who lies often. This little thing changed me far more than any other big decision.”      Felipe (2016-04-23) #33
from the article Small Actions Changing Self Identity on the blog of Derek Silvers.

Hello Reader,
Did your relative tell you a lie?
If so, then I’m sorry.
And I’m sorry your relative won’t say ‘I’m sorry’ to you.


Did I ever tell you I grew up poor but honest? Supposedly, nobody in my fine family ever lied.

Well. To paraphrase the preacher on Firefly, “There is a special place in hell for those who talk in theatres, molest others or tell lies to children.” 
(Forgive me for saying so, but the test to check if you are molesting is: Are you being gratified?) 

The test for lies, to me, is not are you are being happy?—of course we are happy to tell about the tooth fairy, and our child is too. The test is whether you’re being happy at the expense of an innocent child.

Here’s an example. I was a small boy in a poor remote large family. Our mattresses and pillows had stripes like in a prison camp. My much older brother, in a fit of low self esteem, told me and Mum that my pillow had bugs in it. I’m sure Mum answered me that no, that wasn’t true. And—memory is hazy—I think I was so distressed that, maybe, I got her to admit that my brother didn’t really think so… If indeed I did so, then I have pushed the knowledge away. I didn’t want to think anyone in my family lied. Because in the face of all our poverty and abuse, at least I could still be proud to be a member of a family that was “poor but honest.” 

How honest? We had a big dog that barked and chased people so much that I feared police trouble. We had a long dirt driveway. One quiet summer evening, without hearing or seeing their car, I suddenly noticed two mounted policemen were standing at our porch. The dog, lying there, hadn’t said a thing. Yes, even our dog was honest and respectful of cops.

One thing I know for sure: When a lie doesn’t nurture, it’s abusive. 

Again the porch. This time it was cold, after dark, in the fall. Parents far away. No dog. My older brothers were upstairs playing cards in the kitchen, not in the “front room” by the front porch door. From the basement, I could see a man in a long dark blue penitentiary coat banging his poor knuckles on our solid hardwood door. A futile effort, it must have really hurt. We were too poor for a doorbell or knocker. So of course I went upstairs and informed my older bothers that there was a man at the door. They disregarded my information; didn’t believe me. So I opened the door myself. 

Yes, my brothers were idiots. My point is that abuse comes in clusters. (Like a Venn diagram) If people will lie to others, then they may also disregard others, perhaps after lying to themselves about the gratification they feel from their disregard and lies. As you might say about convicts in “the joint,” or executives at Enron, “They start out undisciplined enough to con others, and end up slack enough to con themselves.” I question now whether my family believed what they said about me—maybe they were just weaklings.

Another perspective: Over in Europe, back when my dad was a young man serving with the allied forces, a freedom fighter said, “If you lie to the public, sooner or later you start believing your own lies.” I agree. One day you find yourself planning to invade a country with over twice the population and over ten times the steel and factory capacity. And nobody can pierce your lies with common sense to tell you: It’s madness to invade Russia.     

I remember a child in high school—a girl, not a woman— storming out the door, gone forever, as her abusive father yelled, “You’ll become a street prostitute!” Not in those words, exactly, but you know what I mean. The girl believed her father meant it. She still does, and so do I. 

You may think he was telling her a white lie, for her own good, to enable her to rebelliously find the strength to avoid prostitution. I doubt it. If so, then surely his lie gratified him into believing it. His daughter can’t mind-read, she won’t ever know anything but what she heard that night. 

Happily, she ended up getting her own business over in Australia, and even owning a house. Years later, back in Canada, she went job searching and kept a manila folder of her rejections—for the humbleness. Ever reminding herself that yes, you can be a “winner,” and still not get a job during a bad economy. When I last saw her? She was working again. Happy ending.

It wasn’t until years after my home, one night at a smokey (open)  AA meeting, that I heard a concept-tool: “cash register honesty.” Aha! That’s what my family had! Their constant “honesty,” of the cash register sort, served to give power to their secret weapon: Being dishonest about each other. I was sure angry when I saw through their “honesty camouflage.”  All that disregard, all those things they “believed” about me—you know, there’s a movie about “dirty rotten scoundrels.”

No wonder a certain fairy tale is classic. You know, where from the other side of the looking glass an ugly duckling is actually a swan, paddling away from the ugly angry birds.

Today I can recite, “Doggone it, I am a good guy, and people like me.” And hey, a great man has mercy: That is why, on my good days, I don’t think certain lying relatives have a special spot in hell.


Sean Crawford
Calgary
January
2017

Footnotes:
~As Grandmother would advise a young woman: No artist paints one picture, no criminal commits one crime. If your date lies to the waiter, then sooner or later he will lie to you.

~I like how the main character in Summer of My German Soldier never tries to con herself, or anyone. She sees her family and community through innocent eyes.  I read the sequel too: It’s at the university education faculty library…. I guess a life among fellow innocent swans is the best revenge.

~Of course it’s hard to believe your nearest and dearest are lying. I find newspaper advice columnists are usually too compassionate to name a lie. Rather, they work around it by advising a reader to use assertiveness or find an objective third person for counselling. So often someone writes in, no doubt having cried tears on the page, “But when I ask him about it, he says (X)!”

The sob sisters are blocked by statement (X)  That’s understandable. Sometimes it’s just too sickening, right to the pit of your stomach in the pit of your despair, to admit your loved one is lying to you.

~Excellent review (link) for Firefly by my buddy Blair.

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