The Lie to Tell the Truth

Lying is fundamental. Deception is the social glue that holds our world together. It makes our accounts of our workaday lives amusing and interesting to strangers. It is the raw material of creativity. We live to be lied to. We desire to be deceived. From the artist tricking the eye to see perspective in a flat painting to the conjurer spellbinding us with a carefully constructed illusion. But there are limits. We enjoy a novel because we know that it is fiction just as we know the stage magician is not really pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But what of the person who believes in ‘The Da Vinci Code’, or who swears the mind-reader must really have psychic powers ‘without knowing it’. There are the soap fans who mob the actors and threaten them to leave their favourite characters alone – or else. 

And so too, our politicians deceive us and, in the main we expect them to. We have the same contract with them we have with conjurers and actors. Like all fiction, a political speech is ‘a lie to tell the truth’. Like the stage magician’s audience we suspend disbelief. The process starts in childhood when at around the age of three or four we tell our first lie and it matures when, as adults, we are able to willingly enter a kind of trance state where we put aside our critical thinking skills and for a moment see the world through a child’s eyes. And, in that state, we look at the world anew; we leave the rigid, conditioned world and enter the world of metaphor and magic, and perceive a truth usually hidden. 

But politicians often take advantage of this state to lead us astray. They convince us that they are something they are not. Politicians have only one job, and that is to try to win an election. You cannot be paid twice for the same action and retain your integrity. Once the politicians have won the election, their work is complete and their payment is victory. But to give them the country to play with as a reward for winning the election is to pay them twice. They are showmen and entertainers and actors. All they demonstrate in winning an election is that they can – win an election. At no time during the last campaign did the politicians demonstrate that they could run the country, so why be surprised if they cannot? Yet this illusion is attempted every few years and accepted. The conjurors cannot really pull a rabbit out of a hat no matter how much their followers swear they can. But the reality is that the politicians have broken their contract. No longer is it ‘a lie to tell the truth’; now it is a lie to take the piss.


About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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