Honesty is a disability. The honest are at a terminal disadvantage in their careers, love lives, and ability to get away with high-profile crimes. We all feel the urge to strangle the occasional vagrant, but only the compulsively honest are guaranteed to get caught. If diversity was essential to the Renaissance Man, lying is the heart of the Information Age Manchild.
Let’s begin with lying’s role in the modern career, since I don’t care about your relationships and can’t be associated with another pyramid scheme. Quality lying is more useful than any amount of training in the arts, sciences, or human empathy. It’s the heart of the job interview. Skills can be imitated, or even faked (another application of quality lying), but the ability to lie to hung-over human resources associates is irreplaceable. Nepotism or sex appeal may open doors for the well-connected or fit, but lying is a skeleton key that even works when twinkies are your only friend. In many ways, lying brings to the workplace the equality that handguns brought to the frontier.
The cynic balks at this. I say it proves we live in the best of all possible worlds. Without our ability level holding us back, we can exceed our own extremely limited potential.
Lies are even more potent on the international stage. Diplomacy’s most powerful tools are force and lying, and force carries a non-zero risk of turning a large swath of your country into radioactive cinders. Countless wars have been prevented because of lies. If you’re unwilling to stop your nuclear program, you can still wave the white flag with your free hand’s fingers crossed. As for domestic politics, if you’re not lying to your people, you’re not doing your job.
Education needs to adapt to the needs of the modern world. We can raise a slightly less maladjusted generation by giving them the tools needed to excel, or at the very least create the illusion of excelling. The key is adding formal instruction in bold-faced lying to all high school curriculums. We can leave half-truths and lies by omission to the university system, but basic bullshit skills are essential.
Class disparity is largely driven by the lack of public dissembling education. Watching the infidelities characteristic of professional couples gives upper class children early exposure to the mechanics and benefits of untruth. Similarly, getting into private schools provides a sneak preview of the bullshit festival that underpins college admissions. The lack of opportunities to lie through your teeth in struggling public schools puts their students at a severe disadvantage.
Every citizen has the right to learn to lie under oath. Critics of the prison system tend to focus on corporate profiteering, racially biased laws, and draconian sentencing. Have we given the same attention to teaching youth to properly lie in court? This is a clear case of tunnel vision. Reforming a borderline-demonic prison system is one thing, but decades of inspirational film have proven that a healthy society begins in the classroom. A healthy classroom teaches you that putting your hand on a bible means less than nothing.
Learning to deceive yourself is just as important as deceiving others. Denial is an essential tool for staying sane. Life is infinitely easier if you believe that you always dreamed of working in a cubicle for Philip Morris. Marriages last longer when you can convince yourself the manic-depressive you met in a bar called “Love Hole” the night before Valentine’s Day is your soul mate. In many cases, denial is the border between perfect mental health and earning the nickname “Machete Bill.” Antipsychotics can’t do all the heavy lifting.
The United States Army offers the opportunity to “Be all you can be.” I think we can aim higher. We should be all we can pretend to be. The legends of any era are surrounded by stories of their ability, character, and insight. These stories are a mixture of subtle lies and outright nonsense. Learning to repeat that nonsense with a straight face is the key to joining the legends’ ranks.