by Paul Foster
My daughter regards her mother and I as virtual paragons of virtue. We’ve done nothing to dissuade her from this misconception. I rather like the idea of it. It’s not true, of course, but it’s fun to pretend.
That said, I’ll also stipulate that throughout our lives her mother and I have striven to achieve as high a level of ethics and morality as we could manage. So while I won’t admit to being a paragon of virtue, I will assert that my wife and I have done a pretty good job on that score, as humans go.
One of my ideas, shared by most people, is that honesty involves telling the truth whenever possible.
(Remember that old saw, “honesty is the best policy”?)
Even when it must be tempered by PR to make it palatable, the truth is almost always your best bet. By nature, I’m an idealist, and I always hope that the truth the best path to take.
So my daughter was recently shocked when I advised her, under the circumstances she described, to lie. She had described a set of circumstances which, like ‘Star Trek’s’ Kobayashi Maru, comprised a no-win scenario. The only way to win was to cheat.
Remember when I said I was an idealist? Very true. But the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve experienced, the more I’ve come to recognize when circumstances have been rigged to prevent “honesty” from being the winning move. This planet is full of circumstances like this, and more spring up every day. Our societies and civilizations here have become more and more illogical and more and more prone to being “gamed” by those who are less than ethical and moral. In fact, it has gotten so bad in places that the innocent truth can actually get you incarcerated.
This kind of thing can cause confusion when it comes to considering overts and withholds, confessionals and the like. You ‘wanted’ to tell the truth, but you couldn’t for fear of the circumstances. Did you commit an overt or not?
Note what The Way To Happiness has to say about telling the truth:
Seek to live with the truth and Do not tell harmful lies
Where’s the dictum about “Do not lie”? It’s not in there! It’s a fair bet that if it was good advice, it would be in there. But it’s not.
(Of course, if you think about it, this whole universe is based on a lie, which is that you ‘didn’t’ create it. You may not have been one of the cretins who dreamed it up, but you’re here experiencing it, so you’re one of those standing around, going, “Nope, I didn’t make this”. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be here for you to experience.)
Let me submit for your consideration the equation of the optimum solution:
The solution which brings the greatest benefit to the greatest number of dynamics.
Ron, while ultimately an ethical and moral individual, advised us on repeated occasions to obey the law, but still had a rather casual attitude toward our police and wog justice systems. He had worked with cops and like most of us, could see that ‘justice’ is something which can be purchased or rigged.
(Those who think that he contradicted himself in “Responsibilities of Leaders” need to purchase a clue. You might want to clay demo the phrase “tongue in cheek” first and then reread the policy. Those who have no idea what I’m talking about it, don’t sweat it. You’re not missing anything important.)
So where does this leave us? Well, of course, we should ‘seek to live with the truth’ and ‘don’t tell harmful lies’. We should recognize that the truth, including truth diluted with PR is generally the best course, still (and ‘never’ lie in the name of PR).
But we also need to recognize that sometimes the game is rigged to prevent you from winning, and a lie is the only way through. In that case in particular, but in all cases generally, consider the equation of the optimum solution. You may fail from time to time. In that case, consider this, also from Ron (paraphrased): You don’t have to be completely right all the time in life. To survive, it’s only necessary be right better than half the time, and never wrong on the really important stuff.
Next time you’re in the middle of writing up overts and withholds or getting a confessional, consider the above.
(One other point. There’s no win in trying to get your young children to understand the fine distinctions here. They’ll figure out that some games are rigged all by themselves. When they get old enough, then you can explain this stuff to them. Meantime, try to arrange their games so that honesty does give them a better score.)
Paul M. Foster