Lying, cheating, greed and money are at the center of our society, not on the fringes. And politics, sports and business are where you can find the mother lode – if you’re looking. And it starts with our kids.
Lance Armstrong may have done the world a favor. Maybe – just maybe – his epic fall from grace will be a gigantic meme, a cultural enema for a society that is deeply infected with a pervasive disease, a society that is failing, and dying from within, right before our very eyes. If we choose to see. Acceptance of serial lying and cheating is tearing up the very fabric of our society.
All the descriptors of Lance’s behavior – disgusting, despicable, outrageous, unethical, immoral, evil – are no more than platitudinous expressions of society’s hypocritical standards of behavior. That behavior in the real world is a Pandora’s box of superficiality: heroic adulation as long as you’re winning but temporary outrage when exposed. And our kids are smack-dab in the middle of it, not by their choosing rather by our allowing it. And they are absorbing it, believing it and adopting it. Today, there are few places where we hold high the standard that wrong is wrong, instead it’s only wrong if we get caught. Evidence just this handful of examples that has been allowed by the so-called great society we have built:
- Centuries of the Catholic Church’s molestation deceit
- Penn State’s cover-up to protect big money football
- The blatant Bush-Cheney lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction
- The BP/Haliburton cheating that devastated life in the Gulf
- Mitt Romney’s serial lying (“Romnesia”) – of course, all politicians do it, they’re pathological
- The recent meningitis outbreak because NECC was cheating
- The thalidomide drug that cheated over 10,000 babies out of a full and normal life
- Exploding gas tanks on Ford cars and trucks because of cheating on costs
- The Union Carbide gas leak tragedy in Bhopal, India in 1984 because of negligence
- They all lie to win: Mother Teresa (yes, even her), Bernie Madoff, Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, Angelo Mozilo, Charles Ponzi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bishop Robert Finn, Barry Bonds, Ben Johnson, Roger Clemens.
The principle engraved on the top of humanity’s behavioral Pandora’s box should be a new version of the Nike slogan, Just do it – win! … and cheat if you have to. But don’t get caught. And if you do, lie. Most of us innately know that if you want to win, you probably have to cheat and lie, whether it’s in work, play, politics or religious confession. Not to minimize it, but what Lance has done for a decade is not new, not different and not unexpected. It’s ingrained in the twisted DNA of our society, driven by exalted mantras like: “Win-or-else;” “to the winner goes the spoils;” “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser;” “winning isn’t everything but it’s a helluva lot better than whatever comes second.”
We should not be surprised. In sports, doping is part of the game. Want to win? Dope up. And in politics and business – society’s two great games in which we all supposedly get to participate (not) – winning is rooted in deceiving, coning, lying, cheating and cover-ups.
Of course, some of it is legitimate. Some quality products are better some of the time. Some laws made by politicians help some of the time. Some corporations do give something back to the community some of the time. But, in large part, the “giving back” is minimal compared to what they “take” from our society, our pocket book and our planet – all of the time!
Reality is a myth
The reality is: Democracy, politics, capitalism, socialism, free enterprise and religion are mythological institutions, constructed as false idols and reassuring bulwarks that actually keep the masses in check and dependent and the elite in power and money. And if you hope to move from the former group to the latter, you need to be a “winner” – part cheat, liar, bully, con-man, con-woman and thief. And as far as democracy … please. There is no democracy (hasn’t been since ancient Greece) and we know politics doesn’t work (for “we the people”). And that place of refuge we call religion, well it’s hypocrisy dressed in sacramental clothing. And the holy trinity of capitalism, trickle-down economics and free enterprise is a myth perpetrated by those already inside the trinity – the “haves” (i.e., Mitt Romney, The Donald, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, George Soros, Rush Limbaugh, et al).
Lance Armstrong is a symbolic, small rotten apple in an oil tanker full of bad apples. His biggest lie was the fable he lived. He was our hero, riding a bike on the Horatio Alger premise that hard work and determination could take you from “rags-to-riches.” You too could be a winner. But like Horatio’s novels, it was fiction. The truth is that the allegories of Lance and Horatio, and even the writings of the American founding fathers, are not the foundation of success, they’re facades erected to make us believe in the myths. And over time they have grown into false institutions of belief. One of the most blatant in the modern age is the declaration by the American founding fathers that “All men are created equal …” Yeah right! So what about the majority of the population in those heady days of revolution, women and black people? Oh, they didn’t count. Thus, the seeds of deception were sown into “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As for the white men, well, it might be true that they are equal when born but after that you’re on your own Billy Bob. Unless, of course, you are born into the aristocracy, plutocracy, Upper East Side or you are a “winner” (a.k.a. liar, cheat, priest, politician or Gordon Gekko).
If the Bible isn’t lying when it says “the truth shall free us,” then let’s be truthful and agree that lying and cheating helps people win. That “Do unto others …” doesn’t do much for us and honesty doesn’t help much in the corporate hierarchy or on any sports’ field of dreams. And in the political game of snakes and ladders, honesty will get you nowhere.
What about your kids?
Lance’s legacy will be one of two things. Just another jock in a long line of cheats, liars and thieves who stole our respect, hope and money. Or he might be the small rotten apple who tipped the cart and generated such outrage that we started to face reality and:
- Stopped buying from corporations when they are exposed as cheats (i.e., polluters, sweatshop labor, price gougers, unsanitary conditions, support idiots like Lance Armstrong and Rush Limbaugh, etc.)
- Stopped watching and paying through the nose for celebrity endorsed products by overpaid sports dopes.
- Stopped contributing to and voting for lying politicians (i.e., might mean vote for no one). And if you do vote, vote for character (if you can find it) because nothing else matters, not “left” or “right,” not polices or platforms. Fifty years of bouncing back and forth between left and right has gotten us into this mess and proved that neither works. There is a better way.
- Strengthen our resolve to raise better children by helping them to learn how not to – never – lie, cheat or steal. A tall order but one worth pursuing.
To help in this valuable endeavor there is a book everyone should read. It is Lying written by Sam Harris, and American philosopher, intellectual and neuroscientist. This book is a short read that can be a foundational, personal philosophy for yourself, your family and maybe even your best friend. Get it. Read it. It will change the way you think about lying. And maybe your lying.