Friday, 5 August 2022

The hardest thing in life

“My friend, I’ve been telling lies all my life. Even when I told the truth I never spoke for the sake of the truth, but always for my own sake. I knew it before, but I only see it now.... Oh, where are those friends whom I have insulted with my friendship all my life? And all, all! Savez-vous... perhaps I am telling lies now; no doubt I am telling lies now. The worst of it is that I believe myself when I am lying. The hardest thing in life is to live without telling lies... and without believing in one’s lies.

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Demons (1871-72)

The political classes have solved this problem – lying is not the hardest thing in their lives. They don’t try to live their political lives without telling lies and they manage to tell those lies without believing them.

Yet Dostoevsky was mostly right. Few of us have the ability to lie as the political classes lie and we never fully understand how they do it.


Sobers said...

"Yet Dostoevsky was mostly right. Few of us have the ability to lie as the political classes lie and we never fully understand how they do it."

Because mass participation democracy tends to select people whose character traits mean they are strangers to the truth. Politicians really aren't like other people. We all know liars in our own lives, people who will quite happily say black is white if it suits them, and they think they can get away with it, those of the types of people who are disproportionately selected for in the democratic process. Who votes for someone who tells them things they don't want to hear? No-one, they prefer the smooth liar, who tells them everything will be lovely and they will suffer no negative consequences.

In reality its our fault, as voters we get the politicians we want, deep down. If we wanted brutal truth tellers then we'd get them, because we'd favour them at the polls. But we favour the slick liars, because they make us feel better, so thats what we get.

dearieme said...

I disagree. Politicians routinely attempt to mislead by - for example - distraction, exaggeration, or omission. But downright lies are rarer.

James Higham said...

They’ve an instructional manual steeped in history.

A K Haart said...

Sobers - I agree, our democracy does tend to select people who are strangers to the truth and it is our fault as voters. It's our fault as consumers of poor quality political reporting too, especially the BBC. Yet as you say, the slick liars make us feel better.

dearieme - I don't disagree with that, although as an overarching view I prefer to be something of a fundamentalist on the issue and view the political classes as habitual liars unless they demonstrate otherwise.

James - they have and it's time to revise it.