Why We Lie to Ourselves
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is that many people struggle with the truth and my husband gave me an answer. Now, to an extent, we all play this game. We delude ourselves into believing various fantasies about others, reality, and especially ourselves. When something is unpleasant, speaks poorly of us, or is out of our control, we reframe the situation in a way that makes it easier on our fragile psyches. We do this to arguments as well. We frame them in ways that coddle our sensibilities. Some of us, of course, are better at coming to terms with the facts than others but all of us, no matter how vigilant, introspective, or wise, from time to time, ameliorate the pain of truth’s indiscriminate razor by confecting ends more to our liking. Comfort, after all, is key.
Russia has been my greatest teacher in this regard, and to a lesser extent so has western feminism. Russia, to begin with, is a place that is literally falling apart. The Kremlin may as well be crumbling before our eyes for all the bullshit they have heaped atop its walls. To give you an idea of just how hysterical people have become here, and over matters of absolutely no importance to their very dire economic situation, just read this article about how the Steve Jobs Memorial in St. Petersburg was dismantled because of Apple’s new gay CEO. Don’t ask me to make sense of this decision or to connect the dots between Steve Job’s life accomplishments and Tim Cook’s sexuality. How any of these things are related and how the memorial now translates to ‘propaganda’ is, quite simply put, neurotic in its paranoia. But it is no less hysterical I guess than tipping a van due to a three man protest on gay rights.
It is easier for Russians, however, to focus on homosexuals and their purported child indoctrinating ways than it is to own up to the reality of their economic and political situation. Creating problems where there clearly are none has been a pass time of adept politicians since the inception of government and Putin, being a very authoritarian and increasingly dictatorial ruler, is no exception.
But what would it mean for Russians if they were honest with themselves about their situation? What would it mean for their families, friends, and prospects? We could reasonably ask the Russian people to ignore homosexuality and the ‘decadent’ and indecent West and pay more attention to the weakening ruble, the falling price of gas and oil, and their increasingly dilapidated infrastructure, as well as the indefinite state of Putin’s presidency – but that wouldn’t be easy, comfortable, or reassuring. To answer those problems one has to first look them in the face and that is terrifying. It is even more terrifying to know Putin has no interest in solving this series of clusterfucks which is why he doesn’t discuss them.
But why would you when there are so many evil homosexuals around trying to molest your children? Surely that takes precedence over the collapsing foundation of your nation.
When we recognize that most Russians either don’t have the tools to escape or have little inclination to do so it becomes obvious why no one is looking this bloated pink elephant in the face. Unfortunately for them, as Malkina from The Counsellor says, ‘…the truth has no temperature.’
Feminism has presented similar carnivals of mental contortionism. You may recall an earlier article I wrote on the It Gets Fatter Project in which a number of morbidly obese people have created a support group built around the notion that doctors and society have fabricated the data on the health impacts of obesity in order to scare people into meeting the body cult standards of the United States. Let that detonate in your mind for a moment…medical professionals are accused of being little more than shills for capitalist America’s obsession with Hollywood bodies. Heart disease, diabetes? Those don’t exist! No worries, it’s all a conspiracy against fat people to support thin privilege.
Do they offer anything aside from junk science for this? No, of course not – but they do offer a highly elaborate, feminist-post-constructionist derived theory for all of it. And well, since anecdote and feelings pass for data, that is all it takes. The alternative, of course, is admitting that they are too lazy or stupid to do something about their imperiled health.
Are we really expected to believe when these people look themselves naked in the mirror, flesh sagging in great mantles everywhere, the great weight of their bodies stressing each joint and enslaving their persons to lives of sluggish exhaustion, that they are happy and comfortable in their skin? Of course not…because no one feels good when they weigh 100 pounds over what they should. But again, if you’re not inclined to solve the problem then you reframe it.
The familiar anthem, it’s not our fault but theirs, is a convenient redistribution of responsibility – especially when we are too lazy to deal with the cause ourselves. And also when the truth reveals something about ourselves we find too uncomfortable or pernicious to bear.
The overly religious are particularly sensitive people when it comes to knowledge. Many an atheist has wondered why so many religious people refuse to give up the ghost of their gods but isn’t it obvious when we consider what it means they’re admitting to? Wasted time, money, energy, emotion, and concerns on matters that never were to begin with. It means admitting to being duped and lied to and swallowing those lies with glee.
What it comes down to, especially for those of us in the autumn of our lives, is that we led our life under a grave misapprehension. And don’t we all think of ourselves as ‘above average’? In America we certainly do. Everyone is a winner, we all receive a trophy because we wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out. There are those feelings again.
But even more distressing is the truth about death. That the end really is…the end, that there is no beautiful valley of unicorns and angels waiting to reunite us with all those we hold dear or dozens of virgins waiting to be ravished. Maybe as a consolation prize we can see also that there is no eternal damnation. But whether they ignore reality for their own sake or for others, the calculus is still the same, and in the end the truth is that they are afraid to reconcile with it.
Personally, I find excuses all the time for my lack of progress in the Russian language. But if I’m honest then I must admit that laziness is the real issue. I fail to prioritize my time in a way that takes Russian seriously.
Acknowledging reality, its consequences, and the nature of our actions is difficult work. It could be described as harrowing and we have an obvious vested interest in doing otherwise. But ultimately I think it behooves us to be honest with ourselves and others about the reasons we do things and about why things are. Under such scalpels and scopes, life is less encumbered with the intoxicating bullshit that drives us between a rock and hard place – a place we could easily have avoided had we the balls to be real about it.