“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”
George Orwell, whose literary influence has seen a number of his words and phrases such as ‘doublethink’ and ‘thoughtcrime’ make its way into the English Language, continue to prove that the criticisms he levelled against political manipulation continue to remain relevant long after his death. Consistently, predictably and repeatedly, people lie over and over, and those in positions of power to make the largest changes rarely behave in laudable ways. Perhaps for as long as money, fame and power continue to fascinate us, being moral, which only requires fairness and minimising hurt, will remain a lofty dream.
After the bombshell dropped by Wikileaks which saw the release of over 20,000 private emails by the democratic party (DNC) in America, there has been a great deal of outrage over what is blatantly a rigged election in a country that often screams democracy. The emails are particularly damning: in a party that’s supposed to be neutral, these emails prove overwhelming bias towards one candidate (Hilary Clinton), collusion with all forms of media to severely undermine Bernie Sanders and finally, repeated lying to the general public by feigning surprise or denial.
There’s of course plenty more to be scandalised with, among which is a correspondence between top party officials on how to use a person’s disbelief in God (atheism) to seriously damage their reputation. That in itself is wildly discriminatory against atheists and insinuates that in order to hold a political position, one must believe in God – a divine being proven real only by sheer imagination and childish peer pressure. But maybe it’s not too much of a surprise. America’s largely a Christian nation. And in many American polls and studies, atheists are among some of the least trusted people and rated as the least desirable group for a potential son or daughter-in-law.
But it is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the DNC, whose behaviour really hits the home run. Through her ‘breakfast meetings’ and various high level contacts, she subtly removed journalists and various opinion pieces that have criticised her party for exhibiting prejudice during the election. She repeatedly denied any such wrongdoing and became livid when proven otherwise. She lies despite knowing she’s lying. She commits election fraud even though as she’s well aware of the rules. And that says a lot. How does she reconcile this moral contradiction? What does it take for a person to wake up in the morning, pretend to be neutral and sincere, and yet is always lying all the time?
Such individuals aren’t exactly uncommon. The Vatican has had a long history of child sex abuse and many human rights organisations have rallied against how the Vatican quietly hides these offenders rather than turning them over to a court. These criminal priests and pastors also lie straight up. They pretend to preach about human morality through the Bible but are themselves in violation of the very ‘truths’ and ‘standards’ they so constantly try to uphold. Psychology has a good explanation for such behaviour: often, when it comes to ourselves, we are less likely to identify our own lies. We believe we are the moral agents of our personal narratives – a sort of hero, and there’s when morality flies out the window.
However, and more troubling, is how likely we are to conform to the pack mentality. Debbie Wasserman did not act alone. Her top officials all colluded alongside her. They leveraged their political might to ‘persuade’ news outlets to fashion the sort of news that they think the general public ought to receive. Not a single person spoke out actively against it. There wasn’t even a hint of protest. We had to rely on an anonymous group (supposedly in Russia) to hack their email database to force Debbie Wasserman to resign. And even then, the speculated motivation behind it was to support Donald Trump, the opposing candidate who by all records, is likely is to lead America to a new age of racism, bigotry and economic depression.
And just like lying almost always brings about consequences more dire than being truthful, the inability to break away from the pack mentality is equally damaging. But maybe this is what teamwork really is about: the point often missed out on in leadership camps and corporate workshops is that teamwork can sometimes (or often) cost you individuality, honesty and initiative. When corporations demand the ability to work as a team on a resume, what they really mean is whether you are prepared to do anything as a group to achieve their goals, whatever it maybe. And perhaps something that most of us learn late is that it is a mistake to dedicate your life to a corporate entity. Entities are souless.
If every farmer in the world agreed to let their herds graze at a fixed time and rotation so that the grass can replenish, the world would be infinitely better. However, all it takes is for one selfish farmer to compromise the entire goodwill sharing. Doing what is right and fair is by no means easy. It’s an uphill task, with the odds stacked against you, especially when going the other way is so much more rewarding, so much less frustrating.
However, since moral behaviour is a deliberate and conscious choice, I believe Orwell did get the last word on this, and I leave one of his finest quotes here:
In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.