Have you thought about (HYTA) how everyone is a pervert?

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          An often advertised joke, if it’s not already stale, is that the calculated odds of winning a lottery are at 50%: you either win or lose. Without some understanding of probability and a sprinkle of common sense, the premise of that joke would appear to have some valid grounds to be taken seriously. Similarly, human sexuality, if taken for granted, can incur the same errors of assumptions. It is common (and too easy) to assume that there’s a grand spectrum of normal, accepted behaviour and anything fringe is abhorrent and frightening: you are either sexually normal or sexually deviant.

          Yet, every survey done to gauge sexual conduct and perceptions across cultures and eras has always come with a caveat – a reminder that the survey is never accurate because people are 1) unwilling to truly disclose their thoughts and perceptions which they may find embarrassing or criminal or 2) not carried out in large enough samples to conclusively reach a consensus. Human sexuality varies tremendously from culture to culture, and what’s seemingly innocuous in a pagan tribe, may be absolutely terrifying to learn about under more modern climes. The Sambian tribe of Paupa, New Guinea, conducts longstanding manhood trials for coming of age boys that involves the ingesting of seminal fluids, while in certain areas of Africa, women have to undergo an absurd cleansing rite. Of course, superstition and religion (and largely a lack of education) are primary reasons for such behaviour, but it’s still a reminder that all is not as normal as it seems.

          Homosexuality also used to be considered an abnormal behaviour – an obscene perversion of ‘standard’ human sexual conduct that has thankfully but slowly gained some traction of acceptance in the 21st century. But that still speaks nothing of the horrible persecution and stigma faced, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia that not only forbids anything gay, but has a tendency to follow the Koran’s recommendation for punishing homosexuals: flogging and the death penalty. A long time ago, and for a considerable duration, the annals of psychology used to file homosexuality as an abnormal condition. Though no longer classified as such, what an embarrassment then it must be for the many who insisted that there was only one acceptable sexual behaviour. And there was a point of time where admitting to being gay was to risk having your neck on the chopping block. While it’s easy to say times have changed, that’s too easily forgetting the immense pain and suffering gay people went through to hide who they really were.

          And if one were to argue for ‘normal’ sexual behaviour, be reassured that no one follows standard conduct because the different practices, beliefs and rights to privacy mean anything and everything goes. And not everyone necessarily feel the same level of sexual interest or attraction. Though they make up a much smaller minority of the LGBT community, asexuals are a reminder that there are people who do not feel any (or very little) romantic desires, if at all. Expanding outwards of human sexual orientation, we also have those who are bisexual (romantically attracted to both males and females), yet another wake-up call that not everyone sees love or experiences romance the same way we assume it should be on TV and movies. We have always understood that everyone’s different – a term commonly applied in education that no discrimination should be brought to bear on students of different backgrounds, races and religion – yet human sexual orientation is something everyone feels they must pass a judgement on. Why?

          To make it worse, a quick look at a list of known sexual fetishes should give us a glimpse into how varied (and very dark) human sexuality can be:

Acrotomophilia: Sexual arousal to amputees (those without arms or legs)

Coprophilia: Sexual arousal to feces

Necrophilia: Sexual arousal to corpses

Pygophilia: Sexual arousal to buttocks

Zoophilia: Sexual arousal to animals (horses, cows etc)

         The list of known human fetishes are far longer, and perhaps the most famous and often tossed around terms are masochism (sexual arousal from being hurt or dominated by another person) and sadism (pleasure from inflicting pain on others). They are sometimes conveniently reduced to S&M, and many an on screen joke has been based on confusing these terms.

          And if that isn’t enough, consider that many relationships and marriages in the world often aren’t the norm. A woman who holds the Guinness world record for being the most obese (she could barely move) was able to find a man who was willing the marry her. He found her extreme obesity a huge turn on, and didn’t mind the trouble of washing and cleaning her since she was too overweight to do it herself. There are also those who fall in love despite impossibly challenging cultural and language barriers; those who have to overcome age differences; and others who continue to love each other even though one of their partners may die soon. The long and short of it is that human love, which is really just human sexuality, is complicated, irrational and as Stephen Fry puts it so well: erotically dark. We all want access to love and being loved, and one’s devotion to religion proves a point about how much we want unconditional love. Religion is rubbish, but it’s appeal of a benefactor who will love you despite everything you have done is enough to transform people into believers. What does that tell you about love and sexuality?

          And so, let’s be clear. No one is remotely normal. Everyone has their own disturbing fantasies, odd peculiarities they find erotic, and while they may practice a normal lifestyle, it doesn’t necessarily allude to the fact that they don’t wish for something different. We are in a way, sly perverts. We learn to mask our deviant thoughts and desires, and like most well mannered functioning social folks, we know well the rhythm and public image we must wear to appear normal. Yet, in a way that’s deeply obsessive and disturbing is how religion is so desperately insistent on legislating sexual conduct. Most of us simply get on with our lives but almost every religion in the world has a well-defined rule book on appropriate human sexual conduct. Given that most religions often claim to be able to ‘free’ you and offer the cup of liberation, most religious folks fail to see the steel shackles coming on.

          So, have you thought about (HYTA) how everyone is a pervert?

Have you thought about (HYTA) why everyone should learn a little logic?

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          Wherever we tread, frontiers new and old are often beset with numerous arguments all vying to persuade us to give up our time and money for various causes. For the untrained mind, the inability to differentiate the structure of one argument from another can have dangerous consequences. Some arguments, no matter how you salvage them simply do not hold up, even if you wished otherwise. And studying logic, of which both critical and good thinking are a part of, is a first step for calming a modern mind that’s susceptible to very predictable fallacies and rhetorical tricks. Knowledge of fallacies and the structure of arguments allow us to take apart the lies of politicians, the shaky framework of the religious and supernatural, and commit to higher quality life decisions.

          There are some psychological phenomenons that are particularly important to be aware of. For example, while teamwork is rightfully encouraged in every situation, it’s too easily accompanied by group think, a cognitive behaviour that results in sacrificing critical thought and personal identity in order to adopt a group belief. And in a recent study, our brain can become attuned to repeated acts of dishonesty such that it’s possible to no longer feel any discomfort even when partaking in criminal activity. Knowledge about the inner workings and hidden rationalisations of our brain are extremely useful to know but they must be tempered with the realistic expectations that we are still likely to easily fall into the same traps we’ve learned about.

          Even among friends and family, we should still recognise that casual conversations often follow some structure of an argument. That is to say that people are always persuading us to do, adopt or respond to something, and we are similarly doing the same to them.

          Here’s a simple example in the context of trying to figure out if a student is lying. Which answer is correct?

If John overslept, John will be late.
John didn’t oversleep. Therefore:

(a) John is late
(b) John isn’t late
(c) John overslept
(d) None of the these follows.

          The only logical answer is the last one. A majority of people attempting this will often pick (b). If John didn’t oversleep, anything could have happened, and not necessarily that he would be punctual.

          Our untrained gut feeling is often wrong, and learning how to pay attention to arguments in a rapid-fire discussion is incredibly challenging but necessary. In addition, there are circular arguments that go around in an endless loop. It may seem easy to pick them out, but they can be especially difficult to detect.

          For example, someone might say ‘There’s no greater argument for the existence of God than this beautiful world being the truth of his Existence’

          On the surface, it sounds like an inspiring and meaningful quote. Yet, after some analysis, it’s really saying this:

(1) This world is proof of God’s work.
(2) Therefore, God Exists.
(Repeats indefinitely) God exists because this world is proof.

          And here’s another one:

(1) The Bible says it is the word of God
(2) The word of God cannot be wrong
(3) Therefore the Bible cannot be wrong
(Repeats indefinitely) The Bible is the word of God.

          Logic endows us with necessary intellectual self-defense. If we can make a case for instructing children on why they should learn to read maps and develop independence, the acquisition of logic should be a compulsory modern-day survival tool. And for that, no one will need to delve deeply into the intricacies of logic. Only an introductory course will be enough to yield modest results.

So have you thought about (HYTA) whether logic is an important tool to have?

Have you thought about (HYTA) why it is impossible to build a world where everyone’s trusting, kind and caring?

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          Most of us possess at least some extent of an idealistic, albeit unrealistic hope that our contributions will make the world a better place. While we can indeed help those below us to improve their standards of living, the same cannot be said about moral behaviour. It’s not just that moral standards are deeply influenced by religious perspectives or cultural norms, nor is it because our irrationality often prevents us from seeing things clearly – and these are already very significant factors – but because as people become more trusting towards each other, it becomes far too rewarding to do harm.

          To put into perspective, none of us are willing to commit a crime because we are well aware that the consequences of our actions (no matter how minor) have repercussions that we are unwilling to bear. Whether it’s life imprisonment or the risk of being socially shamed on various digital platforms, we care enough about our reputation that we are automatically deterred from doing anything criminal. It may not be obvious to us, but we are always sub-consciously weighing the possible gains and losses in every moral situation, and we are very capable of exploiting every outcome to the fullest.

          However, and take this as an example, if a successful burglary would gain you millions of hard cash while a failed attempt would only put you in jail for only a few years, a number of people in rather difficult and trying circumstances will consider the entire enterprise a heist worth carrying out. The benefits (assuming the burglary isn’t about trying to break into a fortified military vault) are enticing enough to diminish the threat of jail time. It’s also why during a mass revolt, looting and pillaging of shops (in addition to many horrific crimes) break out. Without law and order, there are no serious consequences, so it would seem almost stupid and too unrewarding to be the morally upright citizen.

          This unfortunately also extends to our moral interactions with each other. In a world of lies and deceits, truthfulness becomes appreciated. A moral quality becomes valuable because  amidst its abundant opposite value, it is now a rare commodity. However, isn’t the opposite true as well? If everyone was absolutely trusting, deception (and any other immoral behaviour) becomes far too rewarding to ignore. In short, the more trusting people become, the more you are rewarded for being the manipulator, the liar and for practicing duplicity.

          Take our present situation as an example: being a successful con artist is difficult to pull off because many incidences of scams and schemes have already been reported. Now wiser to the different methods of deception employed, fleecing someone of their entire life savings would be almost impossible. A small sum of several thousands, especially if carried out over a period of time with a smattering of deceptive reassurances, might be possible to pull off. However, what about a universe where everyone is fully committed to open trust? The one bad apple will far too easily bankrupt everyone in existence until you are forced to learn to build your guard up. In such a situation, it simply makes no sense to be the good guy.

          School examinations are a particularly apt analogy. Almost no student will ever consider cheating except in very unusual situations – you risk expulsion and permanent damage to your career prospects. Yet in the state of Bihar, India, exam cheating is rampant. The top scorer was notorious for being unable to spell ‘political science’ and thought it meant something related to cooking. Over there, parents scale the school wall to help their children cheat. It’s not hard to see why. The rewards for blatant cheating against the limited invigilating vigilance (and weak deterrences) only mean that the immoral choice of academic dishonesty becomes too rewarding to pass up. Why be good when it’s better to be bad, and far easier?

          The way I see it, there’s a balance – a sort of equilibrium – between moral and immoral behaviour. In the long and dark past of mankind, long before established systems of modern governance, it would often be more profitable to just kill someone (and their family/group so they can’t take revenge) and take what they had. If you were strong and belonged to a powerful social group, you could easily get away with it. Now, because of various policies and laws, people are far more useful alive rather than dead. So we negotiate.

          So for those (and they are often religious) who envision a world of warm love, or one that’s governed by a divine being who can spread his brand of justice to eliminate misconduct, they are probably disconnected from reality. For the rest of us, it just means we should temper our expectations. This is what it means to live in society. Besides, how else could we appreciate moral conduct if we haven’t been on the receiving end of a great deal of anguish before?

So have you thought about (HYTA) why it is impossible to build a world where everyone’s trusting, kind and caring?

Have you thought about (HYTA) whether deeply religious people should be exempted from positions of power?

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          Anyone remotely affiliated with religious ideology will at least concede one point: they claim to have some form of intimate connection with God(s) which may include, though not limited to, the ability to sense his presence or hear his divine directions. Under the specter of religion, a chance meeting with an old friend becomes ‘divinely ordained fate’; personal tragedies become interpreted as ‘part of God’s greater plan for you’; or as it’s too often the case, chalked up to ‘the work of the Devil’. So let’s be clear: religion (or the supernatural) of any form is entirely invasive and like creeping vines, will find its way to parasitically coexist with the mind of its host.

          Would you hire someone who tells you he can hear voices, feel an unexplained spiritual presence or fervently believes the world will eventually come to an end? If you took religion out of the context, this person would be immediately labelled as fully dysfunctional, with a short phone call away from being housed in a mental asylum. Yet, under the wrappings of religion, what’s definitely abnormal becomes fully functional, if not acceptable. In the name of religion, it becomes possible to get away with nonsensical claims, and lousy anecdotal stories suddenly become moments of great divine revelation.

          And yet, some of the most powerful people in the world are deeply religious, almost fundamentally so. The Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, infamous for his brash trash talk,  heavy-handed vulgar language, and his horrific campaign of mass murdering drug addicts, said that he would abstain from swearing because God spoke to him and told him to clean up his language. Take a moment to think. It’s really as ridiculous as it sounds. What happens if he ‘hears’ God telling him to conquer nearby Asian countries or being reassured that murder is an acceptable form of justice? It would be but one hair trigger from an irreversible tragedy. And yet, nobody really minds that he ‘hears’ voices. It’s apparently quite normal to hear voices.

          Or what about Antonin Scalia, the American supreme court  justice – an extremely powerful position that most aspirants won’t reach, let alone dream of – who believes resolutely in the existence of the Devil? A judge who presided on issues of law, morality, and government policies, asserted in an interview that the Devil was a real person. He went as far as to say that non-believers were under demonic influence – a convenient (and faulty) way of defending religion while downplaying logic. In a system of laws where secularism speaks first, how could someone so religiously twisted be able to pass down effective judgements? Yet, in America, though not constitutionally enforced, it’s explicitly made clear that in order to hold a government position, belief in God (the Christian one) is necessary.

          It’s easy to point out that these are merely glaring missteps. But they aren’t isolated cases. For example, Pakistan was unable to ban child marriages (some as young as 6 years old) because its Council of Islamic Ideology, a bunch of genuine lunatics, decreed that it was ‘un-Islamic’ and blasphemous. A British chancellor occupying some of the highest scientific position believes in the absurdity of Astrology (not to be confused with Astronomy); climate change, evolution and right to abortion, continue to find incessant obstructions from religious groups; and of course, there’s Malaysia’s recent furor when authorities insisted that hot dogs (the food) be renamed because Islam considers dogs dirty. They also tried to ban and change the name ‘root beer’ because Islam prohibits alcohol. Root beer has no alcohol.

          Are these newsworthy stories worth kicking up a storm over? Absolutely. The front page headlines could beCrazy Philipines President claims to hear voices from the great unknown’ or ‘Supreme Justice should be fired for belief in Devil’. Yet the media response is far too often muted. It often considers religious transgressions and absurdities as social norms. It claims to respect the faith and belief of every individual while undercutting one’s capacity for deeper thought and reflection. The media, because it’s ultimately the mouthpiece of the government (it shouldn’t be), will always continue to promote its country’s main religion and blind nationalistic loyalty. Admittedly, cohesiveness of any kind is dependent on a sort of necessary blindness.

          Regardless, far too many religious people who have no business being in positions of power, are allowed to dictate laws, rules and regulations. And at a minimum, they continue to hold back, blockade and interfere with Science, logic and human rights. To be clear, with or without religion, mistakes will still be made and corruption will still seethe by the side. While religion can be a catalyst in encouraging people to abide by a certain moral code, it’s achieved with hostility towards science, towards other faiths, and a complete misrepresentation of how the world truly works. For these people, their confidence in their religious views are often such that “I could be wrong” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. That should be enough grounds for a full disqualification.

          So have you thought about (HYTA) whether deeply religious people should hold positions of power?

Have you thought about (HYTA) why it’s so difficult to change someone’s mind?

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          When I was younger, I used to be in deep admiration for those who could do what I sometimes struggled with: being able to speak volubly with enviable eloquence, humour and confidence. They were, I observed to myself, so certain about everything they said. Ironically, despite having read widely, my present self is even more unsure than I have ever been. The more knowledge acquired, the more you realise how little you really know of anything.

          How then, can anyone be so resolutely confident about religion, politics or morality? But – and I believe this is true in most cases – those who speak so wonderfully are also the least likely to change their minds. In fact, the more persuasive a speaker, the more wary I am. If you look past the glossy presentation veneer, you will see an ugly and stubborn mind that may not necessarily have good reasons to sustain its beliefs.

          In the furious science vs religion debate (evolution vs creationism) between Bill Nye the science guy and Ken Ham the religious fundamentalist, a closing question was asked: What, if anything, would change your mind? Bill Nye stoically replied that he was willing to believe in religion if some form of strong & testable evidence could be presented. Ken Ham’s confident answer, however, was especially telling: “No, no one is ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true.”

          And that quite nicely summarises most of our social interactions. We almost always want to persuade others to take up something we believe in, follow what we like or agree with our opinions. Conversely, we are far less inclined to allow ourselves to be persuaded of a contrary statement. We seek out information that matches what we are in agreement with and make no effort to explore our hesitations. Uncertainty is not encouraged but is instead smothered to death.

          In a dinner I had many weeks ago, religion became a main (and serious) talking point. No surprise since it influences your moral attitude and understanding of the world. Though an atheist (a label I rarely use), I remained open to having my view(s) changed and so I listened deeply to my friend’s religious arguments. Unfortunately, the totality of the entire two hours could be outlined as follows:

          God is a divine being beyond human understanding. You cannot apply logic or reasoning to it.

          God’s actions cannot be judged. Only he knows what his celestial plan is. His acts of violence cannot be understood by human means.

          Therefore, no matter what you say or how difficult it is to justify my position, I won’t change my mind.

          Given the amount of convenient exceptions and innumerable fallacies present, there was no argument to be had. She simply would not entertain any possibility that she might be at the very least, slightly wrong.

          Here’s another example of how difficult it is to change minds.

          Despite Donald Trump’s bad business acumen (he went bankrupt at least ten times), blatant racism and repeated sexism, Trump supporters continuously defend him by playing down his deficiencies and dismissing his flaws as ‘good attributes’ to have in a leader. His audio recording of how easy it was to abuse his power to forcefully get any woman he wants has been accepted as ‘men’s locker room talk’ and therefore no big deal. (it isn’t)

          In the face of irrefutable evidence, people simply do not change their minds. They will however, seek to either downplay the evidence or twist it around to support their cause. This quirk of the mind is, like many cognitive biases, well-understood in Psychology. And this also means that even if genuine evidence existed to undermine the ‘truth’ of religion, you can be sure that the faithful will never revise their opinions at all. If anything, it will more likely strengthen their resolve. For many who think logic and evidence is an effective persuasive tool, it’s probably somewhat depressing.

          So what’s the point of persuading people when hard evidence (not anecdotes) can barely sway them, or if they are outright determined to completely hold on to their opinions? There’s honestly little that can be done except to educate the young on how to think well and clearly for themselves. Those younger are usually not yet locked down by their beliefs and are still forming an understanding of how the world works. Assuming they have an opportunity for exposure to authentic critical thinking, their capacity to think independently will likely stay with them for life.

          Maybe it’s just me, but I believe some of the most fulfilling conversations to have are a deep willingness to listen, a tacit respect for equal speaking room, an outright love for change and a want to be changed. There’s something indescribably marvelous about embracing uncertainty with such a person and to be humbled but intellectually invigorated. Here, there’s no need to change minds. Hearts will change. It’s a pity such a moment is far too often the exception rather than the norm.

So have you thought about (HYTA) why it is so difficult to change someone’s mind?

Have you thought about (HYTA) whether the world continues to exist after you die?

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          Many of the things we do are contingent upon a hopeful certainty that long after our deaths, the world will persist indefinitely. Presumably, our children will continue where we left off, and whatever achievements we laboured for will leave behind a legacy. In fact, believing the world will continue to exist after your death is the main motivation for many forms of conservational efforts, our ability to put up with great misery and suffering, as well giving life some sense of meaning, if any.

          Looking around, there appears to be plenty of reason to believe that life has persistence. Babies are born and slowly grow up, even as the young and old die. It’s a believable cycle of successive replacements, giving a sense of continuity even after we breathe our last. However, as with many theories of the universe and the mind, we don’t have any objective proof to stand by that conclusion. (though we can continue to speculate)

          Where the frontiers of human consciousness start and end, science is at its infancy. There is much we now know than we ever did, but far too much of the human mind, whether it’s about romantic love, gender differences or hidden biases, continue to stubbornly remain shrouded from those who seek to pry open its secrets. Still, we know that our brain is the chief architect in engineering our reality. When it fails in this area (through trauma or mental disorders), an overwhelming sense of disconnect starts to fester.

          For example, we know of case studies of a woman who feels that her arms do not belong to her or the man who feels trapped in the mind of a female. And those who take LSDs (drugs that alter consciousness) often talk about how it warps their perception of reality in a dizzying euphoria. In The Matrix, though it’s a sci-fi movie, machines can hijack our brains by stimulation to manufacture a false reality. You’d never know the difference between an illusion and the truth. Our mind is so powerful that one cannot help but wonder if any of this ‘reality’ we are experiencing now is genuinely real.

          Or consider modern day role-playing games (RPGs). While you may play as the main character set against the backdrop of a rich universe, other non-playable characters (NPCs) have complex background intrigue that can rival your own storied history. These NPCs follow detailed schedules, live out their own lives, may get married and have children. They have their ethical codes, serve their own needs, and will disagree to work alongside you.

          At times, their dialogues and your ways of responding to them can be immensely branched and varied. However, despite how believable this fantasy world is, should your character die, the game ends there and then. And would it not be possible that the same holds true in reality? Your death becomes an endless sleep from which everything comes to an end. No more progress is made. Nothing else is known or can be known.

          Entertaining such a possibility has a number of consequences. It becomes easier to justify leading a lifestyle of maximising pleasure, often with the intent of putting your own interests ahead of others. A great deal of inspirational quotations lose their veneer and life becomes somewhat more mundane. Perhaps the only reason why any of us struggle so hard is because we take it as a given that life continues after our demise.

          But maybe the opposite is also true. If nothing carries over after our death, there’s little reason to stay in grief over our mistakes (though we should still learn from them), no need to over-compensate for our deficiencies, and much more joy to be had in maximising this ephemeral experience with the rare few whose company we so dearly enjoy.

So have you thought about (HYTA) whether the world continues to exist after you die?

Have you thought about (HYTA) the different types of lies we tell?

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          Lying, despite whatever moral instructions we received when growing up, is something we consistently do everyday. Even our parents who try valiantly to guide us are also complicit in the act of lying. Does “you are the smartest” or “grandmother is in a better place” sound familiar? It should. Because they are lies. Regardless of the language used or the ‘kind’ intent behind it, a lie is straight up just a lie. In a 2002 study, an estimated 60% of adults can’t have a 10 minutes conversation without lying at least once, and even then, that may well be an underestimation. That’s highly disconcerting. It doesn’t just mean that we are repeatedly being lied to but we are also blatantly lying to others.

          On average, we lie to our parents the most (86%). And though we lie the least to our spouses, it still stands at a shocking 69%. The numbers aren’t terribly surprising, and while we shouldn’t read too deeply in a single study, most of us familiar with self-deception and white lies can understand why the incidences of lying are so high. The lies we tell border on the extremes of consciousness and unconsciousness. And despite what we have been told otherwise, some form of lying is of course necessary, especially when lying to ourselves.

          In a single lifetime, a spider spins many different types of silk. The silk that makes up the eggs cocoon is different from the strands that line the outer edges of the web. So too do we tailor our lies according to the situation, sometimes being only dimly aware that we are lying. We weave a complex network of lies – a web of deceit that any spider would be deeply envious of. We may not intend to harm, but we certainly do not tell the truth. When asked about our day at school, we don’t tell our parents the full details of our misdemeanors, who we developed inexplicable feelings of attraction for, or those we violently disliked. And of course as adults, we lie on our resumes, during interviews and on dates. Lying is par for the course.

          The first type of lie we tell is already known to most people. Often called white lies, we rationalise the need for them so that we can ‘protect someone’s feelings’ or until ‘they are ready to hear the truth’. The husband who reassures his wife that the pair of jeans doesn’t make her look overweight is but one example; or an atheist who finds religious prayer ceremonies very disturbing but instead mumbles a few kind words; and perhaps the classic example of receiving a sales call and lying about how you don’t have time right now just so you can hang up as soon as possible. And the Japanese may well be right up the notoriety scale. Predisposed to be polite in almost every situation, a Japanese will praise you even if you are repeatedly (and clearly) incompetent. Depending on context, these lies can result in grievous injuries since like all lies, they are a deliberate departure from reality.

          And then there are the much more sinister lies we tell. Though the intent is still to minimise hurt, it’s mostly told to make ourselves feel better. When in bed with our spouse, sometimes we  end up dreaming or thinking about someone else – perhaps the very first person we fell in love with – and when asked about it, we will lie not only to spare feelings but also to reassure ourselves that we weren’t being unfaithful. Or in the case of religious conversions, plenty is confidently preached about the validity of the one true faith. Yet, many religious folks have never fully read their holy texts, nor do they usually live up to the moral standards they insist others must follow. So when they confidently lie about their certainty in the faith and rattle off quotes and verses, their primary motive is a psychological reassurance for themselves.

          Finally, the last set of lies we tell is well-documented. Consider the following questions:

(1) “I love you” – a lie told when a quick affair instead of a long term relationship is wanted.

(2) “Yes, I read most of the materials” – a lie told when asked by your teacher to explain why you failed the test.

(3) “I am aware of most of the issues” – a lie told when asked if you read or watched the nation’s speech / rally.

(4) “Yes, I am not too bad in teams and I am pretty honest.” – a lie told in an interview when asked if you are good at teamwork and owning up to mistakes.

          In many, many situations, ours answers given are almost always distorted. Even in surveys with full anonymity promised, participants continue to exaggerate (still lying). These lies are intended to meticulously present a favourable image: You don’t want to be misjudged as callous so you lie about loving another person, and in order to sound more hardworking and knowledgeable, you pretend to know more than you should by using hedging words like “somewhat” or “kind of”.  We want to be seen as the good and cool people.

          And this brings me to a final contentious bone of irony about lying and truthfulness. Honesty is probably an overrated virtue. In every situation above, if you applied a standard of total honesty, not only would you lose all your friends, you would probably find it difficult to live with yourself. And those who make a career in acting are more likely to unconsciously lie repeatedly – especially since their choice of words and carefully pruned expressions are going to be extremely convincing. After all, they know the right things to say and do to elicit a desired response from a date or a manager.

          Like it or not, lying, at least in a way that’s elegant and difficult to detect, is what keeps the clockwork gears of social interaction meshing smoothly. But I think there’s something deeply uncomfortable about being aware that many parts of a conversation are likely to be lies. And yes, that includes the motivational speaker, the teacher and prime minister.

So have you thought about (HYTA) what the types of lies you tell?