“Did you know,” Gertruida asks because she knows everything, “that people lie every day? Some studies have shown that men lie six times a day, almost twice as much as women; while others show that 60% of people will lie at least once in a ten-minute conversation. The studies vary so much, because people tend to lie about lying. Psychologists reckon that deception was important for the development of the rather large human brain.”
Now, you must understand, Gertruida has a way of throwing out this type of statement whenever the conversation in Boggel’s Place dies down and the customers lapse into staring at their half empty glasses. Or maybe they’re half full, depending on your point of view. If there is one thing she can’t stand, then it is the absence of communication.
“It has to do with the survival of the fittest, you see? Initially it was the biggest and the strongest Neanderthal that dragged the most beautiful female off to his cave. Now, if that trait continued, the world would be filled by giant men and every woman would be stunningly pretty – but that isn’t the case, is it?”
By now she gets a few curious looks. Where is she going with this?
“So, somewhere along the line, some little guy managed to convince the alpha male that he wasn’t good enough. Maybe he had to be cleverer to get somebody to cook his meal, or maybe he lied about the size of his clan (amongst other things) – but in the end, deception became a necessary factor for survival. Tiny, the diminutive Neanderthal, had to intimidate his huge nephew Brutus, to get to Delicious, the pretty one who got tired of being beaten up every night.”
“So you’re saying that the original lie was a way to stop domestic violence?” Servaas thinks this is all so un-Calvinistic, and his face show it.
“Well, you have the two extremes: brute strength on the one hand, and deception on the other. Deception can take many forms, mind you: setting a trap for Brutus, or waiting in ambush is as much a lie as telling him your sixteen brothers are on their way to beat him up. Making somebody feel safe while you’re waiting for him to fall into the cleverly-disguised hole you dug, is deception. So is telling Delicious you love her simply because you want her to share your cave.”
“Ag, alright, Gertruida. That’s all very interesting. People lie…I get it. Why bring it up?”
“Because, Servaas, the liars became more and more creative over the years. Brutus had no chance once Tiny and his offspring got to the point that the females stopped falling for the strongest – they went for the cleverest. And you know quite well that stupid people don’t lie so well. It’s the clever ones that mix fact and fiction to such an extent that you believe them completely.”
“I’m still not sure what this has to do with us?”
“We live in a world of lies, Servaas: we get fed lies from dawn to dusk every day. Do you think newspapers tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Every front page is slanted towards a political ideology. Reporters get paid to chase a story because we just love sensation – and then they write articles to tell us what the editor thinks we should know. What’s even more important, is the stuff we don’t get told about. The media filters the truth, Servaas, there’s no question about it.”
Precilla has been listening quietly. “Then advertising is simply sophisticated lying?”
“Absolutely! Remember the Stuyvesant ads? They used images of planes, boats and ski-slopes – suggesting that people who smoke this brand are sophisticated and rich. So smokers used it as a symbol of their success – and they were lied to as well as lying to everybody around them.
“Marketing involves creative lying. Skin products promise eternal youth, clothing brands want you to believe that you’ll be the envy of all if you buy their products, and consumers buy pure beef sausages containing anything but cow.”
By now, Servaas is sitting up straight. “You haven’t touched on politicians yet, Gertruida.”
“Who needs convincing? Look at Uncle Bob next door. Or Malema – himself not a paragon of virtue – who claimed that there were 700 criminal charges against our President? And who’ll forget the statement : I did not have sexual relations with that woman?
“To be a successful politician, you have to be extremely creative in the way you handle the truth. Simply sticking to the facts is not going to cut the cheese.”
“Ag nee a!” Vetfaan signals for another beer. “You’re depressing me here, Gertruida. You make it sound as if the world is stumbling along on a diet of fat lies. It can’t be that bad?”
“Wake up, Vetfaan. The Truth is a dying entity. Human evolution depended on the ability to lie. Nowadays, we reward liars by electing them to positions of authority or by buying product we believe will improve our lives. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but the fact is: the rule is in charge.”
“I agree.” Oudoom sighs as he joins the conversation. “We use an interesting term to justify lying: interpreting. People read verses of the Quran or the Bible – then they interpret it to suit their causes. Apartheid was justified by that. The fighting in Egypt, too. The list is long, but the point is: that’s the most dangerous untruth of all…”
“Where will it end, Gertruida? Are we doomed to live in a world of lies?”
“It’ll change, Servaas, but not in our lifetime. A very important thing must happen first: before we stop lying to others, we must stop lying to ourselves. Once we accept that we’re not as sexy, rich or successful as the adverts, and not as gullible to believe that other people must form our opinions, then humanity will revert back to the truth. And that will only happen when the drug of deceit is no longer addictive. When? Lies destroy, truth builds up. So, lies will cause such a major catastrophe that the world will change.
“Maybe it’ll be a religious war, or a massive economic crisis, but in the end, only Truth will survive. It’s a tragedy.”
“I don’t agree.” Vetfaan empties his glass. “Fanny asked me yesterday whether I thought her jeans made her look fat…”
He gets a few sympathetic smiles, but the mood in the bar remains gloomy. One after the other, the patrons find an excuse to leave, claiming something to be done or forgotten.
“They don’t like the truth, Boggel.” A sad note has crept into Gertruida’s statement.
“No, Gertruida. They don’t. Lies are just so much easier to believe.”