“Oh, we lie all the time!” Gertruida smiles, despite the accusation. Oudoom’s sermon on this Sunday morning had been about honesty and truth, a lecture filled with fire and brimstone, delivered with a trembling voice which lamented the absence of integrity in society. Despite the discomfort it caused in the small congregation, they all agreed that it was, indeed, one of Oudoom’s better efforts.
“No, I don’t.” Servaas bunches his bushy eyebrows together in indignation.
“See? You just did!” Gertruida’s sharp wit makes them all smile. Of course they all lie…a little. Just sometimes and only for a good cause. Or so they try to convince themselves.
Vetfaan remembers the sheep he promised for last year’s church bazaar – the one everybody conveniently forgot about. Yes, he said he would, but that was months before the event and nobody had the guts to remind him. But, to be perfectly honest: he remembered and still feels a bit guilty about it. Now, with Servaas so brilliantly put in his place, he reckons he’s not the only fraud.
“We live in a world of lies, just like Oudoom said. Escom lies about the crisis we face. The prez isn’t entirely open about the expenses involved in building his mansion. That lady running the SABC fibbed about her qualifications, so did that other chap, Mister Motsuaneng. And don’t forget that Dr Palo Jordan apparently wasn’t honest about his PhD, either. Politicians lie all the time – we have to accept that. The tragedy is that the masses of uneducated people believe these lies – and don’t for a moment think that unschooled and uneducated implies the same thing. You can have a university degree – a real one – and still be ignorant about political matters.”
“But that’s the fanatical fringe of politics, Gertruida. No matter what your leader does or says, you blow your vuvuzela and ululate loudly. I don’t think those individuals are ignorant – they know which side their slice of bread is buttered. In fact, they create such a spectacle that they promote the lies other people have to believe. Look at the murders we read about during strikes – those fanatics scare the masses into cooperation. If you risk your life for the truth in this country, you pay the price.”
“You may be right, Vetfaan, but then you have to admit it’s a worldwide phenomenon. The Middle East and Croatia and so many other countries have the same problem. In fact, all wars are based on lies. I mean: when doctrine A disagrees with Doctrine B, it surely implies that one of them must be wrong. Yet, despite that obvious anomaly, people take up arms to convince the other side. Lies, my friends, despicable lies. That’s what makes the world go around.”
“Ja…” Boggel stretches the word into a thoughtful silence, sighs and spreads his arms wide. “Maybe society plants the seeds of untruths early on in each child. Tooth fairies, Easter bunnies, Father Christmas, fairy tales…not one of them is true, yet every generation gets brought up the same way: on lies. We learn to accept these as part of everyday life and even if we acknowledged these stories as having no basis in real life, every parent slips a few coins into the slipper that held the milk tooth. We even encourage kids to look for the chocolate eggs the bunny has hidden in the garden. And what about the stork bringing the baby? “
“Well, that may be true, but there is a difference between a fairy tale and a president saying: ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’. Be that as it may, I think we should enter a few candidates for the World’s Biggest Liar Competition.”
“And who would you nominate to go?” Precilla asks, getting into the swing of things. “I mean, we are certainly spoilt with so many gifted liars in the country, it’d be hard to select even a small team of…say…fifty or so.”
“Indeed. But…that would only serve to encourage the government to appoint a Ministry of Mendacity. Universities will offer postgraduate courses to equip people to be economical with the truth while schools will incorporate Factual Gymnastics in the curriculum. No, the moment our government finds out how powerful educated liars can be, the country will destroy itself even faster than it does now. The only upside to that scenario, will be the huge export market that’ll develop – the rest of the world will be clamouring to get their hands on our liars.
“Our politicians don’t have to go to England to prove we’ve the best liars – we know that already.”
Kleinpiet winks for another beer. “Listen, we live in Rolbos. At least we try to be honest here. Let’s start the World’s Most Honest Person competition. We’ll get speakers who only tell the truth and award prizes. It could be fun.”
Everybody nods in agreement…except Gertruida. “No,” she says, “Our Archbishop is too ill to attend and the Dalai Lama can’t get a visa. That rules out the strongest candidates. Being the hosts of the event, we can’t invite Oudoom. So who…,” she scans the faces at the counter, “do you suggest we should invite?”
After a few minutes of silence, Vetfaan gets up, saying he still owes the church a sheep. “I’ll go and catch it quickly and deliver it to Oudoom.”
When he gets to the door, Kleinpiet calls him back. “We all know about that sheep, Vetfaan. Forget it. Donate it for next year’s bazaar.”
And of course Vetfaan agrees. That bazaar is still months away. Maybe everybody will have forgotten about his sheep again by that time.
Gertruida says Abraham Lincoln was right when he stated that no man had a good enough memory to be a successful liar. And when Winston Churchill spoke about the speed of lies (it’s halfway around the world before Truth has its pants on), he hit the nail on the head. No matter how entertaining a lie might be, no matter how carefully constructed and meticulously crafted, eventually the lie loses speed and the slow tortoise of truth overtakes the tiring rabbit of deceit. So, she says, the group in Boggel’s Place is in for a wonderfully amusing 2015 – a year she dubs as The Year of Revelation. She reckons the media will have a field year exposing some of the greatest liars in South African politics – ever.
Those chaps in that bar in Umbria will have to pull up their socks. Or simply just abandon the competition. They are, after all, only mere amateurs…