I don’t mind being old. Every age has its pros and cons, and so far I’m finding the scales pretty evenly balanced. But sometimes the pros win hands down: it’s so reassuring to know I’ll be dead before certain indications of future normality come to fruition.
I’m fairly sure every generation thinks this way to a greater or lesser degree. I know my father was disillusioned by the time he died. He saw good things diluted by expedience and ideals corrupted by the egos of those he’d trusted to know better. I could see his point, but I hadn’t fought as he had to establish those good things, so it was easier for me to adapt (though not without regret). That’s the way the world turns and always will.
But there are some things so basic to the ‘civilised’ in civilised society that their loss opens a can of worms I’m happy I won’t be around to see. One of those is honesty.
There have always been liars. Of course there have. What’s more we all lie occasionally: those white lies we classify as ‘tact’. And however much we’d like to believe in the concept of absolute truth, it really doesn’t exist. ‘Truth’ must inevitably be coloured by belief and culture. But there’s a big difference between either of those things and what I see happening today.
‘True’ and ‘false’ are becoming indeterminate commodities, interchangeable to suit the agenda of those employing them.
The big problem with this – the huge, glaring problem that blind Freddy could see if he weren’t so wrapped in his determination to ‘win’ – is that once you’re found out…
Tell the truth, I told my children. It might get you into trouble in the short term, but if I find you out in a lie, it damages my trust in you, and the consequences of that are far more corrosive and long-lasting. They got it, they really did, and as a result, they had more freedom than some of their peers whose parents had found out the hard way that their children lied like troupers.
But how does that work in modern society, where sporting role models make false declarations about the drugs sloshing around their systems, politicians routinely employ scare tactics with scant regard for truth, rumour becomes fact as long as it’s on Facebook and wars can be justified on dubious interpretations of blurry images?
I was brought up on three basic principles: never tell a lie, never break a promise, and if you’re in strife, come home. I’m glad I won’t live long enough to see the first two displayed in museums as quaint relics of unattainable idealism. I couldn’t stand the chaos and confusion.