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Friday, April 12, 2024

Opinion: Honesty no longer the best policy

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For just a moment, until the bottom of this column, let’s deviate from modern times and actually be honest about the state of our nation.
Remember how, back in the old days before lawyers replaced gunslingers, honesty was actually valued. “A man’s word is his bond,” went the old adage, while a simple handshake could close the deal. Now, that handshake is considered unsanitary and you’d better have some wet wipes and a contract before you go any further.
Fact is, as a society we don’t really value honesty anymore. Advertising has always been about superficial spin and mental manipulation, but now we’re got “click bate” that misleads us down trivial little rabbit holes and pop-ups that intentionally mess with our stream of consciousness. But, hey, as long as it sells … right?
Maybe that’s where all the dishonesty comes from — buying and selling. Or more to the point, our materialism. I mean, a big truck doesn’t make you a big man, but we fool ourselves into thinking that. And don’t get me started on the bling, which more often than not sparkles with pure vanity.
Of course, what all this materialism creates is a greater love for money. Used to be, wealth often grew from making an honest living. Now, it’s just passed down. Then we fool ourselves into thinking we deserve everything we have, whether we earned it honestly or not.
Maybe it’s that sense of entitlement that has made us dishonest. It must factor into the reason for Donald Trump’s pathological lying. A more entitled man you will not find in America, but at least he’s honest about that. He knows he’s better than the rest of us, and when it comes to entitlement, I’d say he’s right.
And speaking of pathological liars, I’ve known a few. Mostly they’re harmless, since people figure them out and take everything they say with a grain of salt. I hate to say it, but the scariest ones I’ve known were actual journalists. That’s like putting Satan in charge of your church; it’s just wrong.
A lot of people have concluded that the media are too corrupt to be trusted anymore, and half of the time they’re right. The other half of the time, they’re watching the media they do trust, because it confirms their biases. Truth has taken a backseat to the tribe, and intellectual honesty is thrown out the window.
It’s ironic that we no longer believe in the institutions that built our nation, and yet we think we’re the honest ones. We forget that, in our struggling democratic-republic, “We The People” rule — which is another way of saying we get what we deserve.
Soon enough we’ll be able to blame it all on artificial intelligence, which will pollute this year’s elections like never before.
It seems to me that a loss of common sense is all it takes to be brainwashed these days. People who believe the Q-Anon nonsense appear to have lost their ability to reason logically, and that’s manmade. Imagine what AI will be able to do with such vulnerable minds.
I’ve often said skepticism is a good thing, but cynicism is not. Skeptics question commonly held beliefs; cynics have concluded there’s nothing to believe in. Skeptics raise questions, which is necessary for honesty to prevail; cynics poo-poo everything, which is a sad way to live.
As for me, I’m still a believer. I believe in the overall goodness of people, which helps me in looking for it. Admittedly, it’s getting tougher to find, but I’m still looking.
Or maybe I’m just fooling myself into thinking that about myself — which would mean I’m lying to you right now. If so, I’m fitting right in to our modern world.
Tom McDonald owns and operates the New Mexico Community News Exchange and the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa. He may be reached at tmcdonald.srnm@gmail.com.

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