I know a handful of people in this world who are what they appear to be. They are honest, open, vulnerable and truthful. I am attracted to this kind of person. Most of us are, to some degree. But then we often move back a few paces, put a little distance between reality and our desire for comfort. You see, comfort seems to drive the world. Wait, did I use the word “Deception” in the title of this post? Well, yes, I did, and for good reason. The appearance of the thing seems most important to most people. That is why people drive cars and buy houses they can’t afford, and go into debt so that they are clothed in designer outfits, and buy their kids the best of everything. That is why advertising is so successful in the modern age (I am showing my age using that term). An ad exec (or, actually, one of his minions) comes up with a slogan, look, a feeling that they want a product to evoke in consumers. They spend tons of money to advertise that the product does something in particular for the consumer. Most consumers buy the whole ball of wax hook, line and sinker (sorry for the mixed metaphors). That is because most people want to trust, to believe, to hope that something will make them feel successful, special, important, or wealthy-looking. The idea of truth in advertising was a big deal when I was young, and multiple corporations were always in hot water for misrepresenting products. You just don’t hear about that anymore. As long as you pay off the FDA or USDA, the EPA or some other governmental agency, you are free to push whatever you want on the unsuspecting public. Did you know that you can now fast-track pharmaceutical approvals through the FDA via a large fee? Haha! Bet you didn’t. The FDA isn’t even ashamed of this practice, or doesn’t care. The idea that you can buy an FDA approval is so accepted that they aren’t even hiding the practice anymore.
Same with the big biotech companies. Monsanto designs a new genetically modified seed in their lovely, expensive laboratories, injecting foreign viruses, animal DNA, and who knows what else, into a seed so that it will tolerate massive amounts of herbicides and/or makes an insect’s stomach explode. They are not required to prove that such seeds and their resulting crops are safe for human consumption long-term. Nope. They can design some short-term studies, throw out any results they don’t like (or fire and blackball the scientists that find results that they don’t like), and submit their results to the FDA who is staffed with former Monsanto executives. Do you see the pretty little picture here? It is all smoke and mirrors.
On the local front, the local movement pushed by locavores attracts scam artists who import products from out of the region, and sometimes the state and country, and sell them as their very own. How are you going to know? I finally understood the importance of supporting small businesses that have been in a town for 30 years: if they had cheated their customers or tried to pull a fast one, they would not be in business anymore. Word of mouth would destroy them. But it still happens. And for small businesses hanging on by a thread, the temptation to lie, cheat and steal their way through this recession is probably too much for some.
On a personal level, I respect and admire individuals and businesses that are honest and up front. What a breath of fresh air to this world of dark, twisted plots and subplots to make another dollar. Consumers are complicit in the support of a world of deception because we love to be told something is amazing and will make us amazing, too. Instead of working hard, creating something valuable, giving to our communities, honestly supporting one another, too many feel appearances are most important. I was taught honesty by my parents. Yesterday, I actually tried to remember any lies that either of my parents told me (other than the Santa and Easter Bunny thing, and that is fantasy). I know they weren’t always right about everything, but I cannot remember one time when they made something up with the goal of deceiving me, making me think something that wasn’t true. They protected me at times, allowed me to be a child when times were rough, but never spun tales and tried to make me think they were something they were not. I actually have an overactive conscience in the lying department because of this honesty standard. I find it funny when people don’t trust me. If they only knew how honest and trustworthy I was it would probably shock them, because I will walk an item back into the store if I get out to the parking lot and discover I didn’t pay for it. I turn in items I find, including money. Yes, I am kind of crazy that way. I believe in karma. I believe that you reap what you sow. I believe that what you dish out you will eventually receive, and multiplied. I might reach the end of my days and wonder why I was so obsessed with honesty, but I will have a clear conscience in that department. I know I am not lying and cheating people, and that is enough.
I didn’t start out meaning to preach. I have had my eyes opened quite a bit lately, and it hasn’t been pleasant. I have great respect for small business owners who are able to weather the economic storm with honesty and integrity. I have great respect for individuals who can honestly state that they are having a modest Christmas and refuse to go into debt so that people won’t know how much they are hurting. I was talking with a fellow student this past week about my need for scholarships (hence my need to maintain a good GPA) because “I am poor.” I couldn’t believe how quiet the classroom became. If I had been in Texas or Florida, no one would have batted an eyelash, but up here in Connecticut, perception and appearance are everything. I have great respect for whistleblowers and people of conscience in the medical, biotech, and political arenas (they are few and far between, and always pay for their honesty by losing their jobs at the minimum, but often lose their careers and their lives). Maybe I am mistaken that you reap what you sow. Maybe the liars will inherit the earth after all. Well, in a few years they won’t have much to inherit. And those of us who are honest will shake our heads and wonder if it was worth all of the deception.