Lies Told to Children
by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. March 5, 2010
Consider two cases of mass manipulation through a big lie: the first is directed against children, and has to do with Santa Claus; the second is directed against adults, and has to do with government programs and goodies. In the first case adults engage in a conspiracy to inculcate in children a belief in Saint Nicholas; in the second case, a certain party of propagandists engage in a conspiracy to inculcate a general belief in government entitlements. In the first case, a good outcome depends on whether a child is naughty or nice; in the second case, a good outcome depends on whether the public will vote for measures that promise to bankrupt the country, creating yet another department of government elves and overseers.
Lying to children is part of the process of coddling and protecting them. Not surprisingly, lies told to adults also involve coddling. Those who believe that adult citizens cannot possibly take responsibility for their own children (education) or health (socialized medicine) or elderly parents (social security), would pass the responsibility along to government. The result, of course, is a cancerous culture of entitlement in which people accept less and less responsibility, as government accepts an ever greater share.
"One of the most remarkable things about the way we lie to kids is how broad the conspiracy is," wrote Paul Graham in a May 2008 essay. "The conspiracy is so thorough that most kids who discover it do so only by discovering internal contradictions in what they're told. It can be traumatic for the ones who wake up during the operation." A similar comment can be offered in the case of government entitlements. The conspiracy to increase them is remarkably broad, and discoverable through the apprehension of internal contradictions. What sounds good at first hearing, turns out to be tremendously expensive -- perhaps even unsupportable -- years down the road. Budget-busting proposals are advanced under the heading, "We owe it to ourselves."
Lies have always been told to children, and to adults, but in pre-industrial times children were well aware of adult superiority in skill and knowledge, and viewed themselves "juniors" in the true sense. Today, however, children absorb adult lies within an artificial protected environment. Here Graham says something of special interest: "Children of kings and great magnates were the first to grow up out of touch with the world. Suburbia means half the population can live like kings in that respect." Yet consider entitlement programs as an attempt to return us all to childhood. Here it is not suburbia that puts us out of touch with reality, but government. We are, then, all children of the king, and of those beneficent bureaucrats who have taken charge. We are all entitled, at this turning point of history, to become spoiled misfits. In the neurotic tradition of psychopaths like Caligula, Nero, Commodus and Heliogabalus, we are brought along. Losing touch with real life, the spoiled child drifts toward adult insanity. Caligula made his horse a senator, married his sister and declared himself a living god; Nero kicked his pregnant wife to death, put on a veil and married a man; Commodus descended into the arena to fight like a gladiator; and Heliogabalus used eight naked women to pull his chariot.
"Every kid grows up in a fake world," noted Graham, highlighting the fountainhead of our latter-day neuroses. To protect a child may be a good thing, but modern suburbia protects its children by fostering a sterile and "fake" impression of the world. According to Graham, the biggest, most recent lie told to children is how special and smart and savvy they are: "and every year you get a new crop of 18 year olds who think they know how to run the world." And so, the child becomes an adult, accustomed to flattery, shielded from the truth, and ready to believe that government is obligated to take care of everyone. Genuine self esteem attends the acceptance of responsibility and the fulfillment of duty, while today's false self esteem correlates with the government accepting more and more responsibility for the individual.
Speaking of school, Graham noted that children are taught "a complex of lies" in school. "Public school textbooks represent a compromise between what various powerful groups want kids to be told. The lies are rarely overt." He then offers compelling examples, such as the inclusion of various ethnic nobodies placed side by side with notable geniuses. "As subjects got softer," he explained, tracking the degenerative spiral of suburban coddling, "the lies got more frequent. By the time you got to politics and recent history, what we were taught was pretty much pure propaganda." And perhaps the most shocking statement in the whole of Graham's essay touches on "the biggest lie told in schools" namely, that people succeed by following "the rules." Sadly, the rules of our day are mostly concocted -- as Graham says -- "to manage large groups effectively."
And who are the managers of these large groups? Well, they are government bureaucrats. It so happens that the use of lies to manage behavior isn't limited to children. Propagandists use lies to manage adults. That awesome manipulative wonder, the government of Russia, following established Soviet practice, spreads lies throughout the world to this day -- lies about America, lies about terrorism, lies about the balance of power. Those who would advance the cause of socialism (i.e., the cause of government control), resemble those proficient Soviet practitioners, who conceived and developed a sophisticated form of strategy known as "active measures" (Активные мероприятия). Here the lies are told in layers, and spread in every direction, on every conceivable topic. The Kremlin lies even when there isn't any apparent reason to lie, and tells the truth only when everyone is bound to think it a lie (for example, when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he believes in "global cooling" rather than "global warming.")
It is a mark of adulthood that the mature individual accepts hard truths. He is no longer protected. He has "put away childish things." He no longer believes in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus. It is a reversion to childhood, however, if he believes in big government entitlements. In that case, there is nothing to be done. The adult has become a child and lives in the protected world of the child, absorbed in a childish fantasy. On this note, it is fitting to end with an excerpt from E.Y. Harburg's famous lyrics, written for The Wizard of Oz:
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
© 2010 J. R. Nyquist