Anything is Better than Lies and DeceitLeo Tolstoy
In the continuing saga of the government’s vaccination campaign, the daily deepening of the divide continues to split family and friends with divisions between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated as well as the many other segregations we are now faced with. Except of course for the unvaccinated beneficiaries who can continue to laugh all the way to the ATM.
A supermarket conversation was recently repeated to me as overheard: “The Government wouldn’t ever lie to us.” Really? Nah? Yeah. This government has done nothing but lie to us from the first utterances from the PM’s generously toothed mouth. Lie after lie after lie. And they know they lie, we know they lie, and they know we know they lie, and still it all goes on. We are left wondering what the truth component is. How do we know what to trust of anything that they tell us?
Lies are, it seems, an accepted part of the political agenda. “Lying for strategic advantage about planned actions or intentions, is a common feature of economic and political as well as military life. Such lying frequently takes the extreme form of active misrepresentation, as opposed to less than full honest disclosure.” So wrote Vincent P Crawford in his paper entitled Lying for Strategic Advantage: Rational and Boundedly Rational Misrepresentation of Intentions, March 2003.
It seems that philosophical opinion is split as to whether lying is indeed morally wrong. Brittanica.com offers the following: Plato, born ca 428 BC, considered that it depended on the context in which the lie was told, while Aurelius Augustinus, the Christian bishop and theologian born November 13, 354 AD (“Oh Lord, give me chastity, but do not give it yet”) felt that lying was never allowed or permissible; he did, after all, becomes St Augustine. Much later, Immanual Kant (1724-1804) proposed “that there are no conceivable circumstances in which lying is morally acceptable”. The definition of morality is, it seems, part of the problem. John Stuart Mill (1806-73), British philosopher and political economist, MP and civil servant, believed that “we sometimes have a moral obligation to behave dishonestly if it is to create the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people”. If this is the model this government is following, a great many of us are far from happy. How much better is the unequivocal opinion of St Augustine that lying is never allowed or permissible.
So when a government lies, can it be said to have a functioning moral compass or does its moral compass swing to whichever way they say that north is at that time? The question of morality can, it seems, be considered in terms of the chicken and the egg: which comes first, political affiliation or a moral code that is based on fairness, loyalty and other markers of one’s moral standpoint.
Katie Bohn from Penn State University was part of a study that showed that our politics and political party affiliation may help shape our beliefs and morality. The study showed that while morals did not predict political ideology, political ideology was two or three times better at predicting moral foundations, whereas the reverse may have been thought to have been the case.
Co-author of the paper, Peter Hatemi, says that “results help explain the mental gymnastics some people do to rationalise behaviours or actions within their own political party” and why “there are examples of both the political left and right of excusing or explaining away things that on paper should go against their moral compass. We’ll recondition anything, on average, through our ideological lens…we tailor what we find acceptable to our politics.”
Studies in the USA show that party allegiance determines vaccination uptake – Democrats are more likely to be jabbed than Republicans. Politico.com reported that according to recent polls: “Republicans are roughly six times more likely than Democrats to say they have no interest in being vaccinated.”
How does the blatant lying by this Government square with Jacinda’s oft-quoted statement – “to be the most open and transparent government that New Zealand has ever had.” She did, as reported on 1 News on September 18, 2018, admit, when questioned by Simon Bridges in Parliament over the Chief Technology Officer saga, that her government had not lived up to that statement.
However, given that government lies and obfuscation continue with monotonous regularity, we can know that she has neither shame nor moral compass, and that lies are woven into the fabric of their dealings with us. Lying is, it seems, a strategy that has existed since the time of Plato and depends on context. So that’s all right then?
And on 27 October, Nanaia Mahuta confirmed her previous lies and has announced she wants to pass legislation to force the Three Waters reforms on all councils. We are not surprised but we are left knowing that our democracy has become an autocracy or a dictatorship as all the power resides with Jacinda. Mahuta is just a willing slave of Jacinda, our leader who has absolute power. An autocrat is the first cousin to a dictator.