Honesty and integrity must become our top priorities.
The Rabbis tell us that every era has its own dominant evil inclination.
Freud reduced widespread incest in the West to mere childhood fantasies. This laid the groundwork for an unprecedented oversexedness. Since 1960, a new norm was built on that, sex for fun. No more brakes from bygone norms, pregnancy and child rearing, or relationship constraints, with porno for self-sex everywhere. Masturbation suddenly became ‘healthy.’
(That does not mean that everybody was at Woodstock living it up. Nor does it mean (below) that everyone was a selfish monster in the past decades. Rather, those things became the challenge of the generation and, as such, influenced us all. For some, that meant going down all the way, for others, that meant rejecting the main evil of the times completely, and most people probably would sit somewhere between the two extremes.)
This ego sex seamlessly morphed into self-centeredness that became the new evil inclination of next generation. From Facebook to selfie, from iPhone (What’s in a name?!) to autonomy. The generation told by philosophers that Free Will to improve our morality is but an illusion began to use ‘free will’ for an anarchistic “Only I decide.” The supposed right to Free Speech (and the freedom to lie and hurt) morphed from a byproduct of (and being subservient to) democracy into an enemy of the system and our humaneness.
And now, after thirty years of the sex-for-fun era and thirty years of the I-me-and-myself era, I want to suggest that a new period has begun.
The evil inclination now dominating the Western world is lying. Alternative ideas supported by alternative (fake) facts. Scientific findings have become worthless. Doctors’ advice can now be ignored. (Everyone’s a doc now.) As long as you have a pet theory, your opinion is not only valid – it is holy.
The culture of the USA sets the tone in most of the world, like it or not.
What must have been the tipping point signaling the beginning of this era?
• Not that the US elected a con artist for president. This didn’t happen because Americans lost their love for truth. Rather, they were such a good naïve bunch that they believed the lies. And already Reagan was a fake leader. Nothing new there. (His wife was the president. As an accomplished actor, he just did the intonations, even when he was already demented.)
• For decades, gullible Americans considered Hollywood illusions to be harmless fun. As if the Natives and White colonists really were like that, and men and women ideally should look, speak, and behave like that.
• Lies about the economy or in ads are not new either. Ever since women and the working class got to vote, economists explain away the dreads of Capitalism, a ‘Free Market,’ and exploitation of everyone. For years already, production and ads offer us cheap stuff that will break before we can use it; and expensive stuff no better than cheap stuff (theft on top of deceit). ‘The Art of the Deal’ was code for How to Fool and Exploit Others. In truth, if you can ‘make’ a lot of money, others will lose a lot of money.
• For at least half a century, millions in the US believe fervently in UFOs (no trace of proof). Father Christmas is sold to kids as if make-belief is innocent.
• Thousands of years ago, the Sages explained that this world is the world of untruth, in contrast to our trial before the Heavenly Court after our life is over. There, truth reigns, and we can’t hide from any of it any longer.
But what then was actually the turning point that started this new epoch to be one specifically drenched in deceit?
I would say that this era began with half a million Americans needlessly dying from a coronavirus pandemic because their president lied to them that the virus is like the flu. That, after the Chinese dictator had warned him it isn’t. And Trump wasn’t even indicted for this mass-murderous neglect.
NB: Lying is not the same as making a mistake or speaking about something one is ill-informed about. The definition of dishonesty is saying something which you know is untrue or while you don’t care if it’s true.
Realize that without integrity, we have nothing. When black is white and left is right and yes equals no, logic, morality, and purpose die on the spot.
To heed this timely challenge, from now on, we need to withhold the tiniest lies. No more ‘white lies.’ If you can’t say the truth, shut up. Don’t make up stories anymore. There is no innocent pretense or making it up anymore – if there ever was such a thing to begin with.
We need to prioritize reading honest stuff from more than five years ago when lying was not endemic yet, and truth was unequivocal. There once was a refreshing level of honesty, hard to come by nowadays.
We are still allowed (obligated) to be diplomatic, considerate, and loving. But we also need to follow science, base our lives on facts, and prioritize having honest friends.
From now on, Jews who care about kosher need to worry 100 times more about what comes out of our mouths (and into our eyes/ears) than what enters our mouths. (Deuteronomy 26:19 tells us to only use holy speech.)
We who are deeply connected to integrity need to spread the notion that honesty is attainable, and explain the deep advantages of chronic honesty.
• When we’re honest, other honest people will congregate around us.
• When we’re honest, we will be deeply connected and less lonely.
• When we’re honest, we can distinguish between valuable and worthless.
• When we’re honest, we can improve ourselves and be effective activists.
• When we’re honest, we can trust trustworthy others and be less scared.
• When we’re honest, we can be humble, which opens the door to many good things (being happy with what we have, not being angry all the time, sleeping soundly, being calm and warm with others, etc., etc.)
When we’re honest enough, it becomes written all over us. People steeped in dishonesty will flee from us. Most people will trust us. (NB: You have two kinds of people that seem very honest: very honest people and con artists.)
When lies are everywhere, this causes anti-Semitism to skyrocket. That only thrives planted in the humus of lies. Hasbara is simply showing the truth.
Loneliness has become staggering because each lie cuts us loose from reality and others – exacerbating the isolation of the previous period. Acquiring true friends has become more important than ever.
Also the grip of this global evil may last decades. Be ready for the long haul.