Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

Living on lies

The patch of waste ground was covered over with tufts of grass, and isolated old stones, relics, remains of some dwelling which had once stood on the site.


Steve Latham


I used to walk home past this land on my home from going to the shops, when I was a boy. Sometimes I wandered round the desolate tract, wondering what building had been erected here.

One day I journeyed back with my friend John. We must have each been about ten years old. These were the days when parents allowed their children to roam wide, without any fear of abduction.

I showed John the overgrown ruins, and began to spin him a tale. It used to be a house which had belonged to my grandfather, I explained.

During the war, bombs had fallen, destroying the family home; this despite that fact that there were, to my knowledge, no bombs that fell on our small town.

It made a compelling tale. There was also, I claimed, a tunnel, which led from the obliterated mansion (for its size had grown as I expanded the story), leading to the local school.

I don’t know whether he believed me. It would seem incredible if he did. It was so outlandish.

But then, boys often inhabit strange worlds of fantasy and make-believe anyway.

I occasionally remember the incident and wonder why I told him this far-fetched travesty.

Had I read too many boys’ adventure books? Perhaps I was simply desperate to impress my friend? We do seem to project an image of ourselves, designed to make us look morally good, or intellectually interesting, or sexually attractive.

We construct a sense of self, in order to persuade others that the investment they must make in order to get to know us is actually justified.

But we also build this self-image for ourselves, to fill the void, the vacuum within; to persuade ourselves that we are indeed worth the effort of others to bother liking us.

We adopt labels to define ourselves; maybe the films we watch, the books we read, the magazines we buy, and increasingly the computer games we play.

These all contribute to forming our identity. But this identity is also therefore built out of stuff; stuff that we buy, that we are sold.

We gain our sense of being, our feeling of worth, through consumption. We carefully construct the impression we want to make, for example, through our choice of clothes to wear.

In effect therefore, we select our ‘look’ from among the range offered us in capitalism’s cultural supermarket. And this means that we buy it from among carefully crafted lines of products.

In other words, it’s a lie; just like my lie to my friend John. Only this time, it’s not my lie, but the lie of the system, which it feeds me to keep me sedated.

So, if we have to choose the story we live by; let’s make sure it is based on truth, and not on the manufactured lie.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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