Today, I argue that cultural conformity leads to human dishonesty.
We have learned that restrictive cultures don’t encourage open communication between children and parents — children spend their lives lying to their parents in order to avoid consequences. This sets the notion that lies are acceptable because how our parents treat us is how we treat the world. It’s reflective.
Some cultures are hierarchical — respect is expected simply because one is old or has a greater title. We are “conditioned” to respect someone we’ve never even met simply because of the lies we are told about said person.
Religious cultures believe that if one is good to others, they are entitled to being treated well. This, too, is a lie. If you are gentle to a lion, it will still attack you if it’s hungry. So people abiding by that notion are living a lie — they are lying to themselves.
Some cultures believe that if you simply ignore other people’s problems then you will not create problems for yourself. Again, lies. If a sick person coughs in your face and you ignore it, you are simply breathing in their germs and causing problems for yourself.
Of course, there are identity lies — what gays tell homophobes, mixed-raced couples pretending to be friends, white lies to cut conversations short. Most of the time, people either lie because of empathy, fear, and more subtly, culture.
People lie out of empathy because they do not want to hurt others’ feelings. Well, all I can say is, “find a more intelligent way to be honest then, or stop associating with people who are over sensitive”.
People lie out of fear because they are afraid truth has consequences. Well, all I can say is, “don’t do anything you’ll have to lie about” or, “don’t associate with people who can’t handle the truth”. Your choice!
People lie out of culture because they were not encouraged to be honest. Parents would rather watch television during dinner than ask their kids about their days. Bosses would rather hear that the company is running smoothly than know about all the internal problems seeping through the system. Teachers would rather hear that kids are in a happy and healthy family than know they’re being beaten up and abused.
For me, I don’t come from any defined or set culture — cultural values were never imposed on me, rather the notion of “respect people of all cultures” was highly encouraged in our family. For this reason, I do believe that as adults, culture is a choice. I do believe that we choose whether or not to adhere, and that choosing any culture renders that human a liar.
Honesty for me isn’t an issue of trust — it is an issue of truth.
And truth is…cultures are the antithesis of honesty.