Lies My Culture Told Me*

The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it

~ George Orwell


Note my preferred pronunciation for this set of living arrangements: siv-uh-LIE-zey-shuhn. The entire phenomenon — reminiscent of Nietzsche’s “thing as it is” — is a fraud. It is characterized by lies heaped upon deception. Individuals are rewarded for lying. Truth-tellers are punished. And, like the future depicted in some science-fiction films, there is no possibility of escape.

Examples are legion. I list below and describe briefly a few.

Throughout this short essay, “we” refers to the civilized version of our favorite species, Homo sapiens. We perceive ourselves as supreme in every way. What applies to other species, from this viewpoint, does not apply to humans. From the “Eastern” religions through the Abrahamic religions and all the way to humanism, humans are superior.

We can and will experience infinite growth on a finite planet. There are no limits to growth in any form, from the industrial economy to the human population. Notwithstanding abundant science and simple logic, we can grow forever.

More is better. This single, simple phrase is a decent definition of contemporary human society. More of what? Everything. Just more. That is all we want. That is all we need.

Everything, every thing, and every being must be monetized. From soil to oil, from water to air, from joy to toys, everything must be assigned value. What kind of value? The only kind this culture understands: the kind with dollar signs.

Thinking positive is the first step toward a better future. Hope, otherwise known as wishful magical thinking, is unimpeachably good. To relinquish hope is to give up on humanity.

Racism is normal. Misogyny is normal. Poverty is normal. Identifying others as others is normal.

Monetary disparity is customary and expected. Poverty is customary and expected, even though it did not exist until money was created coincident with the first civilizations. Monetary disparity and poverty are the means by which we keep track of the winners and losers.

What could possibly go wrong? Probably nothing that hasn’t already.


*The title of this essay was inspired by James W. Loewen’s popular 1995 book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong