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My Turn: Breaking free of the ‘Big Lies’

For the Monitor
Published: 2/14/2019 12:15:07 AM

If things are ever going to change for the better, we humans need to free ourselves from the Big Lies that rule our behavior. These Big Lies are the basis for how our society functions. They have become embedded in our lives without our knowing it.

They stare us in the face, but we don’t recognize them. Only when we become aware of how they influence us can we begin to change our behavior and the purchasing choices needed to effect meaningful change.

Is it not fitting that the most proficient and prolific public liar in history is the current occupant of the White House? He reminds us daily of the importance of confronting not only the Big Lies that he so fully personifies, but also the pervasiveness of dishonesty that has come to permeate our way of life.

The following is my basic list of Big Lies. I invite readers to add to it, as there are certainly more.

The Earth’s natural resources belong to humans to exploit: This, perhaps the biggest of all lies, has led to global warming and the widespread extinction of species. Humans are depleting finite amounts of fossil fuels, minerals and other precious Earth resources at record rates so the wealthy can become even richer. This attitude treats the Earth as a dead rock to be exploited for short-term profit.

Of course, the exact opposite is true. It is the responsibility of humans to preserve and protect all life forms for this and future generations. It is our primary job to be caretakers of this Garden of Eden, not to destroy it.

Some humans are better than others: This is the Big Lie that permits racism and prejudice to thrive in all its dark and insidious forms. From white supremacists to the spread of totalitarian regimes and a growing plutocracy, this Big Lie populates prisons with minorities, allows children to be locked up at our border and informs women they have no right over their own bodies.

All human beings are born with an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No one is inherently better than another. There is no “superior race.” Not even the human race. We’re all part of a greater whole.

The purpose of life is to accumulate as much wealth as possible: We live in a plutocracy the likes of which the Pharaohs could only dream of. The top 26 richest individuals have as much wealth as half the world’s population! Consider what the redistribution of this wealth could mean in terms of relieving human suffering. We have a minimum wage that’s too low and a maximum wage with no limit. We need to balance these inequities.

This Big Lie allows pharmaceutical companies to continuously raise prices on necessary drugs; it allows the health care industry to be controlled by for-profit corporations; it allows companies to make shoddy products that do harm to our health and environment as long as it benefits their bottom line.

Human greed still knows no bounds, so until we achieve perfection it’s necessary to make laws to protect ourselves from those who would misuse their power. The maxim “money can’t buy you happiness” may be true. But the lack of it can certainly bring misery.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world: Natural selection explains much of evolution. But it is a poor guideline for modern human behavior. It’s time to evolve beyond the notion that “might is right,” which empowers bullies of all types, from school kids to politicians to dictators.

This Big Lie suggests only the strongest and fittest have the right to a good life. It elevates competition over cooperation, encourages gated communities and walled borders, haves and have-nots. It stimulates our worst, least generous instincts.

The logical conclusion of this Big Lie is that war is a necessary activity for human survival. It permits insane amounts of money to be squandered on ever-more efficient ways to destroy each other. This Big Lie is balanced by the simple truth that we really are our brother’s keeper.

A free press is the enemy of the people: Freedom of the press and speech are two cornerstones of a free society. A free press is the watchdog required to keep government and businesses honest. Denigrating a free press is one of the first pronouncements of totalitarian dictators. That the president of the U.S. now falls into this category is beyond embarrassing. It is a clarion call to all who value freedom to unconditionally support the continuing free flow of information that print and media journalism provides.

Continuous growth is needed for a healthy economy: The need to create perpetual growth drives our economy. Why is it so important? Does it make sense to expect sales to increase every quarter? A lack of growth is not seen as a balancing point, but a severe setback. A 5 percent reduction in sales is of great concern.

I’ve never understood why anything needs to grow continuously. We grow and die in a natural way, slowly, steadily. So do trees, flowers and frogs. Continuous growth in the real world leads to suffering.

We’d be better off if we looked to the natural world for guidance. Balance is the key to health and happiness. Our bodies and the Earth are miraculous creations engineered to maintain a state of balance for optimal health. If our goal became achieving a state of balance, we would all benefit from increased health and longevity.

Winning is everything: That’s the popular mantra in sports and business. But does the goal always justify how you get there? People who are obsessed with winning are often afraid of losing. The winning-is-everything mind-set results in poor behavior, toward each other and the planet.

If winning is everything, what is the loser left with? Is the basketball team that loses by one point after two hours of play a failure? How often are records won by ridiculously small margins, hundredths of a second in swimming and track and skiing?

The obsession with winning leads us to forget that we play the game because it’s fun. That doesn’t mean we don’t try our best. The real winners are those who enjoy playing the game for the sheer joy of it.

The same holds true for the game of life. If you do things you love, chances are you will also be contributing in some positive way to the betterment of society and the planet.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)

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