Lies, Delusions & Ignorance

If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and call themselves normal. Ernest Becker

America has many intractable problems. Americans, along with people of other nations who share many of the same issues, created our difficulties, and we must fix them. Einstein wrote that we cannot solve our problems with the same level of consciousness that created the problems. We need a higher, more evolved level of awareness.

The majority of us say we want change in the country. But things get worse. Of course, other people need to change—not us. We do not take personal responsibility for change. We remain gridlocked.

Change begins with each of us. Only we can create the life we want on the planet earth from the personal to the atmospheric. We can begin by becoming aware of the lies, delusions and ignorant thoughts we tell ourselves that, while part of our human condition have, I believe, grown to dangerous levels of deception that at least threaten our way of life.

Many of us have sincere delusions. I created an alternative reality for myself to justify my addiction to alcohol. What a profound and identity-changing moment it was when reality broke through my defenses. Now 42 years later, I continue to work hard daily to be honest with myself. All of us have the Plato’s Caves of our lives. More of us need to shift our perception from the shadows of the cave to the sunlight of reality.

(Click the above link and see the inside of Learning to Live: Essays on Life and Leadership to read the entire essay on Plato’s Cave at no cost.)

Many times we come to believe deceits we crafted consciously to justify actions contrary to our values and untruths told to ourselves to excuse looking away when injustice happens in front of us. Other times we convince ourselves that magical thinking and quick-fixes will rescue us from our problems. We may scapegoat and demonize others to excuse our own bad behavior. We might blame others for our actions. We can choose to be truth-tellers (at least to ourselves) about our unflattering words and actions.

Little lies can have big consequences: I can control life. If others changed, everything would be okay. I can stop (name your addiction) any time I want. Life sucks; life’s perfect. No one else feels like I do. I’m too old to learn new things. I know what I am doing. We can notice the assumptions we live by and illuminate them and see if they remain valid (or ever were).

Many lie about our external world. Sometimes the lies come from propaganda or ignorance, and we believe them blindly. Some we propagate knowingly: My opinion supersedes science. Evolution is a fabrication. Climate change is not real. We can consume the planet’s resources without repercussions. We can continue to populate the planet without consequences. We can kill off species without harm to ourselves. We will never run out of water. We can stop spreading lies even when the truth goes counter to what we wish the truth would be (that’s called integrity). We can choose to challenge our own ignorance. We can be our own best teachers.

We lie about politics: Since the presidential campaign began on March 23, 2015, Politifact has been fact-checking the claims of the presidential candidates. To make a long, information-filled article short: 60.13% of the fact-checked claims of Donald Trump were rated False or Pants on Fire (13.33% for Hillary Clinton).

If we want to evolve as people, we see reality accurately: we peel away the untruths—whatever their origin–that often control our lives and adapt accordingly. We escape the Plato’s Caves of our inner worlds and become more aware and mature people who make better decisions about how we live.

We have much difficult inner and external work to do if we want to create a good America and a sustainable planet for future generations. We begin when we awaken.

Enemies or the Opposition?

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
Winston Churchill

Hillary Clinton jokingly referred to Republicans as enemies while Joe Biden said Republicans were not enemies but the opposition in Congress.

I believe that the leading Republican presidential candidates, who appeal to America’s darkest fears, would lead the nation into accelerated decline and would revive the vilest aspects of America’s history and shadow side. And indifferent Democrats may let that happen.

Author and psychologist Rollo May defined a pseudoinnocent as a naive person who has blinders on and who does not see real dangers. Pseudoinnocents cling to childhood assumptions about the nature of the world. They do not want to acknowledge power or aggression much less use their innate power and aggression. How many indifferent Americans are pseudoinnocent and cannot see the dangers that threaten their way of life or the life they aspire to?

Author of The Denial of Death, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote: “If everyone lives the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.” I often think of Fox News, conservative talk radio and the extremists of the Republican Party when I read this quote.

The most extreme of the Republicans live in their own illusionary and shadow-filled Plato’s Cave and convince themselves of the normality of their regressive visions and black/white and either/or world. The cave-dwellers collude together to fleece the naive people who follow them. And many pseudoinnocent Republican voters seem happy to get hustled over and over again by the same false promises.

Many pseudoinnocent Democrats believe if they could get those who yearn for a return to the past to understand their vision for the future, those people would change. This was, I believe, a problem of President Obama’s: He didn’t seem to understand how serious and base his enemies in Congress and in the Republican Party were. I don’t mean people who disagreed with him on philosophy or policy. I mean those who wanted to harm him personally. He lacked the ruthless streak a leader needs to deal with those who hated him and wanted to destroy his presidency.

Early in Obama’s presidency, I wrote to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “What are you people doing? You make nice with people who want to kill you!” How did that approach work out for America with immigration, climate change and income inequality and so many other issues?

Republican and Democratic voters need to awaken and see reality as it is. Villains and injustice exist. They do not respond to argument and common sense; they respond only to power. We live surrounded by them in, perhaps, more insidious ways than ever before. Naïve and indifferent people, who make up a significant percentage of the adult population in America, allow the scoundrels to have their way.

We need to make wise moral judgments. It is wrong and irresponsible not to. We need to judge our politicians and hold them accountable with our votes.

Serious about her enemies or not, Hillary Clinton has battled the dark side of the Republican Party for decades with strength and resolve. She has gained wisdom and insight.

Americans need a battle-scarred warrior to lead them in today’s dark world.


President Obama:
These families have endured a shattering tragedy. It ought to be a shock to us all as a nation and as a people. It ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation. That’s what happened in other countries when they experienced similar tragedies. In the United Kingdom, in Australia, when just a single mass shooting occurred, … they understood that there was nothing ordinary about this kind of carnage. They endured great heartbreak, but they also mobilized and they changed, and mass shootings became a great rarity. And yet, here in the United States, after the round-of-clock coverage on cable news, after the heartbreaking interviews with families, after all the speeches and all the punditry and all the commentary, nothing happens. … I fear there’s a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal.

The words of President Obama remind me of my  favorite quote by Ernest Becker:

If everybody lives roughly the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.

Are we slowly succumbing to the fringes of our society when good people stand by silently and do nothing?

We risk losing our humanity when we become desensitized to violence and abuse of any kind.

Addictive Organizations

Many people in organizations are in emotional pain. The suffering is sharp and searing–deep in the souls of so many. The source of much of this unnecessary anguish is, I believe, a worldview that alienates people from others, themselves, and the natural world.

To continue this unnatural, inauthentic, and destructive behavior, men and women must lie to themselves. People then become sincerely deluded; they believe their lies. Their pain becomes normal, and they become the walking dead characterized by anger, cynicism, indifference, and disengagement. Soon men and women fear their inner voices because the voices tell them the truth about what they are doing to themselves and others.

People are able to deceive themselves and numb their pain through denial. In The Birth and Death of Meaning a Perspective in Psychiatry and Anthropology Ernest Becker wrote, “If everybody lives roughly the same lies about the same things, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and call themselves normal.”

Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel wrote in The Addictive Organization, “An addiction is any process over which we are powerless. It takes control of us, causing us to do and think things that are inconsistent with our personal values and leading us to become progressively more compulsive and obsessive. A sure sign of an addiction is the sudden need to deceive ourselves and others to lie, deny, and cover up.”

We think of addiction to substances like heroin, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, or cigarettes. We can also have process addictions. Process addictions are addictions to a series of events or relationships that together form a process. Examples of process addictions are money, power, status, competition, quick-fix change programs, and climbing the corporate ladder.

Addictive behavior in organizations prevents mindfulness, blocks authenticity, and separates people from their values and beliefs. Addictive behavior obstructs the formation of relationships with others, represses emotions and intuition, and blinds people from processes and patterns that embarrass and/or threaten behavior.

Addictive organizations do not allow feelings. People lose touch with their pain, fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. This separation from themselves leads to separation from others. If people felt their emotions, they would want to tell the truth, and there’s no room for truth, about many things, in addictive organizations. People who are honest about what they feel are, in many organizations, a threat to denial and are expelled from the system–literally or figuratively.

Addictive organizations hold out new promises for the future to distract people from the present. In recent years, grand visions for the future driven by quick-fix program after quick-fix program provide the temporary relief, and the distraction from self, that some want. Little really changes, except the level of pain in the organization. At the same time, these organizations absorb into their destructive essence anything that promises to be healthier.

The addictive system moves from crisis to crisis. Most people are kept too busy and too confused to challenge the system. Those who do challenge the behavior of an addictive organization are neutralized and marginalized. Change agents who challenge the status quo are often demonized and scapegoated. Often this neutralization takes the form of fabricated personality conflicts that allow the truth put forth by the change agent to be discounted.

Values and ethics are the ultimate victims of an addictive organization.

Transformation is a recovery process as much as it is a journey. Recovery requires a commitment to seeing the world and ourselves as we are and an intense desire to become who we can be.