Liars and Cheaters

So very, very disappointing.

The headlines of articles I have no desire or intent to read proclaim that Lori Loughlin believes she did what any mother would have done for her child. I’m not all agog over actors, and barely recognized her name, but my impression of her persona involved a lot more of a moral center.

Recently, regarding our cultural calculus, I wrote, “Our greatest peril lies in disconnecting ourselves from truth,” because, “Life is hard enough these days without turning truth into a commodity.” Our social equation depends on us representing ourselves honestly, on not cheating.

Civilization demands that we play the game of life fairly.

A sad truth to life is that, while we want to believe that “cheaters never prosper,” the reality is that they usually do. Certainly in the short term and often in the long term. Many cheaters never pay for their misdeeds.

And one can certainly ask, “Why not cheat?”

The natural world doesn’t play fair — the concept doesn’t even exist in the animal kingdom. Where do we get this idea of sacrificing our own gain for the supposed greater good?

Kant famously applied his Categorical Imperative to the situation, asking us to imagine a world in which everyone cheated all the time.

The thing that always struck me there is that it does produce a coherent world. Not a pleasant one, a dog-eat-dog everyone for themselves kind of world, but it does produce a world humans could inhabit.

As I just said, that is the world of the animal kingdom.

That is the world we came from, rose up from.


As I have said so often, we live in game-changed times; more people, more technology, more speed, more communication, more information, and much more noise.

The modern world is complex and interconnected, exciting and dangerous, demanding and rewarding. Navigating it without losing your mind is a challenge.

The last thing we need in that mix is liars and cheaters.

Never has it been so important for us to play fair. Never has it been so crucial that we get on the same page about physical reality. Never has our future been so on the line and threatened.

We especially cannot afford cheaters when technology offers them so many ways to cheat.

And we especially cannot afford these technological cheaters when we have become so dependent on that technology.


I do not understand why governments don’t treat hackers, spammers, and online thieves, as clear and present dangers to the state.

I do not understand why we don’t declare actual war upon these cheaters and send our highly trained troops to deal with them.

Why do we not take it more seriously?


Politicians lie to us. Corporations lie to us. Marketing lies to us.

Perhaps the worst offense, even things calling themselves “news” lie to us.

To win.

Regardless of the truth. Regardless of physical reality.

And now, after so many years of so many lies, it’s the new normal, it’s what we accept.

All the little cheats we used to feel at least a little guilty about, we now feel entitled to. We deserve a break today. I earned this (somehow).

Kant asked us to imagine a world in which everyone cheats all the time.

Seems like we don’t have to imagine it anymore.


Is this what we want? Is this who we are?

Has our mistrust of everything gotten to the point where we’ve all just given up and joined the crowd?

That’s the thing about cheating. Game theory shows it can be successful, at least until everyone starts cheating, and then things level out.

But when everyone cooperates, the system can reach a much higher level.

A simple example is resonance. Think bridges destroyed by lots of small inputs on a resonant frequency. When we all push together


One reason I love math, and hard science in general, is that they are all about physical reality. The people involved may lie sometimes, but math itself doesn’t lie. Physics doesn’t try to fool you, scam you, trick you.

Politics seems to have lying built in, although there’s no reason it has to.

Seems like marketing and legal practice has also gotten fast and furious with the truth. Unlike the bold-faced lies of politics, these liars often don’t quite exactly technically precisely lie so much as tell  the truth in the worst way possible.

I often find myself stunned by the difference between, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!” and how it actually plays out in court. Lady Justice weeps behind her blindfold.


Baseball is pretty honest, too. Most sports are in themselves. The whole concept of “Fair Play” comes from games. “Sportsmanship” comes from sports.

What real value is a win obtained by cheating? How much greater is the value of winning “fairly and squarely” — only then have you truly won.

A problem occurs when the stakes for winning become so very, very high. The temptation to risk reputation and honor becomes just as high.

A problem also occurs when the very concepts, like honor, are mistrusted or even disdained. When it becomes true that “winning is everything” then why even bother with honor or sportsmanship?


It was that perception of high stakes to be won at any cost that drove Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman…

[Wait! Felicity Huffman was involved in this? Bill Macy’s wife!? Ho. Lee. Shit! Okay, now I’m really disappointed in people.]

…(yes, Felicity Huffman, as I was saying) to cheat on behalf of their daughters.

And certainly there is plenty of cultural mythology about mothers protecting their daughters. (And nearly as much as mother-daughter conflicts, so pick your social story.)

The whole mother bear thing. Don’t ever get between them and a college payoff for their kid. They feel entitled to it.


But in a world of lies and illusions… the political lies, the marketing lies, the corporate lies,…

In a world where the POTUS lies to our faces, daily if not hourly, with wide and wild abandon,…

In a world filled with fiction and fantasy and damn little science and fact,…

Perhaps it’s hard to blame them.

(And, yet, I do. I most certainly do.)


Is it crazy to wish for a world in which people played fair?

Is it crazy to wish for a world with honest politicians, people with high values who understand they represent the will of the people?

Is it crazy to wish for a world where manufacturers make their products, and information about their products, freely available and let you choose them rather than constantly pestering you to buy, buy, buy!

Is it crazy to wish for a world where companies do business honestly and transparently? For companies that make a quality product worth buying?

Is it crazy to wish for a world not obsessed with growth and consumerism? A world where people actually stop and smell the flowers (and don’t take a selfie to post)?

Is it crazy to wish for a world that doesn’t revolve around Facebook and Twitter and other social media?


Fine, call me crazy, and you know what?

I’d settle for a little more honesty.

A little more recognition of physical reality.

Nothing says it better than that ten words Leon Wieseltier offered up to Stephen Colbert:

“Too much digital; not enough critical thinking; more physical reality.”

Three crucial clauses for our time.


Stay real, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

2 responses to “Liars and Cheaters

And what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: