Friday, June 7, 2013

Marketing, Lies & The Culture Of Personal Truth

When I was eight and moved to Monsey, New York, I lived the lie that my family was ultra-Orthodox. But the other kids found out my mom wore pants and didn't cover her hair. And they made fun of me.

In sleep-away camp I lived the lie that I was as rich as the kids who paid o go there. But my mom was the camp nurse, my tuition was free, and my clothes gave away the secret. We weren't rich at all.

When I went to college I lived the lie that I at least kept the Sabbath. Then I spent a weekend at my friend Janima's house in Pennsylvania. Her dad drove us around town and it was fun. I returned to school on Sunday and when I spoke to my mother, she didn't like what she heard. I did not hear from her for awhile.

Lying to get by, to be accepted, to be loved. We suffer from the lies that were imposed on us. But we learn at the same time that masks are necessary.

In fact it is a social skill to lie. So why am I always amazed at how smoothly people do it? Why am I shocked by the pathological ease with which some people bend, stretch and snap the truth?

I know what it is that bothers me. Not the  fact that people lie to survive. What's disturbing is when a person stops realizing the difference between true and false.

That is the problem with marketing, isn't it? In the past, wherever you stood on that line between truth and falsehood, reality stood with certainty somewhere.

In marketing the truth is what you make of it. The integrity comes from achieving a different kind of truth - "it feels real to me." "It's authentic."

It's hard to say whether we are better off now than in the past. In a sense I think we are, because everyone has the recognized right to live their truth. But in another way we are truly messed up in our heads. Because when you legitimize "my truth" versus "your truth," "his" and "hers," what you end up with is a group that cannot have a real dialogue. 

At some point there is conflict between what I believe and what you believe. The solution cannot always be retreating to our corners. Yet we should not fight it out until death or dominance either.

The third way, one that takes a lot of maturity, is to engage in the tough discussions. Maybe we can live and let live while also acknowledging some central truth or reality.

Without that agreement that fact does exist, we can never tell the truth really. Because what we say is always just a matter of opinion, or biased propaganda.