As I walk into Santa Clara University’s dining hall, I wonder “What do all these people have in common?” Is it their skill? Their work ethic? These students are considered the leaders of tomorrow, there must be some secret attribute that they all have in common to have earned themselves a spot at this school. We have all been told repeatedly that we have the power to change the world for better or worse, and yet the one thing that binds us all together isn’t that we all love each other; it is that WE ALL LIE. Now that doesn’t mean that the world is doomed or we are terrible people, and it took a class called Food Porn, of all things, to teach me that.
Lying spans across the world and, believe it or not, affects nearly everything we do. Don’t get me wrong, there are many harmful consequences of lying. In my research, I saw a handful of these evils that plague our world today. Yet, while they are most certainly malicious in character, I learned that lying isn’t entirely defined by that. For instance, has someone ever asked you “how do I look?” Regardless of how he or she truly does appear to you, it is expected that you will reassure them that they look great, or at least fine. Now is that such a bad lie? I would say no.
So, we have good lies and bad lies, right? But where do we draw the line between the good and the bad ones? Unfortunately, there is no widely accepted universal rule on the matter today. One of the most famous philosophers of our world, Immanuel Kant, came up with a set of philosophical laws in which he identifies lying, along with murder and theft, as an action that must be absolutely prohibited. To Kant, lying in any situation is morally unacceptable, regardless of the consequences (Mazur). So, according to Kantian ethics, that means that even if there is a murderer searching for your friend, and you know his intentions as well as your friend’s location, you cannot lie to him.
Now, I find that a little bizarre and overwhelmingly too strict. Reading Dan Ariely’s the (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, we learned that lying, specifically self-deception, is in fact a defensive mechanism of the human body. We have perfected this skill over centuries upon centuries of evolution. We lie to ourselves to make ourselves feel better. We lie to ourselves to give ourselves confidence. Although it may seem insignificant and even unnecessary in our modern world today, it is possibly one of the leading reasons humanity has survived for so long in such a harsh world.
Imagine you are a boxer preparing yourself for an upcoming fight. You’ve seen your opponent. You know that he is is bigger than you, stronger than you, and has more experience than you. These facts are undeniable. Now are you going to sit there and mull over these negative ideas before you go out into the ring? No, you will try to shut those thoughts out and build yourself up as best you can. You will tell yourself that you’re bigger, you’re stronger, you are the one that is going to win the fight. This is that defense mechanism in your head kicking in. It’s a survival tactic. If you want to win the fight, you can only focus on the idea of you winning, no other outcomes. It’s something athletes do all across the country; it’s something warriors have done for centuries.
Now, we didn’t just theorize and debate the philosophy of lying during our class time. The class is called Food Porn for goodness sake! I’m sure you’re wondering what that entails. I myself was most certainly perplexed by the title. To give you some background on myself and my character, I am a nineteen-year-old kid who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, home of the Gateway to the West! I went to a very small all-boys high school with a graduating class of just eighty. Oh yeah, and it was run by an abbey of Benedictine monks!
So, it’s easy to say that moving across the country to be in a class titled Food Porn was a bit of a shock for me.
The main topic of discussion was centered around the United States agricultural industry, specifically its many flaws. Before I took this class, when I heard the term ‘agriculture’ I pictured your stereotypical farmer on a tractor. In fact, I pictured my uncle and my cousins. But it wasn’t long before I realized the true face to the American agriculture industry, the true face behind the food on my plate.
There’s a dark truth behind the food on our plates, and it’s been hidden behind lies and tall fences for years. Jonathan Safran Foer provides a detailed description of several American farms in his book titled Eating Animals. In fact, he paints a very disgustingly accurate picture of many methods used in farms across the country. Chickens being packed into tiny crowded boxes, cows being abused and mutilated, entire marine environments ravaged by commercial fishing.
Now the reason for this class wasn’t to convince us all to change our diets and become vegans (although that may have been a common side effect). The American food industry itself is an incredible case to study when discussing dishonesty in the modern world. How many people are aware, do you think, of the extent to which the food industry has affected the world? I most certainly was not. And that is the bitter beauty of the lie.
But that is not the end of the story. The American food industry may be big, it may be powerful, and it may be experienced, but so are we. That is the beauty of dishonesty. Dishonesty can be despair, but it can also be hope in the most desperate of situations. Food Porn is the proof that in a world dominated by the rich and powerful, by those who do not care for the rest of the world, there will always be resistance and there will always be hope.
Mazur – https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/lying/