Imagine a world where everyone only can tell the truth

I became a glass half full guy when I was trying to figure out in my childhood living with a mentally ill, bipolar mother how I could be such a delight one moment and the dirty devil the next. Deep down I believed my mother loved me. I wanted to find a way to accept the bad in my world and not let it push me under. After listening to my Lutheran minister mentor’s sermon about the golden rule and the good side of Christ’s world, I thought about what the world would be like if everything was good and life was the utopia of heaven. I asked myself, how would I know degrees of good if I knew no bad. My light bulb moment revealed a very boring life. One I didn’t want to be part of on earth or in heaven if that indeed existed in the after life.

British comedian Ricky Gervais of The Office fame uses a similar thought process in his movie released Friday, The Invention of Lying (trailer). A Hit Fix review describes the heart of the movie:

What surprised me most about the film is that it’s not really about lying at all. Sure, that’s the hook, but the film is more focused as a satire of conditioning and the way we accept certain societal ideas as “true” simply because we’re told to do so. The storyline involving Anna and what she believes she wants out for life is the clearest indicator of what the film is really up to, but every single scene or set piece seems to be incredibly focused on the same theme. Don’t believe everything you’re told. Don’t accept. Don’t believe the surface of things. You’re not a goddamn robot, programmed by TV and Hollywood and the nightly news and the beauty industry? Prove it. While I laughed a lot during the film, many of the biggest laughs are dark, guilty, funny because of painful recognition. It’s a hard mirror to stare into for a few hours, and while the end of the film sort of offers up a conventionally happy ending for mainstream audience, it’s just the spoonful of sugar they’ll need if they plan to get this medicine down.

There’s a scene in the middle of the film, when his mother is dying in the hospital and in that moment, Mark does something to comfort his mother that shifts the movie into another satirical gear. He can see how afraid she is of death, and so he tells her what will happen when she dies. He invents a wonderful afterlife where everyone gets a mansion and all the people you ever loved are all waiting to see you again. I know Gervais is an atheist, and he’s already being attacked by some groups since they’re sure they’re about to get mocked by his film. I think the opposite is true… this is one of the most empathetic views of why people need religion I can imagine any atheist might offer. He understands what it is that people take from religion, whether it be community or solace. I think what really drives him crazy is when people act like they are only moral or good because religion told them how to be. So much of our codified morality is simply common sense. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t rape. Don’t pay money to watch Carrot Top. These are all moral truths, but they should be self-evident. If you “need” religion to tell you not to rape a child, then you’re broken in a way that no church is going to easily fix. That’s what they’re railing against here when news of Mark’s story about the afterlife gets out, and he’s suddenly delivering his very own Sermon on the Mount off the backs of a pair of pizza boxes. Mark doesn’t want to be responsible for the behavior of the rest of the world… he just wanted to make his mother happy in her last few painful minutes on earth.

While the religious right will attack this movie and their atheist enemy Gervais, it actually provides a gentle explanation of the cruel-rationalization-world these believers are trapped in. Those who want a scape goat or savior that will take the blame for their mistakes, who want faith that things will turn out right in the end even when it means depending solely on blind luck, live in a scary, fantasy world. It is a world of “me,” not “we” because other things or people have to be the reason I am scared and miserable. I can’t make mistakes because that exposes me to me. I can’t reach for my inner feelings because that would scare the hell out of me.

Its a world where there is a desperate desire for a fantasy world, for something that goes just beyond the facts. Since the world of truth is a harsh one, that provides no relief from the relentless jar of reality, the world must be simplified and fixes must be in easy reach.

After realizing that bad could be good for me, I looked at religious hypocrites differently. I saw them as I saw my mother, people who didn’t want to act like they did, but were too scared to change. I had learned to walk in others’ shoes. It’s something I frequently forget when I watch the town hellers, yellers and deceitful congress critters daily strive to ruin our nation and seemingly are oblivious to the damage they try to cause.

I can’t practice what I preach, if I only blame them for why our government has gone so wrong and created so many broken systems that do not help us make good decisions for the greater community and call on all of us to make sacrifices for that community and my grandchildren’s future.

My solution would be for all of us to focus much more on systems and much less on the actors who play out roles so those with wealth and power can seek more of the same to avoid their own inner demons. I recognize how simplistic that sounds. It seems to me the only way to build a people power movement that could succeed. The people have to believe in the real world where they must take personal responsibility for themselves and others, where facts matter when establishing new systems that serve everyone as equally as feasible. A world where truth dis-spells illogic, lies, propaganda and self-serving nonsense. A world that accepts and helps the frightened souls who only want to blame others for their scary world.

Here are some other links on Gervais’s movie:

Gervais blog with other reviews

The Invention of Lying – Official Ricky Gervais Interview

The Invention of Lying – B Roll 2

Since I have delved into a review of a movie that I have not seen, let me remind you of another movie I sort of reviewed in a past post that debuts on Nov. 6, The Men Who Stare at Goats (trailer) that stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Rebecca Mader.


  1. cocktailhag says:

    Not all of the players in this system are just puppets; many have been doing the same things their whole lives. (The Dick is an example…) Which of course, makes it doubly frustrating to watch. Sounds like an interesting film.

  2. Jeb says:

    “Religion is the opiate of the people (often said as masses).” – Marx

    • nailheadtom says:

      “A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal or even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls.”

      Karl Marx, 1847

      • rmp says:

        Excellent example. One’s view of life and its challenges certainly depends on perspective. That’s why a glass half full or half empty perspective can make such a difference. For everything bad that happens, one can find good if a search is made. Far too many people don’t even begin a search. They are too busy finding blame.

      • cocktailhag says:

        What, only one palace? These days the rich require a half dozen or so. John McCain couldn’t even keep track of them all. And those with four little walls are just happy that it’s better than under an overpass…. Marx had absolutely no idea how far things would go.

        • The Heel says:

          You hit a major point, Tart, “they all” had absolutely no idea how far things would go.

          I remember being forced to read Orwell’s “1984″ back in the early 80s, with “the year” approaching. Our teacher asked probing questions if we could imagine a world with such perfect surveillance technology and a government committing such heinous, ruthless crimes. Most of us looked at him with almost merciful frowns. The closest thing we could imagine was the Soviet Union (minus the technology).

          It needs to be pointed out that back then, in West-Germany, we grew up in a wonderful, peaceful and prosperous world. The economic recovery of Germany after the war had long before worked its wonders, most everybody was optimistic and happy (Schmidt and Genscher ran the show, btw) and such Orwellian fantasies seemed to come from a different planet.

          Needless to say that in many ways, in particular here in the USA, we have since surpassed the worst nightmares old Orwell may have had.
          I bet it would be possible to find a poor soul (say a gay Iraqi journalist) who’s life was inadvertently transformed into a copy of Winston Smith’s. Based on NSA e-mail or phone call interceptions, FBI/CIA wire tapping, FBI detention, Egypt based CIA torture outsourcing operations, Guantanamo lock ups without the right to a lawyer, etc.

          I must say that in 1984 anybody who would have seriously tried to convince us that such disgusting violations of privacy, sanctity and constitutional rights would happen 20 years later in the US of A, would have been laughed at and subsequently ignored. We had no idea how far things would go….

          • rmp says:

            Couldn’t agree more. I lived in Germany, Kaiserlautern area from 1979-1984. Even with the stoic German character, it seemed like such a warm, safe place. I don’t remember when I read 1984, but I could never have imagined what has happened to my country even in the ’90s. I only really awakened to the horrors when I seriously joined the Internet world since 2006.

            It isn’t just the violations you cite. To me the scariest thing is the corporate corruption and our partisan, selfish politics which divides rather than unites us. That’s what turned me on with Obama’s 2004 convention speech. I saw hope that we could start a turn around. I still hold on to that hope although it is starting to slip away.

  3. retzilian says:

    I’m a little late to the party, just having caught up on the last few blog posts, but I wanted to note a recent reality check for our capitalist apologist here. I was in Dayton, Ohio last week for a fact-finding trip involving some 40,000 union employees of Delphi (aka Packard Electric in Warren, OH, part of General Motors) that were recently informed that their medical benefits will cease as of January 1, 2010. Many of these folks are already over age 65 and have enjoyed reasonably good and affordable health care. Most of the people affected are under 65 and are going to have to obtain their own health insurance or opt in to the “group” plan that is measly and may be unaffordable as well.

    Oh, and, incidentally, they also lost their jobs. The Delphi plants in Dayton, comprising some hundreds of acres in various sites, are closed. GM consolidated the manufacturing and shut down these plants that were the lifeblood of 40,000 people plus the retirees.

    It’s shocking to see Dayton. It’s a wasteland. It makes Toledo look like Florence, Italy.

    And, for those who want to defend the power elite that brought manufacturing in this country to its knees and are spouting the insane idea of a “jobless recovery”, I defy you to visit Dayton for a couple of days and support this notion of greed being good – greed being acceptable, of capitalism that renders entire cities wastelands.

  4. I realize that this thread is about lying, not about capitalism (Yes, Virginia, there is a difference) but as far as bald-faced defenders of the latter go, it would be hard to find a better example than Boss Tweed, perhaps the most famous Democrat of all time after FDR, and hands-down the most famous Democratic grafter and influence peddler of all time prior to the advent of Terry McAuliffe.

    Plagued by would-be reformers, the Boss once argued — with a straight face — that all systems of distribution, whether of basic necessities or of political patronage, have to be governed by some principle of rationing. That being the case, he said — no doubt smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary the whole time — what more democratic principle of rationing could there be than money? While not everyone can be born to the right parents, anyone can get his hands on money. Argue with that if you dare, you commies. :-)