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Lies, damn lies

It’s not news that there are lots of lies in the news. It doesn’t just come from politicians, nor just from journalists manipulating facts. We live in a world that has vast quantities of research and knowledge, but where everyone wants to fit complex knowledge into bite-sized pills. No room for accuracy or subtlety.

An example: I’ve been following debates in the Spanish media after the rise of left-wing party Podemos. In one debate, its leader defended an increase of the minimum wage. Several of the journalists in the debate protested: “You know, of course, that that will lead to increased unemployment!”. And of course, that’s common sense, right? If the owner of a bar needs to pay more to his employees, he will employ fewer people. But, from the Wikipedia page for minimum wage:

“A study of U.S. states showed that businesses' annual and average payrolls grow faster and employment grew at a faster rate in states with a minimum wage.[121] The study showed a correlation, but did not claim to prove causation.”

There are studies, and economists, who favor either side of the debate. Simplifying the matter more than that is lying.

But it’s not just the press or politics. It’s pervasive. Average people lie all the time by stripping detail from their words.

“I love my job” is toxic. It creates a climate in which people who are not gung-ho are frowned upon with suspicion by their managers. It creates feelings of guilt in people who don’t identify. When I worked at Amazon, I was declared “dangerous”. I had advised a young intern, on a Friday afternoon, to take the train, go to his thesis defense at university on Saturday, celebrate, and forget about work until Monday. The project he was single-handedly working on had become high-profile overnight, and his senior manager had made some promises for the following week to the big-wigs. The manager had told him, half in jest, that he should do “whatever it takes”, even knowing about the thesis defense over the weekend. It was at this point that the intern came to me for advice, and I told him that a weekend spent without sleeping, risking his thesis, worried sick, high on caffeine, was not worth it, for him, and that he owed no allegiance beyond what was on his contract. This came up in my performance review. I was perceived as “too cool for school”, a rebel. Still, since I had done well  in my project, it was left as a comment on character.

“I feel awesome thanks to [running, Crossfit, yoga …]” is also a lie, because detail is missing. No mention is made of the plenty of times where those people don’t feel awesome. My colleagues in my last job were in awe of me for my regular running schedule, and my preparations for marathons. “You are so healthy”, they’d say, and then they’d react with discomfort when I told them I suffer from a chronic intestinal disease diagnosed in 2005, and need to take medicines daily.

As I age, I’m becoming more radical, not more moderate, which I thought was supposed to happen. I reject affirmations as lies even if they are in the vicinity of truth. I can be a stickler, too technical for most. Still, I think that “near truths” have a potential to enslave us, just as lies do.

The truth. It’s all about freedom, you know, man?