In our culture, appreciation and affection are implied rather than spoken outright. Two guy friends call each other names to reinforce their friendship; men and women tease and make fun of each other to imply interest. Feelings are almost never shared openly and freely. Consumer culture has cheapened our language of gratitude. Something like, “It’s so good to see you” is empty now because it’s expected and heard from everybody.In dating, when I find a woman attractive, I almost always walk right up to her and tell her that a) I wanted to meet her, and b) she’s beautiful. In America, women usually get incredibly nervous and confused when I do this. They’ll make jokes to diffuse the situation or sometimes ask me if I’m part of a TV show or something playing a prank. Even when they’re interested and go on dates with me, they get a bit disoriented when I’m so blunt with my interest. Whereas, in almost every other culture approaching women this way is met with a confident smile and a “Thank you.”
This is something that has puzzled me for a while: Why are Americans so indirect about everything? It’s impossible to tell people directly how you feel about them. You can’t tell a guy you love him or that your glad he’s your friend unless you preface it by saying something stupid, like “no homo.” You can’t simply tell a girl you think she’s pretty and you’re interested in getting to know her better without her freaking out. Every meaningful interaction has to be couched in a thousand layers of irony, qualified into oblivion, and hidden behind vagary, so that if someone takes you too seriously or misunderstands you, you can simply claim that you were kidding. Quite simply, we can’t be honest with each other.
This pathology, it seems to me, extends beyond just emotional directness. We lie to people about everything, for fear of offending them. I cannot even begin to count the number of times where I pretended to agree with someone just so they wouldn’t get angry. I know that there are many people who tell me only what they think I want to hear just so that I will feel good about myself. It is almost impossible for me to find anyone who is able and willing to give me constructive criticism about anything because most of the people I know are simply too afraid to say anything that might even begin to appear to be ever-so-slightly confrontational.
There is also the general tendency to suppress facts that are less than savory to some people’s minds. Gavin McGinnis refers to such facts as “hatefacts,” a rather clever of pointing out the undesirability of some aspects of reality. The reality of female sexual desire, for example, has been suppressed for decades, leading many men to believe that women want deferential nice guys as husbands/boyfriends/fill-in-the-blank. The reality of modern black culture is often suppressed, and even occasionally denied so that no one has to think about the disproportionately high number of murders, rapes, thefts, and other crimes that blacks commit. Even the reality of the male nature is denied or suppressed, as well as a host of other issues, like the underlying reality of free trade, fiat currencies, bank fraud, and so forth.
This modern American society, then, is founded upon a culture of lies. The fact that we cannot be honest with how we feel about one another is but one microcosm of all the big lies we have bought into. Dishonesty permeates every aspect of our culture, and so we hide behind irony, false insincerity, and false bravado. Nothing is serious, even when it ought to be.
Fundamentally, though, we have deceived ourselves. We have, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul, exchanged truth for lies. And now we act upon an idealistic version of the world, instead of reality. In our ideal world, equality exists, and man is perfectible. In reality, equality is nowhere to be found, save in small, highly limited, comparative measures. And man remains as stubbornly imperfect as ever. And so we cling ever more closely to ideals, even though reality makes it increasingly apparent that our idealized notions of the world are utter nonsense.
And what, then, is our response? It is to bury our heads deeper in the sand, perhaps in the hope that this will stave off reality’s inevitable wake-up call. It will not, though, and the eventual shattering of our illusions will be a bitter day indeed. All because we can’t be honest, with ourselves or with others.