An Ingenious Lie

By Amrit

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, July 3 – Today has been a strange one. So much so that I’ve ended up thinking that the line between telling the truth and lying is as blurry as mythomaniacs believe.

After all is said and done, if you pay attention to those self-help manuals, in which everything depends only on oneself, then why do we complain so much if the world is in our own hands?

That’s what I was trying to tell to my son, who’s depressed because in a few words he saw his dream of studying in a computer science technical school dissolve into thin air.

He told me it had been no use for him to have held onto his dream since he was a child. He had focused on that aspiration ever since he began high school and his efforts had been directed solely at reaching that goal.

The administrative secretary at his school confirmed to me he was not approved in his interview (actually it was a questionnaire that had to be filled out in front of a teacher at the computer science school).

“That seems really strange to me. It was the first time a student was ever turned down through that interview,” she said with an expression of bewilderment. She then wondered, “What could he have jotted down for them to reject him?”

That was when I saw the chance to express an idea that had been going around in my head since the day I had gone with him to that “interview.”

“Well, he told me that after the question about what job position he would like to work in as a computer technician (a programmer, a software designer, a network administrator, teacher…) the form asked if he would be willing to work in “whatever job” they assigned him. He responded by writing that he was willing to adhere to the schedule but not in just any position.”

The secretary then reeled back, shaking her head, almost in shock.

“But why did he write that? Why did he say no?” she asked.

I replied saying, “It’s that he doesn’t want to be a teacher.”

“But he didn’t know where they would have assigned him. In the end, they might not have even made him be a teacher,” she said, still baffled.

“It’s that for him it was important to be truthful.”

“Yeah, but there are always white lies… understand?” she added, still shaking her head dejectedly.

The result of behaving poorly

Today, while trying to re-baste this thread undone by a tug of fate, I was also attempting to understand where was the crack — the weak point —and two incidents that occurred since my son was a student came to mind.

The first one I want to mention is more recent; it happened when he was in seventh grade. One day he went to school and later told me, very excitedly, that they had had a “visitor” in their classroom (I don’t know if it was some administrator from the municipality or the province or what). In any case, to his chagrin the teacher re-ran a video lesson that the students had already seen.

Before the beginning of the class (and prior to the arrival of the announced “visitor”) the teacher stressed to the students several times: “Don’t even think about saying you’ve already had this lesson… I know there are some misfits and mischief-makers in this class.”

Apart from those “misfits and mischief-makers” seeing the performance of their teacher, who played her role superbly, they must have also gotten a kick when the “visitor” asked them some questions. This was when that same teacher — hiding behind some innocent student — starting pantomiming to the children with her mouth and hands to signal them the correct answer.

I commented in a previous diary entry that this teacher has now set the standard for that school’s methodology, therefore she could ask me why it takes my son so long to learn the lesson.

But the worst thing is that instead of scolding him and giving him all types of warnings, I limited myself to recalling a second incident, one that happened when he was only five.

His kindergarten teacher had alerted me that day that they would have a test. When I picked him up at the end of school, I asked him how he had done on the exam and he told me that he had done poorly.

This surprised me because he had always been a child who was good at learning. On the way home I asked him what the test consisted of and he told me, “We had to give our opinion of the teacher.”

As for me, having had several crashes with his instructor concerning her coarseness, I asked with surprise, “And what did you say?”

“That she was bad,” he replied innocently.

As could be expected, he was the only one in the classroom who gave that answer.

The grandmother of another student was suffering because her grandson was afraid of that teacher. Every day, when it came time to go inside school, he vomited his breakfast. She asked the boy why he hadn’t told the truth to the teacher on that same “exam.”

The boy’s answer was: “I know she’s bad, but what am I going to say? In any case, I have to keep taking classes under her, so it was better to just lie to get along.”

What’s sad is that the grandmother thought the boy’s approach was an ingenious way of dealing with the problem.

So today, while I insisted on re-tacking up this thread of inevitable destiny, I should have asked myself when I would prepare my son appropriately for this world. But instead, I took him by the hand and I told him that he did the right thing by not lying, and that maybe life isn’t excluding him from anything, like he believes, but freeing him from something else.

2 thoughts on “An Ingenious Lie

  • “I took him by the hand and I told him that he did the right thing by not lying, and that maybe life isn’t excluding him from anything, like he believes, but freeing him from something else.” Beautifully expressed.

    I am 49 years old, live in the US and can count the number of times I’ve lied on two hands. The situations were dire. In a society where intimidation is common, we may resort to lying. This does not mean that we should lie as a means to reaching an end. If we do this, the corruption remains intact.

    We will be punished often when we tell the truth and I live in acceptance of this fact but do not condone it.

    Those living in the US live with the big lie that the US is a free and great country. It is neither. In fact, it destroys others in the name of freedom and greatness, and has destroyed itself with its lies and its implied requirements that we must all be liars.

  • If a bandit takes one’s wallet at the point of a gun, then asks whether the victim has any more money, the victim would be a fool to say, “Yes, I have $100 hidden in my shoe.”

    I’ve raised three kids, and have taught them to be truthful. On the other hand, I’ve also taught them that there are some situations in which a person in a vulnerable position needs to give the answer for which the question is designed, or that is appropriate for the situation.

    If a working person is applying for a job, and the question is asked whether an injury has ever been suffered on a previous job, the answer ought to be “no,” regardless of the truth. In this case, the person who answers “yes” is being a fool and is allowing himself or herself to be victimized. Whether a person has or hasn’t been so injured is a personal matter, and an improper question deserves an appropriate answer.

    When Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947, he had broken a rib the day before the flight in an equestrian accident. He went to a veterinarian in another town and got tapped up, so as not to lose his chance for the historic flight. Should he have volunteered the truth and been prevented from making the historic attempt? I don’t think so.

    I’ve taught my kids to be truthful, but also not to tell an injurious truth to a bureaucracy or a figure of authority who is trying to exploit or otherwise victimize them. Truth is not always a black-or-white item. It can be altered in context. Unfortunately, our sit-coms and other social sources inculcate the idea that a laugh or personal gain, not truthfulness, is what matters, and national character is degraded.

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