14 June, 2007

Fighting hypocrisy at its source.

Have you ever been wondering where hypocrisy comes from? Children are always honest up to a certain age, always speaking what's on their clean minds. Only when they grow up, they start to lie, pretend to care about things they don't, distort information to their benefit -- you know, what adults do.

Clearly, something teaches children that and, since lying is a very basic -- unfortunately -- human behavior, something very basic should be at its source. Something as basic as the language.

Think about it. Every time you ask someone, "How are you?", do you really care about the other person's business? Probably not, in most cases. The phrase has become a single meaningless token, just like "Hi" but, unlike "Hi", still retains a literary meaning. Which is not a problem for an adult acquiring a language, since this type of hypocritical constructions are present in most languages, so the grown up person just makes a mental note that "'How are you' is just how we say [...], literary meaning is not assumed".

Now, when a child learns his native language, he takes everything at its face value since he doesn't know any other languages for comparison. Therefore, when he sees people asking each other how they are, he first thinks to himself, "Wow, what an empathic world I'm living in!" But then he notices that, in most cases, people really don't mean that, thus receiving his first and most important lesson of hypocrisy.

Other aggravated lessons will come soon, but this experience with a very basic thing, a greeting -- the first thing people say to each other and already a lie -- must be the most important of them all. So if we could just get rid of the lies in the basic language constructions the perhaps our children will see that lying isn't a basic behavior, but rather a rare, reproached occurrence. And that should definitely make our world a little better.

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