The Personalist Project

“The lie is the specific evil which man has introduced into nature.”  Thus begins Martin Buber’s (1878-1965) study Good and Evil, reflecting on Psalm 12.  As a Jewish thinker who protested against and suffered under the Nazi’s in the 1930’s, he became fascinated by the problem, status, and motivations for evil.  He writes: 

…the lie is our very own invention, different in kind from every deceit that the animals can produce.  A lie was possible only after a creature, man, was capable of conceiving the being of truth.  It was possible only as directed against the conceived truth.  In a lie the spirit practices treason against itself. 

The psalmist no longer suffers merely from individual lies or particular liars, but from a generation of the lie, “Everyone speaks falsehood to his neighbor, with smooth lips they speak, and double heart.”  

As Buber says, “The subject is the disintegration of human speech as a result of this influence.”  He explains that this brings about the disintegration of human community: 

The two basic qualities on which man’s common life rests, (1) well-wishing or the good will—that is the readiness to fulfill for the other what he may expect of me in our relationship with one another—and (2) loyalty or reliability—that is, a responsible accord between my actions and my explicit mind—have gone.  They have disappeared so completely that the basis of man’s common life together has been removed.  The lie has taken the place, as a form of life, of human truth…. 

Three effects follow from this dominance of the state of lying in society, involving its effect, its structure, and its purpose.  First, the effect is that those perpetrating the lie “breed delusion in their hearers, they spin illusions for them, in particular they spin a way of thinking for them which they themselves do not follow.” 

Second, in structure, they, i.e., those perpetrating the lie, speak with a double heart and Buber says, 

This expression must be grasped in all its depth. The duplicity is not just between heart and mouth, but actually between heart and heart.  In order that the lie may bear the stamp of truth, the liars as it were manufacture a special heart, an apparatus which functions with the greatest appearance of naturalness, from which lies well up to the “smooth lips” like spontaneous utterances of experience and insight. 

Third, in terms of purpose, “all this is the work of the mighty, in order to render tractable by their deceits those whom they have oppressed.  Their tongues maintain their superiority. [‘We are heroes with our tongues; our lips are our own, who is Lord over us?’]  They ‘speak great things’ and by the speaking bind their bondslaves still more to them.”

My apologies to those of Democrat persuasion, but I cannot help but see the parallels here to the above reflections about lies as the deepest root of evil (as Buber saw) in reference to the way Mr. Obama and the Democrats speak of abortion, traditional marriage, homosexuality, contraception, and religious freedom on the one hand, and on the other even the economy, the debt, entitlements, the Benghazi cover-up (with lives lost), etc. etc.  

I’m not saying the Republican ticket is composed of saints—indeed, my sister from California is very suspicious of lies and evil motives (for profit, power, and oppression) from capitalist or free-market adherents and she warns me they may just be using my pro-life convictions to manipulate me for their purposes.  This may well have been the case at times in the past with the Republicans.  I don’t deny it.  But I have to make a decision in the current situation.  In the end, I hope for the best when it comes to these questions, while being of the considered opinion that Mr. Ryan really is a good and honest man and hoping that Mr. Romney really is both pro-life and not the cold-hearted, capitalist monster the Democrats paint him to be.  At present, I believe he is not such a monster, that he is pro-life, and that the Romney-Ryan ticket is worthy of my vote.  They seem to me to be good men, capable perhaps of helping to lead this country out of its social and moral morass. 

But, while at least hoping for the best from Romney, Ryan and the Republicans, I am deeply convinced that Obama, Biden and the Democrats are thoroughly (and creepily) invested in manipulative, lying propaganda about the most central and important questions of individual happiness, success, morality, sex, marriage, life and death—and about the most central and important questions of economics, self-defense, freedom, and social order (though here I admit I am not an expert).  

I believe Mr. Obama and the Democrats are contributing mightily to the "disintegration of human speech" through their lies and propaganda about the deepest and most important questions of life and thus contributing to the disintegration of our society.  I also believe that the Democrat party, after ramming Obamacare through by hook or by crook (thereby bringing about the defeat in 2010 of a great many of the "moderate," or "Southern," or so-called [they folded under pressure] "pro-life" Democrats who had at least tried from within to keep the extremists in line) has now left the Democrat party as truly a whole "generation of the lie" without any constraints.  Further, besides jeopardizing our society, I agree with Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay in his recent letter to parishioners that to vote for candidates not in line with the real truth on life and family issues is to jeopardize one’s soul:

"A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals,” Ricken said in the letter. “Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally ‘complicit’ with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy."

Comments (8)


#1, Oct 29, 2012 11:42am

Great insight.  Thanks for being a bearer of Truth. I so agree that the duplicity in our society is between heart and heart --and it is obvious that those who seek to distort the Truth have allowed themselves to be morally bankrupt and in doing so have and continue to lead us to destruction.

Michael Healy

#2, Oct 29, 2012 12:01pm

Though the psalmist seems to be only talking about his own time, Buber writes that each contemporary generation faces the same problem, as he did in his day with the Nazis.

The answer can only be that also for future periods of human history a reappearance of the generation of the lie is again and again to be feared, but that the word of God for ever guarantees his existence to the man who is deceived and misused by this ever-recurring generation. God will preserve him, as each time of need comes, from the power of the lie, by setting in freedom and salvation him who is devoted to the truth.

The truth is God's alone, but there is a human truth--to be devoted to the truth.  The lie is from time and will be swallowed up by time; the truth, the divine truth, is from eternity and in eternity, and this devotion to the truth, which we call human truth, partakes of eternity.

Jules van Schaijik

#3, Oct 29, 2012 12:12pm

Great post Michael.

What is so frustrating, and so hard to understand, is how they can get away with it. The lying and manipulating is so rampant and so blatant that one would expect the vast majority of Americans to see through it. How come the election is still so close?

Michael Healy

#4, Oct 29, 2012 12:17pm

I am hoping that the "closeness" of the election is again part of the pattern of lies emanating from not just the Democrats but the mainstream media.  DIck Morris, for one, thinks it is going to be a strong Romney-Ryan win. 

ted turner

#5, Oct 29, 2012 1:36pm

MIchael, Ann and I think it distressing that the dark side is so forthright about their anti-life intentions while the "pro-life" candidates find it necessary to attempt to hide their sympathies in order to get elected. We pine for Ronald Reagan who spoke warmly and earnestly about protecting the unborn and won in landslides. 

Michael Healy

#6, Oct 29, 2012 4:59pm

Yes, it is unfortunate that the pro-life side in the main leaves these deepest issues on the back-burner.  Two reasons probably.  First, it would take a combination of deep moral philosopher together with extremely effective popular communicator to really acccomplish the goal.  This is a very hard combination to find--even Reagan, for all his warmth and communication abilities, never quite did it.  The life issues can get very complex (when the "hard cases" are cited) and are not readily summarized for presentation to the crowd.  A semester in Special Ethics is required, so I can see why politicians back off.  Secondly, of course, the sharks in the mainstream media are always waiting to misinterpret, falsely exaggerate, dredge up fears and misunderstandings, spread hatred and suspicion (while accusing the pro-lifers of same), etc.

One might think that someone, like Romney--who makes exceptions for the hard cases--could say more about the topic.  However, perhaps he doesn't precisely because somewhere inside he knows that when you make those exceptions you are contradicting yourself and your basic life principles.  So, if the alternative is to absurdly contradict yourself on the one hand or be crucified by the media on the other, many just shut up.


#7, Oct 31, 2012 7:47am

Thank you. It is good to know some people care about "Truth" because what i have heard from some commentators after some of the debates that "truth" was not so much a concern. "Forcefulness" "agression" "standing up against the opponent", seemed to be what they wanted from their guy. Joe Biden, case in point, gained lots of points for being aggressive and so did Obama in the second debate. What they said did not seem to be so much a concern to their backers. Their cleverness or ability to throw off their opponent verbally mattered more than the truth or soundness of their ideas. This troubles me a great deal. It lays a basis for leadership toward the ability to be a bully. Truth and facts can be the only sound basis for leadership and building a government we can trust.

Jules van Schaijik

#8, Oct 31, 2012 1:54pm

Elizabeth, Oct. 31 at 7:47am

Their cleverness or ability to throw off their opponent verbally mattered more than the truth or soundness of their ideas. This troubles me a great deal.

It troubles me too. Another reason, besides a simple lack of interest in truth, why style tends to matter more in these debates than substance, is that the truth seems so hard to find. The media ought to help citizens with this. But it has become part of the problem. Even the so-called "fact-checking" that happens afterwards seems thoroughly political and dishonest. The wells have been poisoned.

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