Mendacity

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is a film many have seen at one or another, perhaps several times.  One of the main recurring themes is that of mendacity, which means lie.  It is also described as a state or quality of being mendacious.  It that sense, we are talking about behavioral patterns that are learned by individuals for various reasons.  In the stage play Williams uses this idea of falsehoods individuals erect as ways of blocking out the truth they do not wish to see.  ack in 1955 homosexuality was not openly discussed and never confirmed as even a curiosity in sexual behavior.  The character Brick is an aged former sports hero and there is an illusion that he may have been involved in a sexual relationship with one of his teammates, Skipper.  Thus Brick’s drinking is a way to block out that particular truth that he may want homosexual relationships.  Hollywood, that classic ship of mendacity, sanitized the play when it made the movie.  One gets the feeling that there was always something missing, some forgotten point to the story.

Now some individuals may see that mendacity is a character flaw like a crack in a block of marble.  But it is habituation, the constant practice of an acquired habit.  If Brick is afraid to face the prospect that he likes, or worst yet,enjoys sexual contact with men then he must build a facade against acknowledging such a true state of emotion.  This would have started in his teenage years as a conflict between expected behavior by parents, peers, and school authorities, and current social mores and the less conventional behavior he may have at least been curious.  And what better way to hide any such knowledge of one’s sexual desires than by dating the more beautiful of the opposite sex and then marrying one.  This was a very common practice until well into the 1980’s.  Thus we have the possible homesexual hiding in plain sight.  Of course in the play Brick and Maggie the Cat are reconciled to a normal marriage.  But one wonders for how long.

I bring up habituation for a reason.  Human beings are creatures of habit, pure and simple.  Much of our very early childhood training involves learning habits.  When to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, and when to evacuate our bowels and bladders and where.  We are taught manners so that those particular sets of behaviors are second nature and never thought about as we do them.  Writing our alphabets and learning to use block letters and cursive script when we wish to write words and sentences and paragraphs are formed habits.  Memorizing telephone numbers by chunking groups of numbers is a habitual behavior.  So much of our daily behaviors are habits that we have acquired over time.  The way we drive our vehicles, the path we choose to travel to work, the way we solve problems, are of these behaviors are habits.  Our entire lives are built of habits.  Habituation is one of the ways we survive in life.  We have no known instincts outside the instinct to survive or live.  The irony is that while we can create good habits in our lives, when we crete bad ones we will construct falsehoods to convince ourselves that it really isn’t our fault.  Human beings are not only quite capable of being mendacious but indulge in that habit quite frequently.  Smoking is a behavior that has become a habit and is often difficult to stop.  So we lie to ourselves that the tobacco smoke is addictive and we go to quite great lengths to prove that this addiction is not really our fault and is scientifically proven to be the fault of the tobacco.  Over eating is a habit but somehow we must blame the food as being addictive and compelling us to eat more.  That is the whole point of addiction, the substance abused supposedly holds a gun to our head.

Of course studies have been done to prove the power of addiction.  Obtain a few primates and hook them up to a know addictive substance such as heroin.  The give them a button to push that releases a small dose into their blood stream.  At first they push the button infrequently.  Then the frequency becomes greater until they kill themselves with too much.  Yep, death will stop any addiction.  But stop the supply, let them dry out, and put them back with the group and that addiction is almost gone.  I say almost because one cannot extinguish any behavior that has become habitual, there is only remission or change.  It is far easier to change a bad habit into a good habit, that is, through substitution.  People who want to stop smoking often take up chewing gum as an exchange for the oral fixation (Freudian theory) that the act of smoking gives you.  Placing a pen or pencil in the hand you normally use to hold that cigarette also helps.  And many people often substitute food for the act of smoking, thus gaining weight.  The problem with habits is that they usually are not one specific behavior but a combination of behaviors that have been linked together.  But the mendacity continues as scientists announce that one only need to take a pill for weight loss or a little surgery to constrict the stomach.  One doesn’t need to change his eating habits, just use the miracle cure that stops hunger and immediately reduces both weight and bulk, makes us instantly thin.  Humans have become habitual in the need for instant change.  But that expectation is mendacity, is it not?  You want to lose weight?  Stop eating so much, cut down your portions, stop eating so many carbohydrates, get more active.  But, but, I can’t stop.  Of course you can.  There are so many different ways to lose weight.  If you reach for that bag of chips, go for a walk, look at a photo of yourself in the nude at your grossed overweight moment, put a very strong rubber band around your write and snap it several times until it hurts, the examples are many.  Just don’t blame it on your genes or the food.  Do you eat when watching television or playing on the computer?  Then turn them off and go do something else.  Find an activity that occupies your hands.  But the more you play the victim the greater your mendacity and the more problems you are going to have.  We as humans never get to be totally honest with ourselves, there are always some little lies we tell ourselves.  It is our human nature.

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