Mendacity. One of the more intriguing words one finds perusing the thesaurus.
As with the many other synonyms, it boils down to lies, untruthfulness. I was reminded of the word when I happened to re-watch one of the better movies of the last 60-plus years, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
It was a masterful adaptation of Tennessee Williams wonderful play. The play captured the many facets of human nature and behavior and the daily ways we are faced with things we often try to suppress or pretend doesn’t exist. The irony well written and acted within the confines of the play were a stark reminder that pretense and suppression of truth can’t sustain itself at the end.
While watching the movie, it was interesting to see the parallels to today. While Brick, Maggie, Big Daddy and other family members were reluctantly coming face to face with things they tried to avoid for years, one could see how the trajectory of human behavior remains fairly static.
For all we learn and our hopes to do better, we are still flawed, weak creatures who try to justify the unjustifiable, accept what should be unacceptable. We turn a blind eye to blatant lies from those we want to believe and trust.
We turn our head or bow our eyes when friends or family are rude and crude and pretend we didn’t hear or see the crassness. We hope bullies will cease bullying, but we don’t say or do anything to challenge the bully or the behavior. Mendacity, with its powerful companion, fear, seems to have a grip on our society in ways heretofore unknown in our short, yet flawed history.
In the not so distant past, as a society, we would shake our heads and silently wonder how do the North Koreans remain passive to the abuse and suffering they are made to endure by their leader; how did the Germans not see, or stop, what was happening when one man and his small group of sophists managed to so quickly change laws and turn an entire country and world upside down.
Why do women stay with men who beat them, molest them, and torment them? Why do parents choose to ignore when children are making choices that are harmful? Why do some decide drink and/or drugs will temporarily provide an escape to the unnamed and elusive hurt?
How can some lie with impunity? More importantly, when did we begin to accept and excuse lies when the truth is on equal display? When did our society shift where flagrant lies, greed and selfishness by elected leaders is practiced openly and accepted without consequence?
We think we are strong enough to not tolerate or accept behavior that is unhealthy or unlawful. But we see every day where it is easier to ignore or pretend rather than challenge mendacity and fear.
Big Daddy faced the final test that money and power couldn’t prevent; Brick had to face his weak, self-centered choices, and the entire family had to deal with the pervasive mendacity that surrounded them all. We all face these challenges both personally and as a society. It’s the age-old dilemma of where we will ultimately stand.