"To tell the truth is very difficult, and young men are rarely capable of it." - Leo Tolstoy
American experience suggests that the males of our generation have a need to give themselves away, on various levels. Those levels are as spurious as wizarding school staircases, but nevertheless we climb. It's why the phrase "nxt lvl" stays relevant. But in this "giving ourselves away" we do one of two things: 1. We give away—often by mistake—that we're frauds pretending to be privy to the scuttlebutt, or 2. We give genuine pieces of us away, usually on purpose. To codify, either we lie or we tell the truth.
Our male American upbringing is pocked with truth versus lie power struggles: cops and robbers, teacher’s pets and rebels, Diary Drake and Mythological Rick Ross. The psychology of lying doesn't take a Ph.D. to unravel. If you've ever been cross-examined before dinner (where all the cookies went, whether you've finished your homework) you learned from an early age that lying can be the path of least resistance between doing something delinquent that you want to do and coming out the other side unscathed—having your pie, eating it too and keeping your dietician mom in the dark. In that regard, lying is the easy way out, which is also why it lands you in more trouble than the "wrong" you did on its own. Part of this is because lying has a certain power and momentum to it. It's a paper tiger you breathe life into and when it runs by everyone goes "aawwhhwww." If it reaches enough people, the effects of a lie are irreversible. Consider Churchill's words: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." And that was before the Internet.
But in recent years—though unclear that it's because our generation is collectively maturing or if there truly are more instances of it—people have been using the truth to achieve the same power and acceptance previously reserved for a good lie. Think about how floored you were to hear Kanye rap, "We're all self-conscious, I'm just the first to admit it." Your reaction probably slid from "that sounds soft," to "wait, that's true," before finally settling on "I respect that." Then consider Drake, the Pinocchio of rap, who, at this point in his oeuvre, seems unable to tell a lie. Everything on So Far Gone and beyond has felt like a journal of admissions most other rappers would've found too personal to ascribe to vinyl. But if you look at Comeback Season (the mixtape before The Mixtape) Drake raps, "No, I ain't emotional." By my count, that marks the only public period he spent grappling with how much honesty could hurt him. Before he got his wits about him roughly a year later and went on to make four albums that prove honesty is somehow this stage of our generation's candy pink stove.
So yes, we don't have to look far to see that being honest has become de rigueur. But its proliferation raises more questions than it answers. Mainly, "Uh, why?" On some level, being surprisingly honest is a differentiator. It sets you apart from the guys who grow up slinging lies and half-truths. But it's difficult to call that the de facto reason when wearing go-to-hell socks would yield the same effect. No, what most people don't understand, or recognize, but choose to ignore, is that telling the truth—and I'm talking truths that could be compromising to your downtown reputation—has become vogue because it protects the self better than lying to cover it up ever could. Think, the fat kid around the way who was cool because he joked about being fat before anyone else could call him out on it. Put him next to the fat kid who wore his shirt in the pool. The one you want in your corner is obvious.
Yes, risk seems a good way to sum up how telling the truth has ripened for our generation.
You can overcome anything if you accept it, and people know that inherently if they don't know it consciously. Consider that Tyrion, dwarf scourge of the Lannister family, said to Jon Snow, "Let me give you some counsel, bastard. Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you." So the truth, then, is more selfish than we thought. A shiny shield to protect us, rather than shed light. Moreover, the truth can be, in this way, a more advanced lie than garden variety fibs because, while the facts might check out, the motivation for being forthcoming is a self-serving, manipulative one.
So, in and amongst all this truth, you have to wonder what "truth" really is, and what sets it apart from a lie. Is truth relative? Or is truth as objective as the yes/no math of insects? Truth, after all, is more elusive and less flexible than the imagination. The details and complexities of our experiences vanish as we live them, and, obviously, but most importantly, our understanding of these experiences is purely subjective. So in this way, what is true only seems so through the lens with which we gawk at it.
Then, if truth's relative, why the big to-do? Well, you don't have to look far to see the lasting effect a truth can have even if the jury's still out on its interpretation. The Rosicrucians, the Knights Templar, the yet-to-be-confirmed Illuminati: all were born to protect some unknown truth from the public. Clearly, some truths, while up for interpretation, are too incriminating to take the risk.
Yes, risk seems a good way to sum up how telling the truth has ripened for our generation. With telling the truth becoming more and more comme il faut, we're going to soon reaching a tipping point where being disarmingly honest ceases to be a way of protecting ourselves. Surely, the pendulum is going to swing the other way. And that moment is getting closer, evidenced by rappers who were popular in the early naughties for being kingpin charlatans coming back from ten/fifteen year hiatuses and rapping, now, about their feelings. If they just stayed in the woodwork a little longer, they may have hopped back on the carousel at a time—soon coming—where the scenery is old news and we're all longing for a little mystery.
Rick Morrison is a writer living in North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter here.