Thursday, 05 April 2007

A Taxonomy of Deceit: The Sanity Preserver Circumstances have forced me to spend a good deal of time this past week thinking about lying—so much so that as I sit to write this, I feel equipped to present a taxonomy of deceptiveness, one able to account for everything from the Big Whopper to the Intentional Omission, the Unintentional Omission, the Unconscious Omission, and the prodigal son, the Sanity Preserver. Yesterday, I discussed the academic variation of the Sanity Preserver, in which the time invested in learning the nuances of a particular body of thought leads to an irrational investment in the thought itself. I am convinced that this investment is different only in degree from the very bane of our existence: the student complaint that the effort put into writing a paper should determine its grade. In both cases, the quality of the work is back-seated to the time invested in producing it—although in its more "mature" form, the time invested is more likely to approach the time the complainant claims to have invested. Not that the outcome is altogether different. The rigidity of thought and distortive perspective persist, only now bound to an insufferable academic identity. More often than not, it is now that the Sanity Preserver passes the torch to the Intentional Omission. One could argue that the Intentional Omission is as unconscious as the Sanity Preserver, that the intentionality is merely the byproduct of years of refusing to countenance uncomfortable facts and arguments in the effort to preserve sanity. There may be something to that, inasmuch as the temper tantrum inevitably following any inquiry suggests some shoddy preservation. Once the stomping stops and the spittle dries, what remains is a picture of academic failure: intelligent enough to have mastered a complex body of thought but lacking the confidence to admit of its shortcomings, this "scholar" has no choice but to turn to the Intentional Omission. This flaw may be summarily dismissed—the illusion of an openness to criticism must be maintained—but that one must never be acknowledged. And so the Intentional Omitter carefully builds the wall behind which his expertise will be expertly defended by himself, a noted expert. As he slides in that last brick, His Expertness sighs a knowing sigh of relief. At long last, he thinks to himself, I have my wall. That it is in his basement, and he behind it, matters little. He will lord over these sad dolls, his only company. Bricked in, he will be free. Experto crede.

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