[Note: I think that all of our savage behaviors might come from the same place within us for similar reasons, which we’ll consider briefly at the end of the article. Meanwhile, this article’s mainly about lying and cheating… since the headline “Why do we lie, cheat, steal, deceive, distrust, fear, hate, assault, rape, murder, force our beliefs on others, and do other things that cause suffering?” would be cumbersome… and not light-hearted enough to ring in the new year. MM]
Most of us lie or cheat occasionally, especially when we add fun deceptions like practical jokes and surprise parties to the mix. There are all sorts of reasons why we lie and cheat, as we’ll see.
The general consensus is that a LOT of people lie and cheat a LITTLE bit, but just a LITTLE chunk of humanity lies and cheats a LOT.
The Science: Most of Us Lie and Cheat
Recently some 30,000 people have been participating in a series of Duke University experiments (led by professor Dan Ariely) that, unbeknownst to them, are designed to see how much lying and cheating people typically do while performing simple tasks for money.
- They might roll dice to win the number of dollars on the dice (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6)—but they’ll win either the face-up number or the face-down number opposite, which they’ve chosen earlier with a checkmark known only to themselves. (There must be some fibbing, because the bigger number came up statistically, unrealistically too often.)
- There happens to be a “faulty” vending machine set up near the testing area that drops a half-dozen bags of candy instead of just one, and also returns the test candidates’ 75 cents. (Most of the surprised snackers abscond with three or four bags of candy and their money, and no one calls the phone number displayed prominently for reporting machine malfunctions).
The experiments all use the “honor system” based on trust. The researchers’ favorite experiment is set up like a classroom test. The people are given five minutes to solve 20 math problems to earn $1 per correct answer. After the test they count up their correct answers. Then they feed their worksheets into a shredder. Finally they report the number of their correct answers to the researchers… unaware all the while that the shredder is rigged to shred only the borders, leaving the test results intact. So the researchers later dig the actual test results out of the shredder and compare them to the reported results. (On average, people get only 4 correct answers but report 6.)
Over the course of all the experiments involving some 30,000 people, the researchers encountered only about 12 big liars and cheats who together stole about $150 from the program, but there were about 18,000 little liars and cheats who together got away with $36,000.
Applying those results to humanity at large might suggest that big crimes are done by burglars, robbers, swindlers, pickpockets, and other professional or compulsive crooks who make up just 0.04 percent of the population, while the little crimes perpetrated by 60 percent of us are far more costly.
Whoa, back up.
We all know that projecting detailed statistics like those out into humanity isn’t completely reliable for various reasons. Well, for example:
- The study is predominantly American, and US morality isn’t shared by all cultures. (Come to think of it, when I use a search engine like Google to research articles like this one, the search results are “optimized” based largely on my nationality, so this article is bound to have a USA bias… which I’ll try to sort out in the conclusion.)
- Also, studies like these are about money, and money often skews morality (which, again, we’ll consider at the end of the article).
Even so, the fundamental finding of these studies is probably valid in all human cultures:
A LOT of people tell a FEW lies and cheat occasionally, while a FEW people tell a LOT of lies and cheat frequently. And it’s the little deceptions perpetrated by most of us that are the most costly overall.
Still, the big liars and cheats certainly lower humanity’s grading curve on the cosmic naughty-and-nice list, so it’s interesting to figure out why they do it.
Famous Liars and Cheats
A great article about lying and cheating was published in National Geographic (June 2017), called Why We Lie. It spotlights some of the most famous liars and cheats over the years. Whether they did it for entertainment, for personal gain, for political reasons, as part of their job, or just for the thrill of it, they include:
- PT Barnum (showman),
- Bernie Madoff (investment advisor),
- Richard Nixon (US president whose lies paled in comparison with current outgoing president Donald Trump, who told so many fibs—20,000 in four years—that his staff started calling his tweets and comments “alternative facts.”),
- Charles Ponzi (and other swindlers),
- Frank Abagnale, Jr (impostor turned security agent),
- Valerie Plame (and most other secret agents),
- Lance Armstrong (and other athletes who use illegal, performance-enhancing drugs),
- Apollo Robbins and Ava Do (and other successful magicians and con artists),
- Daniel Negreanu (and other successful poker players),
- Alexi Santana (a.k.a. James Hogue, ex-con turned charismatic college student at Princeton),
- Jayson Blair (journalist and plagiarist turned life coach),
- Mark Landis (and other art forgers),
- James Johnston (tobacco mogul and many other marketers of addictive substances and activities like gambling), and
- Zardulu (an anonymous photo-enhancement wizardess whose “three-eyed fish” and other realistic creatures have gone viral).
There seem to be no bounds to the human imagination when it comes to lying and cheating… especially in the age of high-tech (which we’ll consider in a moment). So, the obvious question is…
Why Do We Lie and Cheat?
That same National Geographic article includes a statistical breakdown of why we humans lie and cheat:
First, to promote ourselves:
- For money (economic gain), 16%
- For nonmonetary gain, such as fame or influence, 15%
- For positive self-image, 8%
- For entertainment and humor, 4%.
Second, to protect ourselves:
- To cover up mistakes and misdeeds, 22%
- To escape or avoid people, 14%
Third, to impact others:
- To help people, 5%
- To hurt people, 4%
- To be polite and non-offensive, 2%
Fourth, for unclear reasons:
- No known reason, 7%
- Pathological or sociopathic behavior, 2%
So it’s apparent that most of us lie and cheat, at least a little bit, for various reasons.
Today, however, computers and the Internet have given a small, select group of people the ability to lie and cheat in a big way that can have a big impact on the world.
Internet-Optimized Cheating: Hacking
The richest and most powerful organizations today—governments, banks, militaries, corporations…— are all run largely by computers. Computers are run entirely by algorithms—instructions that tell the computer and other devices connected to the computer what to do and how and when to do it.
Hackers know how to manipulate algorithms or plant “bots” that overload computer networks, and they’re becoming more and more adept at breaking into computer systems. Here are a few of the most famous hackers in recent history:
- Teenager Kevin Mitnick hacked into NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command), which controls US nuclear weapons, just to prove that he could do it, inspiring the 1983 movie War Games.
- Two British guys, Matthew Bevin and Richard Pryce, nearly started World War III by hacking into military networks in 1996 and dumping Korean military secrets into American military computer systems.
- Anonymous is a network of unnamed hackers who came together loosely in 2003 to sabotage computer systems for what they deemed social justice, especially restrictions against the free flow of information and the harsh punishments meted out to hackers who divulge state secrets and company secrets. They’ve been busy attacking corrupt government regimes, inciting civil wars, exposing bank corruption, disrupting credit card companies that oppose WikiLeaks’ freedom of information principle, stirring the pots of fringe religious groups, and so on. “Anonymous” members tend to attack what they view as misguided bastions of self-interest and wrong-doing, but since they’re not an organized group on a clearly defined mission, the righteousness of their own acts depends largely on the contentious dispositions of the hackers themselves (again, there’s that list of reasons).
- Adrian Lamo (a.k.a. “The Homeless Hacker”) often lived out of a backpack while logging into public wifi networks and breaking into corporate websites for various reasons. He might offer security consulting services to the companies he hacked, or alter online news stories in a prominent newspaper like the New York Times—for example by attributing dubious public statements to dubious government officials.
- Albert Gonzales (or “soupnazi”) led a pack of troubled nerds in high school before stealing data from millions of debit cards. When busted by the FBI, he became an informant for a while, but then went on to pilfer millions of payment card accounts from several big companies and to abscond with $256 million from the mother company of TJ Maxx. Then he was sent to prison for 20 years.
- Jeanson James Ancheta played with software-based robots (bots) that he used to infect and control hundreds of thousands of computers in 2005. He was caught and sent to prison, but not before selling his techniques to advertisers who would plant adware here and there across the Internet.
- A 15-year-old called Michael Calce (or “mafiaboy”) figured out how to take control of university computer networks and use their combined knowledge to disable Yahoo, Dell, ebay, Amazon, and CNN… akin to a teenage David taking a billion-dollar gang of Goliaths to their knees.
- Kevin Poulson (or “Dark Dante”) hacked the Pentagon’s ARPANET in 1983, was caught, and got off with a warning since he was a minor. He was busted five years later for hacking into the computers of Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos, but went on the lam to continue hacking government computers without doing much damage. Finally arrested in 1990 and barred from computers for three years, he eventually became a “white-hat” hacker and journalist and helped develop DeadDrop, a program that allows secure communications between journalists and their sources.
That gives an idea of how (and why) hackers operate.
Most alarming at the moment here in the States is the wave of “Russian hackers” who are breaking into computer systems of US companies and government agencies—not to cause any apparent damage or disruption, but just to keep tabs on what Uncle Sam is up to.
The solution to all of this hacking might be pretty simple. Thanks to the Internet, we seem to be entering a new era of free-flowing information. Openness and honesty make hacking obsolete. In the coming years, those who harbor the most secrets are liable to be the biggest victims of hacking.
Meanwhile, two good rules of thumb might be: 1) To keep secrets to a minimum, and 2) If certain secrets are necessary, block them completely from the networks (wi-fi, cellular, Internet….).
A Worst-Case Scenario
(The following scenario is hypothetical, but I think it might deserve some attention at the moment. MM)
Imagine living in a modern democratic country with a corrupt government regime that represents just a small segment of society—say the super-rich. Since leaders are elected by majority vote, how would they win elections and hold onto power?
Most likely, they’d lie and cheat. They’d manipulate the media to spread propaganda to attract susceptible minds to their cause—to stir up fear, anger, and dissension—the way Hitler did in Germany.
Then they might employ hackers.
- To stay in power they could hire hackers to rig the computerized voting machines. That would give the illusion that they represent a popular majority.
- To stay rich (even in bad economic times) they could hire hackers to rig the stock market, pushing it up-up-up and then applying the brakes whenever the market tries to correct itself and drop. That would give the illusion that they’re running a strong economy.
Then imagine a fluke in which the rigged voting machines are neutralized and the corrupt regime is voted out of power. How could that happen? Well…
- Maybe the rigged machines are hacked on election night by a different team of anonymous, gifted hackers who locate the cheating algorithm (maybe it has some predatory nickname like jackal or orca), and then disable it in order to ensure a fair election.
- Or an epidemic might sweep the country during the election year so that everyone has to stay indoors, and voting has to be done by mail.
Unlikely? Of course. But what would the corrupt regime do if their sure-bet election did fail?… as though some highly accomplished (almost godlike) force had stepped in to thwart the lying and cheating?
If the deceptive leaders were desperate to hold onto power…
- They might demand a recount (making sure the recount is rigged in their favor).
- They might pressure the courts to overturn the election results.
- They might resort to projection and smoke-screening (deflection) by accusing the opposition of rigging the election. (Projection and deflection are common motives of those who lie and cheat compulsively.)
- If that doesn’t work, they might devise ways to impose martial law and to stage a coup.
If none of that works and they end up powerless? Then what?
They’d probably pull the plug on the rigged stock market—fire the hackers who’ve been pushing the market up-up-up. The result would be a stock market crash of epic proportions.
Again, this is all hypothetical, but in the unlikely event that such a scenario did play out, how could people weather the storm?
With a little foresight, they might (quietly) start pulling most of their money out of the stock market before the change of leadership (which here in the States happens around mid-January every 4 or 8 years… 2021 being one of those years). Then just observe for a couple of months until the dust settles.
Stay safe… stay comfortable.
Detach from the drama as best they can.
Then, when things return to normal, they could resume their lives and their investments.
(Again, this worst-case scenario is all hypothetical. I’m the furthest thing from an investment advisor.)
Why Do We Really Lie and Cheat?
It’s all about predators, so please bear with me (no pun intended)….
I’ve spent nearly half my life researching “instrumental transcommunication”—a small subset of afterlife research that uses technology to establish a fragile contact bridge with the other side, and before that I was mostly interested in peace and world affairs.
Our INIT group (1995-2000) were reminded on various occasions by our transpartners (or spirit friends) that our transdimensional bridge to smart, positive beings like themselves could only be sustained if we could remain honest, sincere and friendly with each other. If we humans started feeling suspicious or envious toward each other (with thoughts of lying and cheating, for example), then we’d no longer resonate with our transpartners, and the bridge would weaken and become susceptible to negative and confused spirits—those that are drawn to people on Earth who are best described as “… swindlers, thieves, yes, even murderers…”. (Here’s more about that particular telephone contact… )
That, I believe, was our group’s biggest challenge and the main reason why our contacts began to dry up around the year 2000: Unwavering honesty, sincerity, and good-will are difficult to sustain in human relationships over time.
The question is, why?
I’ve been trying to figure that out nearly all my life—why human relationships are susceptible to deception, mistrust, fear, and other bristling emotions and motivations that lead to fights, riots, and wars.
Recently I think I’ve figured it out, and the answer is fairly simple:
Earth has a complicated symbiosis (or tangled web of relationships among living things), and we’re part of it. While most interactions between living things on Earth are forged on mutual respect, collaboration, and even love (especially mothers’ love of children), a relatively small but eye-catching number of interactions are predatory, in which living things hunt, harm, and sometimes kill other living things.
It’s that predatory quirk of life on Earth that leads to most of our drama, such as lying and cheating.
To survive in the wild, predators have to be deceptive and aggressive; prey have to be suspicious and wary.
In society, predatory behavior among us humans is more a choice than a necessity, but it certainly happens a lot, so we have to be on our guard constantly. Buyers and borrowers have to be wary of predatory businesses and banks and lenders. Businesses and banks have to be wary of predatory criminals. Criminals have to be wary of predatory cops (the rare “crooked” cops, or “bad apples’). Women have to be wary of predatory men. Peace-loving nations have to be wary of predatory nations….
Although predatory behavior is the exception to the win-win rule of life, the list of predators on Earth—both in the wild and in human relationships—is fairly long. And that produces an endless crosscurrent of deception and suspicion between predators and prey.
All of that deception and suspicion boils over into a whole range of negative thoughts and motivations that get trapped in Earth’s spiritual shadow.
I’ve come to believe that the entire omniverse is created and nourished by life-energy from the source. Life everywhere is intended to flourish on noble motivations that are bundled up in the life-energy, but the predatory nature of life on Earth deflects some of that life-energy, casting a spiritual shadow around our world. Lying and cheating are just two of the many ways that we humans contend with the shadow.
If you’re interested in learning more about the shadow and its influence on human affairs, (this article might help… )
On a closing note:
- Earth’s dark, symbiotic compulsions (predation, parasitism, and competition) are apparently rare throughout the omniverse. How and why they evolved in our world is a matter of long, complicated debate among us humans. There are much finer, brighter beings who’ve monitored our world across the eons, and they’ve given us some insights (which can be found here… ).
- Money is a manmade version of life-energy. While life-energy is a bundle of purely noble motivations that create and nourish the entire omniverse, money is used to create and nourish the noble-savage systems of our world. That’s why it can be used to nourish both our noblest dreams and our most savage inclinations, which include lying and cheating. On Earth we prize money the way other living beings throughout the omniverse prize life-energy.
- The key to finding peace, honesty, trust, and other noble motivations during a lifetime on Earth is simply to get in the habit of connecting our conscious mind to the source, for example through meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices. Inviting the life-energy into our lives can help us realize that the dark dramas going on around us are just part of the illusion of our world… and our place in the drama is short and fleeting.
So lying, cheating, and other dark inclinations are simply a part of living on Earth, but if they cause others to suffer then they lower our spiritual vibration in a way that can have unpleasant consequences both during and after a lifetime.
The key to long-term peace and happiness is to adopt practices that foster noble motivations in our relationships with other people and with the planet… then decide from day to day whether, when—and especially why— we really want to lie and cheat.
In particular, how much suffering will it cause?
Best to choose carefully.