long-horse.jpgQUOTE(PeaceBlondie @ 2007-02-19 13:43:13)
>My partner and I ran into a professional Thai acquaintance the other day, who proceeded to tell us bald-faced lies to our surprised, smiling faces. We didn’t press the point, and we parted company as if no lies had been told. You cannot proceed to ‘the truth’ which doesn’t exist, and you can’t accuse them of ‘lies’ they haven’t told. Proceed as if the conversation never took place, as if you have no information on which to extend the relationship.
Here, far more than ‘back home’ the truth does not matter, or is not the same. Mai bpen rai. But in business dealings, caveat emptor.

I think you’ve got a good understanding of the culture-wide view towards truth in Thailand. Truth does not exist. There is no objective reality that people compare words to. The only thing that exists is what is said. Face is the idea that appearances are what is important – what people think of you is much more important than what you are. Lies are like makeup, if they make a person appear more pretty, that person will use them. They don’t have the feeling that the lies make them ugly.

QUOTE(DirkGently @ 2007-02-19 13:47:39)
This suggests that they do something else.

If you are unable to press them because of distance, then assume they are and forget
asking them to deny it. Thais can stick to their lies even in the face of video footage and 25
witnesses showing them that you know the facts.

I once had a Thai in a shop deny her own name on a receipt.

Yes, that is a good tactic. Firstly, do your best to honestly forgive the person for being an asshole about what they are lying about, see it as human nature, genuinely don’t be offended, remember the times that you have acted similarly. Explain how you can see their point of view for doing that, in an accepting and non-threatening way. Then since the lie isn’t that big a deal to you, they are more free to admit it. But if they will not outright admit it, then just assume it is a lie and act as if their denial is not really registering in your ears – that way they don’t have to lose face by being contradictory, and you can just get on with it.

Easier said than done though. Lies really piss me off. Really really piss me off sometimes.

When I said “There is no objective reality”, I meant that to Thais, they don’t put importance on an objective reality – their allegience is towards their version, and they don’t care very much how their version matches up with facts. Personally I do believe in objective reality, and my allegience is for my versions of it to match up as closely as possible with the facts of sense perceptions.

I see speach as a way of talking about facts, and I don’t understand the point of lies. Some people lie about their past, inventing a University education, to look better. I don’t get the point of it. I don’t use words that way, and can’t understand why anyone would. Once you get in the habit of telling the truth, it comes to pass that disonesty loses appeal. Telling the truth as much as possible makes a persons eyes see more clearly, makes his heart more empathetic. Because if one is truthful, one must admit to being an a-hole sometmies, and then one can more easily empathise with all the other a-holes out there. We can all be part of the a-hole club, and are free to critisize and praise each other.

People who habitually lie are equally perplexed at how I use speach. They simply can not comprehend and refuse to believe that a person will habitually tell the truth.

People in Thailand are much more dependent on others good opinion of them than are people in the west.

The majority of adults in the west respect the development of the individual. In many movies you will see a scene like the one in a Harry Potter movie, where the lead character is at first looked down on, but acts untroubled by this and just goes along with his life, and eventually becomes respected. You never see a character in any western TV show or movie who is portraid as successfully gaining face through deceit. We respect more an honest and imperfect a-hole than a deceitful mr. perfect. Western adults are not dependent on others good opinion. Western teenagers are.

Yes, I want to be loved, respected, admired. But what I want to be admired is ME, not some fictitious representation. It is much more common in Thailand that no difference between self and face is seen.

At a large mountain Buddhist mediation center in Colorado Dzongzar Kyentse Rimpoche gave simple advice – something Dale Carnegie might say. Put forward your worst face – show your ugly side. I’ve found that this actually makes me more likable than putting forward my best face. I can admit to conservative girls on the first date that while in Thailand I had two or there girlfriends at the same time. Truth doesn’t actually put people off. There is not actually any ugliness in us that turns people off, if it is faced with straightforward acceptance and love and humor.

Actually, if people feel that you are comfortable with all your own faults, they are more likely to feel that you will accept them as they are also.

It helps if people teach this, if the culture recognises this. That trying to be likeable through false appearance does not make a person more likeable. Making others feel good does.

I don’t claim that all we have is our words to represent ourself. Thais believe this, I do not. I believe that our actions have an objective reality. We can lie, but that doesn’t make the words into any sort of truth. The essential ME that I’d like to be admired is nothing more than my body and actions and ideas.

And we are not trapped in a maze of discourse. Language is a tool that we use. We are not the tool. I am not my mental interpretation. That is the whole point of meditation – to dis-identify with thoughts, and embody our being more fully.

Yes, a great many adult aged westerners are still at a teen level of sense of self. The percentage is different in different cultures, and is extremely high in Thailand.

I usually tell the truth.

Whenever a habitual lier talks about the value of truth, he always brings the topic around to diplomacy. Telling the truth applies to all situations, not just diplomatic ones.

And I can’t remember ever telling a diplomatic lie. They are not needed. You can be diplomatic with the truth without being harsh or hurtful. Lying is simply not necessary for diplomacy.

I think you’d find life much more fun and interesting if you take on the challenge of telling the truth as much as possible. You’ll find it is possible in situations that you thought it wasn’t. The challenge of replying honestly to the question of “do you think i’m fat?” with an answer that makes the person feel good is a fun challenge. I always answer honestly, and have never had the impression that I made the person feel bad – quite the contrary – I manage to make the person feel loved and accepted, while making it plain that I don’t want them to get too fat.

You don’t have to believe that our ideas can match our perceptions so perfectly as to create “Absolute Truth” for the concept of lying and telling the truth to have meaning.

Sure truth is relative. So what and big deal. Being as accurate as possible is valuable when using language to have a clear mental map of what is going on around you, and in expressing what is going on.

I can generalize about Thailand having a higher percentage of immature adults based on my experiences and the experiences that I hear others talk about it. My experiences are objective experiences, based upon the senses. If I see a car crash, the event is not a subjective anecdote up and until a clinical study says otherwise. Careful examination of the stories of many other people has led me to see patterns. If the only evidence you can take to be objective is a clinically controlled double blind experiment, then you must therefore discount most of all reality.

Blame is not the natural and only outcome of a desire for truth. Blame is a separate issue.

For instance, in my Kadampa Buddhist trainings, we are given the slogan “drive all blames into oneself”, and are encouraged to take the blame whenever possible. This has a curious effect on ones attitude, and one eventually gets the feeling that we are all just part of the same stew, all capable of being a-holes, all capable of being loving. At the same time Buddhism offers lay people the opportunity to take lay vows, for life, or for a period of time. I once took the vow to not lie, at all, for 1 year. This was very instructive to me. It was quite a difficult habit at first. If I did catch myself in a lie, I’d have the embarrassment of having to follow up and admitting it. After you get used to it, it becomes quite easy, and you’d not want to go back. I don’t see that being truthful has caused me to blame people more – the opposite, I think, as I truthfully know what a dck I am, and what dcks other people are. No need to blame people for being people – just see it as clearly as possible, love it as much as possible, avoid abuse as much as possible, and have as much fun as possible.

I agree that subjective experience can be described entirely in subjective language, but I don’t agree that all of reality is subjective. The evidence points to there also being an objective component to it, regardless that all our experiences are ultimately experienced in a subjective and intersubjective way. I don’t agree that there must be a Final Ultimate Knowable Truth that we all can share for truth to be valuable and meaningful and useful. We make as much sense out of all the puzzle pieces that we can, and if there are a lot of pieces left over that don’t fit in, those are clues that some re-arranging is in order.

Yes, certainly, truth is relative, slippery, and subject to change. That has no bearing on its value, and the value of the search for it.

I don’t really care how fair it is to “judge” Thais as being immature face savers. It is both my right and my duty to see things as clearly as possible. My ideas are subject to debate and revision, but I won’t not have them just to be “fair”.

[quote name=’borracho’ post=’1149974′ date=’2007-02-19 22:33:57′]

many of the pathological liars are incapable of seeing themselves honestly.[/quote]

You said a mouthful. It took me the longest time for that to really sink in. My original expectations were that people know when they are lying, and that if a lie is pointed out, people are capable of seeing the inconsistency, if not always capable of admitting it. Some people are really messed up, broken. Willfully ignorant.

It can be painful and messy to love such a one, over and over and over faced with living with a person who creates her own world, and prefers it to an evidence based reality.

And please, no replies about how we all create our world. Psychopaths create their reality. You can’t interact precicely without respect for evidence, and we do not create facts. We interpret facts, yes, but we do not create them. That’s a huge difference. The fact that you can perform experiments that give facts that suggest that light acts as a wave, and perform different experiments that suggest that light acts as discreet particles, is consistent with the fact that we get sensory data, facts, that are not created by our ideas. We have to interpret sensory data – we don’t create sensory data. The fact that light has a “dual” nature that we do not have an intuitive or consistant mental model for does not imply that we create the way that light behaves. It always behaves consistently – you can’t have a mental model that will alter how it behaves.

Advertisements