Would You Dye a Lake Blue? Part II (or, We Are All Pretending and We Know It)

In “Would You Dye a Lake Blue?” I explored the strange case of people trying to achieve aquatic landscape perfection by dumping gallons of blue ink into their ponds. Was this absurd fakery just a problem for angst ridden landscape owners? I don’t think so.

Fake is a central fact of our social existence.

Fake is everywhere. You are fake. I am fake. We live in a fake world.

It’s easy to understand why one person fakes, and keeps their fakery hidden. People lie. We know why.

Far stranger is when two people lie to each other, and they both know they are lying, and they both know that they know that the other is lying. Yet they do it anyway. They consciously choose to create a fantasy world.

Strange?

You’ve probably already done it today.

“Hey, how you doing?”

“Good. Yourself?”

“Never better!”

One, two, three, done. You could’ve been anywhere from manic to suicidal and you still would  have said the same thing. I’m fine. You’re fine. Everything in the universe is just fine. Except that it isn’t, and you both knew that.

It’s not just greetings.

Laze a while on the manicured lawns of your best friend’s Facebook profile. Is that really them? Or is it no more real than a lake full of blue dye? Take the phenomena of “Finstagrams” – fake Instagram accounts were people go to escape the fakeness of real Instagram accounts. Yet even they struggle with the omnipresent demand to be fake.

How about your boss? The chummy one. That matey, handshakey, pat-on-the-back, let’s-get-a-drink boss. The boss that hates you because you don’t do things the way he would. The boss that you hate because he is underpaying you. The boss with whom you act out a charade of friendship.

Our fakeness has even earned itself a title: the Social Fake. The art of the white lie. The secret to keeping everyone happy by pretending you give a shit. Which you don’t. But you don’t need to tell them that. They already know.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

So why are we living all living in a self-inflicted fantasy?

I suspect the fake is camouflage.

First, like the white lie, it covers the ugly truth. Fake is the product of an arms-race of lying. A war of social conformity. Each step up in illusion creates ever greater demands to conform to an impossible standard. The only way to keep up is to invest in thermonuclear levels of fakery.

Yet the fake hides another even more brutal truth – everything we do is fake. We are all actors. All the time. We are permanent fantasists.

The truth is: the social world is a constructed world.

No law of nature demands that you listen to police officers. Physics did not decide that the tastes of the rich are more desirable than those of the poor. God did not decree that the money you strive for has any true value. We made it all up. It only exists because we say it does. And because we made it all up, a lot of our social world is soul-achingly absurd.

The illusions are the bed-sheets that cover the naked truths of our relations. Imagine what would happen if we tore the sheets away…

The greetings…

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“I’m going to kill myself.”

“Good. Saves me a job.”

The Facebook…

“Oh look, there’s a photo of Sally getting fired. Sad face! That’s her at rehab. I remember those needles – like! And that’s both of us getting arrested for public urination. Ah,  good times!”

That boss…

“Hey Phil, when I was last stealing office supplies, it occurred to me that no one here’s had a pay rise in ten years….”

“Yeah, I know. I’m doing it on purpose. You see, I really want to get promoted out of this shit-hole, which means I have to keep costs super-duper low so that the Fat Cats can pay themselves ginormous bonuses. Oh… and that cheap printer ink I made you all switch to – it causes cancer.”

“Oh, gee Phil, I guess I’m going to go start a riot now. Mind if I fire bomb your car?”

While I’m no fan of the noble lie – the idea that we need to be deluded – if we stripped away the fake then a lot in this world would be forced to change. A revolution or two at least. Maybe society would collapse into anarchy? Maybe Facebook would implode in a frenzy of unfriending? Maybe you would get divorced and move to Tibet? Or, maybe we’d learn to build a world that’s more true, more authentic, and doesn’t screw you over while asking you to smile.

~

Deeper Down the Rabbit-hole:

Learn more about Finstagrams in “On Fake Instagram, a Chance to Be Real” in the New York Times. Here.

It get’s weirder still. People fake looking authentic. “People Fake to Look Real on Social Media” on ScienceDaily. Here.

Got kids with special needs? Try “Phoney Baloney” the game that teaches them how to do the Social Fake, or more bluntly, how to manipulate people’s emotions by lying to them. Here.

© Under Obvious, 2017.

Would You Dye a Lake Blue?

A friend once told me a strange story about an American summer camp. That camp had a lake. Just before the parents returned for their brats the camp managers done something very odd to that lake. They went down to the lake’s edge. They opened up some plastic drums. And they dyed the lake blue.

Blue. With blue dye. A lake.

Yeah.

If you’re like me then you’re probably going, “What? Are they insane? The poor fish! Those idiots!”

But…

Wait…

Don’t worry…

That summer camp was no anomaly. That was lake dye. Special purpose. Fish friendly, so they say. You can buy it by the drum load.

Why would anyone use this stuff?  Well, according to the purveyors of the finest in paint-for-lakes, lake dye is a must have because:

  • it controls algae and plants, by shading all photosynthetic life to aquamarine-tinged death;
  • it enhances fish safety, by allowing the fish to hide from predatory birds in murky water the color of Gatorade;
  • and, most importantly of all… beauty. If it aint glowing cerulean blue then it aint good enough for you.

It appears that enough people find these reasons sufficiently compelling to have supported an entire industry, with multiple competing brands, that’s been churning out the blue wonder for years.

Now, just in case you’re beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, this is reasonable behavior after all, let’s be clear about one thing. All this talk about “fish safety” and “algae control” is a blue-dyed herring. For limnological reasons we wont get into, trying to fix water quality issues with blue dye is like trying to grow a beard with face paint. Lake dye is about one thing and one thing only – The Look, the blue look.

“Hey, Jim, that’s amazing! How did you get your pond to look so blue?”

“Well, Bob, I filled it with ink.”

“Gosh Jim! Why didn’t I think of that? Can I have some?”

“Sure Bob! I’ll bring it over as soon as I finish spray painting the dog.”

Lake dye is nuts. Objectively. It’s expensive. It doesn’t fix the real problem (i.e the fact that small lowland ponds just aren’t blue… that’s nature folks). And… you are dying a lake blue!

So then… why do people care so much about The Look that they are willing to act like eccentric professors with an overabundance of bad ideas?

Good question.

Lake dye has friends. Fake has long been popular. The Chinese are said to paint entire quarried mountainsides green, so that passengers in passing aircraft don’t notice the ravaged landscape beneath them. Stores exist where you can buy yourself an entirely plastic garden, right from the astroturf to the petrochemical palm trees. I recently passed an entire hedge’s worth of this stuff outside a lawyers firm – I had thought something seemed a bit wrong with those bushes. And my own grandmother long kept a bowl of plastic apples on her kitchen table – an eternal mouthwatering disappointment.

So why be a person who merely looks like they have a bowl of fruit, without getting any of the satisfaction of actually being able to pick up one of those apples and eat it?

Why do we fake anything?

Maybe some people really do like the look of plastic fruit and blitzed-blue lakes. It’s a quick-cheap aesthetic booster-shot. But that summer camp never wasted their dye making life pretty for the kids.

Fake is impression management. Information warfare. Psychological espionage. So viscous is this struggle that some of us will go to any length in-order to win – including telling lies with a forty-four gallon drum full of blue – seeking natural perfection in chemical oblivion. A few clever words from the salesman about algae and fish and we can convince ourselves we are doing this for sensible reasons. But the truth is…

Society’s eyes are ever staring. We see all. We judge all. We are inside your head.

We decide what you must want, what you must have, what you must be. If you want our help, then don’t you dare tell us that you cannot afford to be… don’t have time to be… don’t know how to be… We expect perfection! We expect your polluted little mud pond to resemble the royal blue waters of alpine Davos. We expect the impossible.

So you give us the impossible. The unreal. The lie.

You fake it. You fake it to make our voice in your head shut up.

You drown us in blue dye.

 

~

Deeper Down the Rabbit-hole:

A few random lake dye suppliers as a taster:

(I’m not advertising by the way. In fact… never buy lake dye. Are you insane?!)

© Under Obvious, 2017.