The varnished truth

I guess it’s a human trait: we prefer to be seen in a good, rather than a bad, light. So, when we share information, we tend to put out what makes us look or seem better, rather than what may make us look bad. Photographers see this often when trying to take pictures of people, but have to wait because the person says or acts in a way that says ‘I want to look better’. I always prefer to take candid pictures, because I long ago accepted that life and its moments are not perfect. For that reason, I often take random pictures of things surrounding life and maybe have people in shots, but often for the context they give to visual moments. Truth is fact plus context. 

If you see many of my pictures, you know that I sometimes just have shots of people’s feet.  Weird? Not really. At any given moment, feet don’t pose. Even when people strike a pose, feet do much less, and often have to be there, unassuming, holding up the body and ignored. I like that. So, in those rare moments when you see gnarly feet poking out of some roughed up sandals, and look up and see a well-groomed person, you have to make the connection between the top image and what’s lower down. My daughter and I were out walking on Sunday, and on our way back to her apartment saw a young man walking with a bunch of flowers and some bags with what could have been presents. He was wearing a dark jacket and trousers, and an open-neck shirt. He stopped and looked around, seeming a little lost, then walked on. I noticed his feet were in what seemed like those plastic shoes with toes and some bright hooped socks. Nice fashion statement, I thought. 

Catching the unguarded moments are great.

I sometimes have the pleasure of spending time with young children, before they are consummate liers. Of course, there are ‘incidents’, but I have a few Dad-like ways of resolving them, including, not resolving them 🙂 When they come running to me to retell a story, I usually stop them to let them catch a breath, because I know the story will come out, but the run to get to me (first) takes its toll. Breathing controlled, I then say “Tell me what you did first, and then what happened later.” It’s funny how many ‘Shelly pushed me!’ stories turn out to be ‘I bit Shelly and she pushed me’ stories. Later in life, the biting part may be varnished a little with ‘I was playing about, and didn’t mean to bite, but Shelly’s hand came close to my mouth as it opened and next thing I know I’d bitten her.’

My point?

I have no problem admitting that I’m a skeptic. But, I think I am also compelled to see more than one side to a story, skeptic or not. As I noted to someone yesterday, as they lamented what they saw as hypocrisy, that trait is neither a deadly sin nor a crime. It’s also something that many people use to make a living, and I cited politicians amongst those who benefit greatly from being hypocrites. They may like to put it that they are ‘all things to all people’ or ‘flowing with the tide of public opinion’. I’m not going to fight them on that, today. 

If you watch a lot of sport, as I do (unashamedly), you’ll see what varnishing the truth is very often. Game in play, contestant does action that should benefit opponent, and immediate reaction is to make it seem that the benefit should be to him- or herself. Football is great for that: kick an opponent and feign that you have been hurt more. It’s an art form for some. Ball goes out of play off your touch? Claim it never touched you. And so on. I had lunch with an old friend, with whom I’d played a lot of football games. He was telling me about how his life had changed to accommodate problems in his family circumstances and how things he’d seen coming never registered with others. Denial? Not wanting to be hurt? Better to seem the victim? Whatever. We agreed that the facts never change, but the viewpoints do. We recalled a semi-final that we lost after leading, when the ball went out of play (by about a good foot) but play continued, and from that came a goal to send the match into extra-time, when we lost. 

The facts will never change: the play should have stopped. The player who continued may argue till kingdom come that he didn’t know the ball had gone out. The officials can argue that they were badly placed to see what happened. All of our defenders in the vicinity appealed immediately when the ball went out, stopped, and were then stumped as the ball went into the penalty area and went into the net. Protesters had to wait their turn to berate the referee in many languages. Some said things they will always regret. But, cheating or what seems like cheating is hard to bear. Losing is much easier to accept if it happens fair and square. Otherwise?

Sometimes, you have to accept that ‘looking bad’ in a situation is the best thing to do.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)