Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This week the members of the practice list on the Internet Writing Workshop have been submitting their versions of fiction, mostly fiction, based upon the assignment to focus on dissimulation. It sounded simple enough: "In 400 words or less, create a scene in which a character, in the course of conversation, says one thing while thinking another." It is another way of saying 'hypocrisy.'

Francis Bacon wrote, back in the 15-1600s:
There be three degrees of this hiding and veiling of a man’s self. The first, closeness, reservation, and secrecy; when a man leaveth himself without observation, or without hold to be taken, what he is. The second, dissimulation, in the negative; when a man lets fall signs and arguments, that he is not that he is. And the third, simulation in the affirmative; when a man industriously and expressly feigns and pretends to be that he is not.
Some IWW list members wrote of business deals -- "I've got a bridge to sell you..." That kind of interactions or as we say in Florida, "I have some prime 'lakefront' real estate to sell you..." Others turned to thoughts of love, relationships, blind dates and all of the mixed messages those can engender.

My thoughts flew to the church and the dissimulation between word and deed often seen in the members of the flock -- after all, they are humans striving for perfection. Too many, I fear, fake it till they make it....

And then there is what I call 'mama speak.' Mothers and their children. Children of any age, but particularly teens and young adults and not so young adults. Mothers who never raise their voice, always smile, gently chide, yet the child feels the crack of that whip, the guilt, the zing of mother's disapproval behind those 'encouraging' words.

Especially in advertising we should be aware of the term dissimulation. I wonder, looking back, who was the first to tell people that we must drink bottled water, that it is purer, safer, more sophisticated, more fun? Perhaps it was the same advertising firm that told us we were sexier, more worldly, more mature, stronger, if we smoked cigarettes.

Now in this season, this long season, of presidential politics, we should be looking for the dissimulation -- the chasm that gapes wide between the words spoken and the thoughts, actions, truth behind them.

Bacon also had encountered such politicians. Evidently in his day there was an alternative, I'm not sure there is today. They all seem quite talented at dissimulation. Here's what Bacon said:
Dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy, or wisdom; for it asketh a strong wit, and a strong heart, to know when to tell truth, and to do it. Therefore it is the weaker sort of politics, that are the great dissemblers.
How sad.

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