“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept” – George Carlin
Thanks to my wife, who has these things called friends, I recently had the pleasure of spending a festive evening drinking in the company of breeders. Predictably, conversation soon turned around to the topic of their oiks, which usually results in me frantically reaching for a soothing glug of alcohol. This time though, before I could reach for some liquid amnesia, my interest was ignited by the discussion.
Should you tell your urchin that Santa doesn’t exist thus shattering the first of many childhood dreams? The general consensus was that no, you should play along to preserve the sanctimony of innocent youth. I did offer up the Russell Brand hypothesis that you should tell your offspring about the great Father Christmas fraud, as it will shatter their parental trust when they find out that you’ve lied to them for years, but this was roundly discredited on the grounds that it would ruin Christmas.
And for once I agree with them. Not because it would ruin Christmas, there’s plenty of other things that already do that (rampant materialism, extended family and friends, the ever increasingly pathetic John Lewis music etc.). But because Brand is essentially preventing his brat from learning an essential lesson in life: People are bastard liars!
Imagine a world built on Brand’s hypothesis. You are told that Santa is effectively as real as Snow White. Whilst your trust in adults grows, you fail to learn that everybody has the potential to be a lying bastard. Now you may think that this is a good thing. Surely a less cynical world would be a more charming, quaint place to live in. You would be wrong.
Imagine a world where the majority of people believe that Boris Johnson is going to send £350m from the EU to help the NHS. Bad example. Imagine a world where tens of millions of registered voters believe that Trump is going to make America great again. Errrmm. OK, so a significant number of people are idiots, but imagine the damage that could be done if in addition to these idiots we create an increasing number of gullible people who believe everything that they are told. Trump would get a second term. Johnson would be PM. Everyone would believe that it is butter. Quite frankly, that is not a dystopian vision of the future that I want to see come to fruition.
Learning that people lie, including your parents, all the time is a good thing. It means that those who have some modicum of intellectual capacity will question things. They’ll still be in the minority, but they have a vital finger in the wall of the leaky dam that is holding back a tidal wave of idiocy. If you really love your tyke you’ll lie to them about the existence of Santa, destroy any credibility that you hold in their eyes (let’s face it, it’ll happen anyway) and give them the gift that keeps on giving: scepticism.