August 21, 2000
Lying is a habit
Two years ago I was vacationing with my family in Cyprus. One day as
we were riding in a taxi the Greek driver began to make unwelcome advances
toward one of my mother's friends. As she was attempting to evade his proposed
date later that evening, the taxi driver said "I am not Iranian, I
do not lie." Later, he explained nonchalantly to me "Almost every
Iranian I have met has lied."
Shahriar Zahedi in "We
must lie" wrote, "it is safe to assume that there once existed
among the Persians, a certain preoccupation with honesty and truthfulness..."
Well, my reply to this statement is an unequivocal no. There are two
reasons why the famous Herodotus excerpt about Persian youth being taught
to "ride, shoot and tell the truth" is misinterpreted.
First, Herodotus only reported what he heard. He made no attempt to
verify any of the claims that he was told. This lead to some ridiculous
assertions such as King Xerxes' invasion force of Greece having over a
million soldiers! Hence, his statement about Persian honesty was not a
personal observation but merely a recount of a tale he had heard.
Secondly, having lived in the U.S. for the past ten years, I have noticed
that lying occurs much less frequently here than in Iran. People here simply
do not know how to lie. Thus, they don't have to consciously try to be
honest. Lying is a habit that one has to learn. People who are honest,
have not learned to lie. Hence, if someone has to try to be honest, they
must already know how to lie.
Furthermore, if parents have to try to teach honesty to their children
it stands to reason that lying must be a great problem in their community.
Let's not take Herodotus and his grandiose claims too seriously. We
Iranians have not changed and are probably no less honest than we were
2,500 years ago.
If you still do not believe, go take a look at the rock relifs King
Darius commissioned in 550 B.C. and read the part which describes Darius
overthrowing an "imposter" king before rightfully seizing the
throne for himself. Yeah right!