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About... Pretence, Pretension and pretending

Posted by on in General Ideas

I am sure there is no need for a definition but it may still fulfill the purpose to get right to the point of the blog.

According to the Oxford dictionary, pretence means an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true. Pretension is the act of trying to be more than one is, or a claim to be or do something. Pretending is to behave so as to make it appear that something is the case when it is not.

I would like to add that while it usually implies one wants to be more, have more, do more than one does, it is enough to claim that one is different or doing something different when that is not true. It is a deviation from the truth as simple as that.

Why would anyone want to deviate from the truth? There could be various reasons, but most likely it is for the purpose of getting something we want or we want to hide something. 

Pretense or pretension is not unique to humans. In nature it fulfills a very specific purpose. It ensures survival. Camouflaging tactics for protection from getting eaten or means to get food are as astonishing as they are successful. Who does not marvel about the chameleon, cuttlefish, the spotty leopard just to name some out of the many incredible creatures and plants? Who is not impressed by the insect eating plants that pretend to offer sweet nectar for nothing but instead get themselves a bite to eat? 

Humans are the most prolific of tricksters. We have succeeded in overtaking all. But we are no longer using pretension for survival in the wild. We really don’t need pretensions anymore. That we still do is an inheritance of our animal ancestry and in fact turns now against us on so many levels, that it warrants attention.

Nowadays we don’t bait fish because we are hungry, we do it for pleasure; we bait animals for pride; bait humans for exploitation. We are no longer after food or protection. Our pretensions have been sophisticated but sadly have not lost its animal roots.

In the industrialized world of ours pretension serves the purpose of getting money, make profit or for other materialistic gains. We are still driven by the fear of not being able to survive, but because we cannot eat money we remain hungry for more. A full belly tells us when we had enough to eat; we cannot feel that way with money, therefore we never have enough. Do I have to point out where this has led and what is means for the future of us and our planet? There are plenty of people out there still pretending that all is good and nothing needs to be done, because if we don’t earn money we cannot survive. Never mind that we cut the branch we sit on! That is in itself astonishing because it does not make sense.

Well, there is no need to blame the government or whomever we want to blame; if we ourselves are not prepared to make the change nothing will. It does not imply that we should return to “prehistoric” times but it implies that Homo Sapiens still has to prove and not just pretend he is more than any other animal. It appears that the giant ant eater who only claws his way into the termite tower to have his feed, and never eats the whole colony, has more wisdom than us. 

In our social life pretensions are as destructive; on an individual level as well as for our species.  We grave attention, recognition, love, power. If we don’t have what it takes, we are tempted to fake it. Why? Because we still live according to nature’s law, that only the fittest, the strongest, the best will survive and even being none of it we want to procreate. Once again we have truly outlived that law as well. Nothing really justifies using pretentions or pretending to be something we are not.

Finally, the next important thing for us humans after survival is our desire for happiness, but our pursuit of happiness is seriously marred if we try to achieve it under a false pretence. We may have some success initially, but it will be short lived. Even if we have not been found out yet, we know the truth and its likelihood to surface despite the best effort to cover it up. 

The fear alone to be discovered makes life miserable. It means being constantly on high alert, constantly keeping track of what to say, what to do, constantly worrying if the inevitable has happened despite the precautions. Doom is pending, ridicule is just around the corner, our lover may have left already or people may want our heads. 

Clearly, all this fears are no deterrent. Pretenders are everywhere and seem to flourish, increasing in numbers in an astonishing rate. There is a certain amount of voyeurism in us all helping the process of acceleration. We love a celebrity and we love to see the poppy cut down. It is entertainment and we can watch it through our media devices. We love the achiever receiving the honors rather focusing on the person than on their work. We admire the successful lover but even more so their broken heart. We worship the powerful and are delighted when they come off their pedestal. It confirms that nothing is for certain, work is just too hard, lovers can leave us anyway and being a leader is not for the fainthearted.

At least when we fake it, whatever that may be, we have some time to enjoy the gains, it seems it is better than nothing. So we ruin our real chances of happiness because we are so afraid to be ourselves. Sadly it makes us more vulnerable. Not to own up to our real potential is the weakness we try to escape, turning us into the losers we are so afraid to be.

So what does it mean if we are not as popular, as talented, as desirable, and as successful as we would like to be? Obviously it means we compare our self to what we find most desirable. Then we acknowledge our shortcomings and if the gap is too big we get depressed because we cry about what we don’t have instead of exploring what we do have and bring that out to shine. It is then that we get tempted to pretend for one or the other reason. Whether it is fear or desire does not matter. None of it guarantees survival, but it sure guarantees unhappiness.

Does it matter if an individual is unhappy? Absolutely! Every single person deserves happiness. In fact homo sapiens survival may depend on it.      

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Guest Monday, 18 December 2017