The title says it all, really. Nine or so months ago, a bloke got it disastrously wrong at a junction, turned in front of me when he shouldn't have, caused an accident, and - I think it's fair to say - at the time he realised all of this. Now, separated by distance and the ludicrous formality of car insurance claims, he seems to have no compunction about brazenly lying, falsifying the circumstances to make it look like it might not have been his fault. The most frustrating thing about all of this for me is being told repeatedly between an hour or so after the accident and today by my own insurance company that they would do everything they could to prove that it was entirely his fault.
If they'd said, half an hour after the accident: 'look, we know it wasn't your fault, but that doesn't make the blindest bit of difference. You're wasting your time and energy, because to be honest we can't be arsed to chase it up in enough detail to back you up. Accept the inevitable, and save yourself a bit of mental exertion." If they'd said that, as I say, I would have been able to get angry about it once and then leave it. But instead, they've let me think at various times that they would back me. But they didn't mean it. Again, they have the advantage of distance - they're not looking me in the eye when they waste my time, effort and money - and so it must just feel like any other day at work to them. Which it is, I suppose. They must be trained not to start caring, because that would lead inevitably to reduced profits. And let's be clear, this is my insurance company who ought to be trying to recover their money. Instead, it seems, they're protecting themselves. I am liable - at least in the sense required for charging me extra - not because it was my fault, but because I can't prove it wasn't. They don't look at it and go, 'well, we need to give the benefit of the doubt.' That would be potentially unprofitable.
They ask you the questions in a very curious way: 'are you happy for us to proceed with 50/50 blame?' Well, no, of course not, because it wasn't my fault, regardless of the red herring about all drivers giving way if it can help to avoid an accident. He moved, I couldn't avoid him. As in, I'm half to blame for a road accident that I could only have avoided by being somewhere else altogether. If they asked: 'do you give us permission to accept 50/50 liability?', then I can answer, 'yes,' because apparently that's the only conceivable outcome. And it was only after ringing up to moan about the fact that they wanted to charge me a load of extra money to renew my insurance with them - because of an accident that was partially my fault, which just so happened to have been on this same day as the accident which definitely wasn't my fault - that they decided it was worth having this conversation. The fella on the phone probably got a bit of a bonus for closing it down, because clearly the last thing they actually want to do is spend money sorting it out with lawyers and whatever. They ought to have twigged whose fault it was when the other lot came offering to share blame 50/50, which is not something you would immediately do if you knew it wasn't your fault. Eh?
Well, whatever. It makes me realise that my own attitude to lying - one of deep unease, guilt, a real sense of the watching eye of right or God or whatever judging me as I utter even a slight untruth - is not one that other people necessarily share. I hate lying, especially to people I care about. I hate hiding something that is there, being unable to just come clean and say, "yes, this thing you think you have noticed, it's real", or refusing to answer a question put honestly because it causes too many further problems. I hate the sense that I have misled someone, moreover that I might have made them feel something bad or painful because of my words, or lack of them. I dwell - as I have written before - and the worst aspect of that is not being able to correct it, reliving it and making the same decision each time. Sometimes that decision was not a mistake, just one taken in desperate circumstances where the alternative was much, much worse. "Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong. That is your oath." I can agree with some of it. But sometimes the truth would be too painful, it would hurt the other person or people involved. Sometimes it is better to keep your counsel and wait, and hope.
And so it is with the various leaders in UK politics at the moment. Some of them have no sense that what they are saying matters. Truth or lie, the things they say affect what people do, people's lives. Some of them stand up in front of me and lie, manipulate and avoid, and they do it in order to enhance their careers. They are not lying to protect other people, but to make sure that the truth, which might hurt them does not get out. What's fascinating is how few of them are actually trying to make things better for people, and that it is such a high proportion of them that are doing and saying whatever they need to to get into power in the first place. You'd think that there were other ways of feeling important. But, as that 'servant leadership' poem says, you have to be great enough to be anonymous, victorious enough to lose, strong enough to be weak. The sad thing is how many of them want to be leaders, without realising that what makes a good leader is that willingness to serve.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought