OPINION

How lies and viruses have a lot in common

COMPLEX: This current pandemic will stretch and grow many virtues, including that of telling the truth.
COMPLEX: This current pandemic will stretch and grow many virtues, including that of telling the truth.

A man sees a sign out the front of a house that reads: "Talking dog for sale." He rings the doorbell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The man goes into the backyard and sees a shaggy mutt just sitting there.

"You talk?" the man asks the dog.

"Yep," the dog replies.

"So, what's your story?"

The dog sits up excitedly and begins talking: "Well, I discovered my gift of talking pretty early in life and I wanted to help the government, so my owner you just spoke to contacted the federal police about my gift, who put me in touch with ASIO, and in no time they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no-one figured a dog would be eavesdropping on them. I was one of their most valuable spieser for over 10 years running!

"The jetting around really tired me out though, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger and I wanted to settle down. So I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work, mostly wandering near suspicious characters and listening in.

"I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded more medals than I can even remember. I had a missus, a mess of puppies, and now I'm just living here, retired."

The man is amazed. He goes back to the owner and asks "how much for your talking dog?"

The owner says: "Two dollars."

The man appeals to the owner: "This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling it so cheap?"

The owner replies: "He's just a big liar. He didn't do any of that stuff."

Is it OK to lie? Does it make life easier or harder? Are there times to tell the truth and times to tell a lie?

I keep saying to myself "write about something other than coronavirus this week" ... and yet, the still small voice keeps telling me it's still regularly on everyone's minds.

And we are hearing so many things about the virus - even things that completely contradict other information we have heard earlier - and I am reluctant to even write them here lest I spread lies and contradictions unintentionally.

COVID-19 is real, lies are false, and yet, they both operate in a similar fashion.

You can be infected with COVID-19 for up to two weeks before you show any symptoms. That is scary. You can pass this potentially fatal virus onto someone through a kiss or even a handshake. This is tragic, as it appears you could unintentionally give a loved one the virus weeks before with the best of intentions; with the intentions of showing them love.

Lies are often told with the best of intentions, and liars will often lie even about their loved ones with no intention of committing any long-term harm. However, like COVID-19, a lie can harm every person in a community and one lie can even permanently destroy a person's life.

But perhaps the biggest enemy of truth today is our favourite pastime - social media.

Before, society had a media that was bound by financial market forces and legal accountability. People knew what they knew only to the accuracy of what they heard "on the grapevine", or by bush telegraph as we call it.

Liars will often lie even about their loved ones with no intention of committing any long-term harm. However, like COVID-19, a lie can harm every person in a community and one lie can even permanently destroy a person's life.

In regards to the current coronavirus pandemic, the Australian Department of Health states on its website "the situation is changing rapidly", and unfortunately this situation is fertile soil for those who want to sound important or interesting in a conversation.

You may remember Clare Werbeloff, the "Chk-Chk Boom girl", who became famous in 2009 after giving an eyewitness account on television of a shooting that had occurred in Kings Cross. After the video went viral, she admitted that she had made the story up, insisting she wasn't trying to cause any trouble, "just wanted to be famous".

The coronavirus pandemic will stretch and grow many of our virtues, including the virtue of telling the truth. Practice excellent hygiene. Be honest if you are sick. Have the honesty to self-isolate. Someone's life may depend on your honesty.

Twitter: @frbrendanelee