Gleaning the boundaries of deceit is a game whose rules we skirt from a tender age. The stubby fingers of an infant caught concealing a forbidden morsel, the growing whites of her eyes nonetheless asserting her innocence. Very quickly the child learns: even if she were caught, had she stuffed the clandestine treat in her mouth faster, she would still have suffered the indignity of a scolding but the sweet after-taste would've been salve to her stinging pride. It's a risk worth the reward.
There is a certain arrogance required for successful deceit. Hauteur in the belief that one has the right, and confidence that they shall see it through to the end. In a way, it is an end. Think of it so: if inception, from the Latin in + capio , i.e. `to take in,’ 'to begin' – and now, de + capio , 'to take away': deception as the end.
Certainly, a means to an end.
Many practice deceit daily, particularly the deceit of others. Small lies as easy rituals; they lend gloss to an otherwise matt palette. Beauty, even contrived, has its own merit.
Reliably, deception has a half-life that lingers longer in the memory of the dupe, than in that of the deceiver. The perpetrator has already accepted the lie as true; it is a necessary part of the equation. Deceit requires consistency. For one to successfully deceive another, then one must sustain the act.
Actors make for sparkling dinner-party guests.
Should you find yourself on the acute end of deception, you likely think yourself a fool. How could I have been so gullible? It festers and you remain incredulous at your own vulnerability. Perhaps you learn. You surely remember.
But it is the deceit of self that is the most pernicious.
Who do you think you are?
It's not a question as to why you thought you could get away with 'it' in the first place. It's what led you to think you could side-step reality and somehow make fiction real. This new reality is slippery. Any fresh denuding would undermine your notion of self.
To admit to an act of deceit requires the admission of willful fraudulence. You too, wanted to believe. This betrays the revelation of a fragile, if artfully concocted membrane, where previously you thought the cloak thick enough, invisible perhaps, certainly impenetrable to others. Once you've shown your hand, your cover is blown.
The penitent deceiver muses: What was I thinking?
Because being caught deceiving is to admit a departure from the truth. Here lies the true pique and pang of deceit: the hubris that smacks and lingers long after being caught. Rarely do we feel guilt for the act of deceit; should that be the case we wouldn't attempt it in the first. Besides, ethics are relative. Yes the violent spike and puncture of the sheath may scald. Certainly, the blow of being caught indelibly burns. But the delicious afterglow of the conquest burns brighter still.
Gabrielle Longmate, Paris, November 2015.