There is a joke that I’ve heard since I was a kid that has managed to remain inoffensive and true through out all the refinements of what we deem socially acceptable. It goes like this,

“How do you know if a politician is lying?

His lips are moving!”

I like this because everyone can agree that politicians are liars no matter what their political views are, and because it says something subtle about the nature of a politician in a not so subtle way.

In contrast to a Statesman, who tells the people the truths we need to hear, a Politician tells the people what they want to hear. And we often want to hear lies because we don’t want to be reminded that we are responsible for electing those leaders who allowed our jobs to be sent overseas, allowed our wages to stagnate, allowed our infrastructure to crumble, allowed our groceries to get more expensive, and allowed our homes to be torn down and replaced with luxury high rises, allowed our police to become thugs, and allowed life in this country to become so hard that drugs are the only way to cope with the pain. This isn’t letting the politicians off the hook for lying, but it does spread the blame to us for asking to be lied to.

And this is why these populist movements sweeping through democracies around the world burn so hot – stopping them requires enough people to admit that they asked to be lied to because it feels better than hearing the truth. They would rather raise up a tyrant than admit the role they played in creating and expanding the problems their tyrant is blaming on “those other people” to remain free.

This is an ordinary kind of problem. Tyranny and Democracy are mortal enemies. It becomes extraordinary when the lies are told so often that people begin to believe them as truths. This gains a demagogue a following, turns a following into a movement, a movement into a cult, a cult into a religion, and a religion into an ochlocracy.

Faith in the unprovable can open the door to profound and transcendent spiritual enlightenment. Faith in lies leads only to chaos and material suffering, and religious fervor based on lies always results in mob rule.