Fool Thyself



Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view
or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception.
Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture?

- David Bohm

It is the nature of ambition to make men liars and cheats, to hide the truth in their breasts,
and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths, to cut all friendships and enmities
to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will.

- Kenneth Tynan

Source: Funny Times, probably 1997

Lies We Live By: The Art of Self Deception

by Eduardo Giannetti, Bloomsbury, 304 pages; $24.95 and £15.99

"Every day, every day, things get better in every way."  The French know it as la méthode Coué, after an early 20th-century quack who touted the curative value of autosuggestion.  Dale Carnegie, the American fountainhead of the modem self-help manual, called it the power of positive thinking.  Fooling yourself into feeling better about life is easy to deride.  But, if believing false things about yourself makes you happier, is such self-deception always wrong?  Is exaggerating your talents and prospects so bad if avoiding negative thoughts helps you lead a more active and satisfying life?

From Socrates on, most western philosophers and moralists have taken a hard line on this matter.  Under the bracing slogan "Know thyself' (which Montaigne, for one, had carved on his ceiling), they have tended to treat self-deception as a regrettable, if intriguing, weakness.  lt is a sign of the power of self-deception that there is so little obvious evidence of its power. The phenomenon Is simultaneously elusive and widespread, as Eduardo Giannetti, a Brazilian historian of ideas, observes in this series of short ruminations.  The more you insist you are free from it, the likelier it is that you are a victim.  And this is not the only way in which self-deception is odd.  There seems to be something strange in the very idea of deceiving yourself.  Who is fooling whom?  How can you lie and not know you are lying?

Self-knowledge sounds more straightforward.  But there is a haziness, too, about what that involves.  Self-knowledge might be narrowly taken to consist in a Freudian grasp of the childhood sources of your motivations.  Or it could be understood extravagantly as a thorough grasp of reality and man's place therein.  A further point is that people without self-knowledge tend not just to believe false things about their own merits.  They subscribe to religious and political views which shore up these beliefs.  Most religions have taught that those who adhere to them have a privileged place in the universe.  Secular ideologies such as Marxism hold to much the same view.

There is, in addition, something unrealistic in the very ideal of self-knowledge.  Aren't self-deception and its close cousin, self-love, too ingrained - and too useful - to be dispensed with?  At times Mr Giannetti writes as if caring less about strangers than about yourself, your friends and your family was a form of self-deception, a sliding away from the impartiality essential to truth.  But this is surely a confusion: you may care about them simply because they are yours, without falsely believing that they have special value in themselves.

By nature, people are soft on themselves.  Everyone is inclined to think they and the things they care about are undervalued.  People are partial in assessments of political programs or religious creeds and rarely judge themselves by the standards they apply to others.  Nor, arguably, should self-deception be eradicated, even if it could be.  As Mr Giannetti acknowledges, it brings benefits, or certainly seems to.  It gives the confidence to persevere in life: many successful people are motivated, in their early years, by an irrational faith in themselves.  Against the philosophical grain, Pascal pursued a similar line, holding that evidence and truth were far from sacrosanct when it came to beliefs.  Happiness, he argued, lay in self-deception, the truth about our corrupt, mortal natures being too horrible to contemplate.

Pascal meant this as a caution against too much high-mindedness.  And yet, facts do matter; the ideal of self-knowledge remains powerful and attractive.  It has inspired many profound and moving works of art.  Augustine's and Rousseau's "Confessions", Montaigne's "Essays" and Rembrandt's self-portraits all aimed to present their creators as they really were, or stripped at least of the conceits and illusions with which most of us protect ourselves.

One useful thought, which Mr Giannetti does not really pursue, is that the very contrast between paralysing self-awareness and energising self-deceit may be overdrawn.  In the end, might it not come down to temperament?  Some people, after all, achieve plenty without an exaggerated appraisal of their talents, aware of life's limits but not dwelling on them at every bell.  Though an erudite scholar, Mr Giannetti does not quite do justice to a rich and noble theme.  He set out, admirably, to write a book that would appeal to the general reader as well as to his academic colleagues.  But the result tends to be both showy and rather vacuous.  Maybe he should have been harder on himself.

Source: The Economist 13 May 2000

See also:

bulletBoasting and Regretting (in the section on Society and Culture) - Almost every man wastes a part of his life in attempting to display qualities which he does not possess.  The development of "imposture" in adolescent males parallels eating disorders in females...
bulletAdvice about Vice, particularly the article "Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications" (in the section on Drugs) - just how deceitful can you get?

Bra Wars

British Humour

New York - Pulleys, airbags, advanced plastic moulds and silicone-filled inserts.  The modem brassiere, with as many as 43 components and a design as complicated as a suspension bridge, has long been a small miracle of engineering.  Now it is trying to go high-tech.

Growth in the bra industry has sagged since the mid-l990s, when Wonderbra and Ultrabra went chest-to-chest in the cleavage wars, and chains such as Knickerbox in Britain and Victoria's Secret in America moved lingerie out of the backrooms of department stores.  Since 1997 Britain's £600m ($850m) bra market has grown by less than 2% a year, according to Mintel, a research firm; the $4.6 billion American market has not done much better.

One of the latest attempts to support the market is the Bioform, now the hottest-selling bra in Britain.  It was developed by Seymour Powell, the consultants behind the world's first cordless kettle.  The Bioform replaces underwiring with a soft moulded core of plastic around a rigid ring - a design originally meant for the Frisbee.  Also new to the market is the Ultimo, developed by a Scottish former model working with a group of German scientists.  Sewn into the cups of this bra, a big hit at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, are silicone-gel pads that mimic breast tissue, a safer alternative to implants.

Meanwhile, Wonderbra, owned by America's Sara Lee, is putting its parent's ample resources behind a "variable cleavage" bra, equipped with pulleys to draw the breasts together.  And Gossard, now also part of Sara Lee, will next spring launch the Airotic.  Based on the principles of a car airbag - this could mean anything from "bag containing air" to "explosive inflation under violent deceleration" - it uses valves to provide lift.  Plainly unsuitable for pneurotics.

The market for bras that enhance the female form has to contend with at least one natural development: unaugmented breasts are getting bigger by themselves, thanks to the pill and changes in diet.  The average cup size in Britain has grown from 34B to 36C over the past 30 years; half of all British women are now a D cup or bigger, which may explain why two-thirds of them complain that their bras do not fit properly.  Smarter designers have spotted this untapped potential.  Richard Seymour, the Bioform's developer, says his product, which starts at size 34C, is aimed specifically at big women who find normal, underwired bras painful.

These innovators hope to see faster growth in the market.  Others might regard it as a mixed blessing.  Surging sales of bras are claimed to be an indicator of economic downturn: women cut back on big purchases in a recession, and buy new underwear to cheer themselves up.  The Fed's chairman, Alan Greenspan, a great one for a shapely statistic, had better keep an eye out for a bounce in bra sales.

Source: The Economist 2 December 2000

How Ladies Have Been Containing Themselves through the Ages

Women have used garments designed to lift, separate and restrain their breast since as early as 2500BC.  Minoan women on the island of Crete wore bra-like garments that lifted the bare bust out of their clothing.

bulletFrom 450BC to 285AD women from Rome and Greece use bands around their breasts to reduce their breast size.
bulletDuring the 1550s, Catherine de Medicis, wife of King Henri II of France, banned "thick waists" at court functions.  It was Catherine de Medicis who introduced steel corsets.
bulletFrom the 1500s until the 1800s the corset was the primary under-garment used by women for the purpose of shaping the waist and lifting the breasts.
bulletIn 1863, Luman L Chapman patented a corset substitute with breast puffs and shoulder-brace straps that tied in back.  The first bra was born.
bulletThen in 1893, Marie Tucek patented the "Breast Supporter" - the first garment similar to the modern-day bra that used shoulder straps with a hook-and-eye closure to support the breasts in pockets of fabric.
bulletIn 1904, the Charles R DeBevoise Company first labeled a woman's bra-like garment a "brassiere".  It was a actually a lightly boned camisole that helped stabilize the breasts.
bulletBy 1907, the term "brassiere" began to show up in high profile women's magazines.
bulletEventually, around 1912, the word "brassiere" appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary.
bulletIn 1913, Mary's Secret appeared.  Mary Phelps Jacob, a new York socialite, made a "backless brasierre" from two silk handkerchiefs and some ribbon.  Her friends were sold on this innovative idea and encouraged Mary to apply for a patent for her "Backless Brassiere" design.  Within a short time, Mary lost interest in the garment business and sold her patent to Warner Brother's Corset Company for $1,500.  Today, Warner Brother's are a leading name brand manufacturer of bras.
bulletBy 1928, entrepreneurs William and Ida Rosenthal took the bra to its next stage by introducing cup sizes and bras for all stages of a women's life.
bulletSeveral year's later, Warner added the A to D sizing system which became the standard in 1935.
bulletIn 1943 Howard Hughes, famous billionaire and genuine lover of cleavage designed a cantilevered bra to better show off Jane Russell's cleavage in the movie The Outlaw.
bulletIn 1947, Frederick Mellinger, founder of the Frederick's of Hollywood, began selling intimate apparel in his Los Angeles stores.
bulletIn 1949, Maidenform introduced its famous "I dreamed..." ad campaign.  Advertising Age named the "I dreamed..." ads #28 of the top 100 most memorable advertising campaigns of the 20th century.  The earliest ads were drawings of women that were wearing just a bra above the waist in a variety of dream sequences.  Tag lines included such greats as, "I dreamed I was an Eskimo in my Maidenform bra," and the updated versions from the late 60s like, "I dreamed I had the world on a string in my Maidenform bra."
bulletBy 1959, Warner's and Dupont had produced Lycra, the renown stretchy fabric.  The result was that the true appreciation for jiggle decrease.
bulletBy the late 1960s, women were burning their bras.
bulletIn fact, one such bra burning was staged near the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1968.
bulletIn 1972 Sears developed the Ah-h Bra.
bulletThe sports bra was created by Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith in 1977; they sewed two jockstraps together and named it the Jogbra.
bulletAnd then in the 1990s, the bra industry leaped to a new level in the quest for cleavage by utilising water, air and silicone pads.
bulletImprovements in these developments take us into the 21st century with companies like Fashion Forms which are mostly about breast management and enhancement.

A Basic List of Bra Designs

Average Figure Bra: Just what it sounds like.  The average figure bra is generally worn by women with average figures, the B and C cup sizes.
Full Figure Bra
:  A large-breasted woman, wants a "full-figured bra".  Full-figure bras offer proper fit and comfort for larger sizes.
Underwire Bra
:  Underwire bras or wire bras give a "lift".
Strapless Bra
:  Primarily designed for evening wear, strapless evening gowns and tops.
Convertible Bra
:  This bra is designed with fashion versatility in mind.  It can convert from a conventional bra to a strapless, halter, backless, and sometimes even a t-back bra to meet fashion needs.
Sports Bra
:  A sports bra is designed to provide maximum support during any physical activity.
T-Shirt Bra
: The t-shirt bra is all about comfort.  It is soft and smooth and looks great under causal attire.
Nursing Bra
:  Perfect for any breastfeeding mom.
Vintage Bra
:  Could be the cone shaped, pointy bras from the 40's, or maybe a corset or bustier.  Vintage bras have become popular in modern times.
Teen or Minus-Figure Bra
:  The right bra for beginners with changing bodies.  These are generally the AA and A cup sizes.
Sexy Bra
:  There's nothing like putting on a lacy, sexy bra to make a woman (or cross-dresser) feel sexy and desirable.
Name Brand Bra
:  Some people only want brand names.  Brand loyalty is an important aspect of the bra industry.  Once a woman finds a bra that fits, she'll want more from the same manufacturer.


Wonderbra Recalls Bra after Cleavage Plunger Pops

London - The creator of cleavage-making Wonderbra said it was recalling its latest invention after women complained their bras were snapping from the strain.  The bra, called the "Deep Plunge Clearly Daring" and made for diving necklines, went on sale in Britain last month, but its makers said it had received complaints that the strap connecting the two cups had broken while being worn.

The company Playtex, which like Wonderbra is also owned by Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, blamed the breakage on a "manufacturing fault" and said it only applied to a small number of products in an early production batch.  The £22 (US$42, €32) brassiere would be back on the racks in January, the company said.  But it means the design will likely miss out on making an appearance beneath open-bodiced blouses and dresses on show at racier holiday parties this season.  Another Wonderbra designed for very revealing dresses, dubbed the "Deep Plunge Beyond Belief", was not affected by the recall, the company said.

Wonderbra burst onto the scene in 1994 with eye-opening ads starring supermodel Eva Herzigova, promising extra lift and cleavage through a pushed-up and squeezed-in support system.  Heralded as marking the come-back of the cleavage, Wonderbra has since lost some of the media fanfare but continues as a strong seller for Sara Lee.

The US intimate apparel giant also has a hit with its pantyhose "Smooth Illusion", which promise to make the wearer's bottom appear five pounds (two kilograms) lighter.

Source: AFP Monday 12 December 2004

For articles on affair motivators, changing relationships, do-it-yourself psychotherapy, lies, insincerity, social graces, cosmetic surgery, roots of culture, self-deception, love, and reunions of lost relatives click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this Relationships section.

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