Don’t know? Don’t care? Just make up something!

That’s the standard set by Donald Trump, and it’s being emulated in businesses and interpersonal interactions across the land. Of course, this is nothing new. For example, how many times do you ask a question of a retailer and get an accurate, complete response?

But, it’s indicative of a deeper malaise—lack of regard for the truth, and a seeming de-emphasis on getting facts straight. Those of us quick to vilify Trump once again need look no further than the mirror to see its roots. As I’ve stated before, the basis of this disgusting state of affairs is, “We the People.”

As an analogy to truthtelling and factfinding, think about what email and texting have done to grammar and expression. Proper punctuation? What’s that? Complete sentences with correctly spelled words? Fuggedaboutit! (I know, I just violated some of those rules myself. But I know that. Too many people don’t, or don’t care.)

Therein lies the root of the problem: People often don’t know or don’t care about correct punctuation, grammar or spelling—which has led to a serious deterioration of language skills. The bar of acceptance has dropped way too low.

So, back to the example of truthtelling and factfinding, there has been a substantial decline in the perceived value of both in too many circles—leading to sloppiness, laziness, lying…and the Trumps of the world.

A seemingly innocuous real-life example illustrates the point all too well. Recently, my doc suggested getting an over-the-counter med called “Bacitracin.” So, I called my nearest Walgreens to make sure they had it and was told in no uncertain terms by a pharmacy rep that it was only available by prescription.

When I inquired further about the veracity of this statement, the rep reasserted—strongly—the need for an Rx. Well, my doc is pretty sharp and this didn’t jive, so I called another Walgreens. Lo and behold, they had it OTC. Instead of letting it go, I called the first pharmacy rep back, informed her of the error and filed a complaint with the manager.

He informed me that she was a pharmacy intern, and that he would rectify the situation. Besides the aggravation, there’s a much bigger and more important point: What if that intern had dispensed advice or information on a critical medication issue as inaccurately as she did with my relatively low-level matter? Somebody’s health could be seriously compromised.

While the manager said that the intern should have double-checked the issue with a supervisor, the damage was potentially already done. What if the question had been about discontinuing a particular medication?

There’s a culture of dispensing the wrong information because getting it right just doesn’t seem to matter in too many places. It has permeated our culture, and made a mockery of customer service in many companies.

I find myself often checking with multiple people about the same issues to see if the answers line up across the board. Often, they don’t, and I’m left spending time and effort to try to get to the truths and facts that should have been presented as a matter of course. Verizon, can you hear me know? The list goes on and on.

How do we improve this state of affairs? Slowly. It took a long time to get here. A snap of the fingers won’t undo it overnight. But, there are steps we as individuals can take to begin moving the pendulum back to a culture that values truthtelling and factfinding:

  1. Your vote for those supporting these values. (Of course, when you have the choice of two people of dubious integrity such as Clinton and Trump, it makes the job that much more difficult.) It will take time, but we can start by voting in and voting out obvious scoundrels whenever possible.
  2. Your calling to account businesses that are falling down on the job. Whether it’s a bad review or outreach to people who will effect change (I’ll bet that pharmacy intern thinks twice before dispensing off-the-cuff advice again), let people in charge know when you’ve been subjected to inaccurate information or inappropriate treatment of any other kind.
  3. Express your opinions wherever you can. It can be a protest; it can be a social media post. It can be a gathering of people with similar views followed up by a letter to an unresponsive legislative representative signed by all. The viral nature of today’s society can turn the view of one into the influence of many with well-chosen words and actions.

We got into this mess one person at a time. Let’s get out of it with empowered individuals determined to change in favor of truthtelling and factfinding.

###

Mark Lusky, aka The Happy Curmudgeon, has voted for Democrats, Republicans and a Libertarian in presidential elections going back 30 years. As the owner of a 34-year-old, Denver-based marketing communications firm, he is a political malcontent who often quips support for “Thunder the Wonder Puppy” as a presidential candidate. (Too bad George Carlin is no longer among us to make a run—although he likely would have known better.)

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