While Burns undoubtedly made the quote about sincerity, he was not the origin of the thought. It was first attributed to French writer and diplomat Jean Giraudoux, who lived from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. The Giraudoux quote which Burns appropriated and made famous in the United States was this one: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made."
CBS has a show called "Big Brother." It has aired for three months each year for the past fifteen years. It stands as proof that the famous saying regarding sincerity is true.
Each season of Big Brother, a dozen or so Americans spend three months committed to a contest to win half a million dollars. Players are almost completely cut off from outside information. No cell phones. No internet. No radio. No television. No newspapers or magazines. No visits from friends and relatives. The players live in a "home" run by CBS, isolated from the world. They are instructed by "Big Brother," which watches them anonymously through dozens of cameras and listens to them on dozens of microphones.
Each week on Big Brother there are contests, the outcome of which determines who sleeps in beds and who sleeps on cots; who eats well and who eats slop; who has power and who has none. Each week one player is sent home, voted out by the others. It is a very cut-throat situation which in some ways mimics the forces at work in life.
The show pits people against each other, while forcing them to work together toward common goals. Even committed enemies on the show band together and work together when the outcome is the difference between eating steak and eating mush. Some lie to their best allies on the show, often for questionable gains.
Because there are weekly votes which determine whether a person stays or falls out of the quest for the $500,000 prize, lying among contestants is common. As in many parts of life where making money or garnering power is a goal, the best liars are often the greatest successes. Sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made on Big Brother.
A few years ago, one contestant on Big Brother lied to the others, claiming he was there to pursue the half million dollars because his wife had a rare disease for which she required treatment. Several players gave him sympathy and help because of his lies. In a different season, a woman executive lied to everyone on the show about her allegiances and those of others. It is fair to say that the only things she was good at on the show were lying and backstabbing. Her "success" in the game was based almost exclusively upon her constant deceptions. She failed miserably at the skill contests.
The sad truth is that compared to the larceny and power grabbing in the real world, Big Brother is a game of small time players. While some of the players are decent - even admirable - people, a number of them were simply good liars. And I mean that sincerely.
© 2013, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.