TUMBY BAY - One of the sagest and most universal adages of this modern epoch of ours is “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.
While it is particularly good advice for the gullible, trusting, elderly and good-hearted people of the world, it is good advice for the naturally greedy and avaricious.
It is also essential advice in developing countries, unused to the predations of carpetbaggers, conmen and crooks.
These countries are particularly fertile ground for those who seek to make a dollar no matter how many people they harm or damage in the process.
In Papua New Guinea, scams perpetuated by unscrupulous people began many years ago with cargo cults, exotic combinations of quasi religion and fraud, and now present themselves as elaborate pyramid schemes designed to fleece the unwary.
The logic of these schemes has a long tradition and a simple basis. By appealing to people’s greed and basest instincts you can reel them in like fish on a line.
This logic is practised in a more subtle way in developed societies through mediums like advertising, especially on television.
Deceiving and conning people is the basis of the appalling commercial television industry.
Through this process, gullible pensioners are convinced they need things like funeral insurance so they don’t saddle their kids with the debt of burying them.
The same people are promised that if they buy the latest overpriced and probably useless gadget they can “get one for free” by ordering early.
Two useless gadgets instead of one useless gadget for the same price – who could resist a deal like that?
The “too good to be true” adage doesn’t just apply to shonky deals and products. It works equally well with politics too.
Political skulduggery also has a long tradition. One of the most successful exponents of this kind of politics has been the churches. Follow us and we’ll give you eternal life.
Funny thing is they’ve got very few dissatisfied customers. Why? Because they are all dead of course.
If a politician makes a promise you should stop and think about what he really means, and more importantly, what he wants.
It’s also handy to check out his record of delivery.
In Australia one of our most dishonest politicians coined the terms “core promise” and “non-core promise” to differentiate his truths from his lies.
His non-core promises vastly outweighed his core promises and laid the basis for many of the problems bedevilling Australia now.
Peter O’Neill doesn’t even have the good grace to disguise his lies with these sorts of obscure terms. Everyone knows that if he promises something the likelihood of him actually delivering is pretty slim.
Unless, of course, it is something that benefits him and his government or his rich friends and wantoks.
It is always useful to “read the fine print”, be it a business deal, an irresistible retail offer or a politician’s promise.
If it is shonky, sooner or later it will lead to a honey pot – not yours, of course, but theirs.
The most prominent politician in the world today, Donald Trump, has brought the art of the con with him into the White House.
He has just passed tax legislation that promises many people prosperity but actually delivers to only a few - himself and his rich friends.
In this dog eat dog world of ours it is very difficult to find genuine leaders who believe in what they are doing and truly have the welfare of their people at heart.
Quite frankly, I can’t think of any at the moment. Perhaps the last of them was Nelson Mandela.
Even outwardly good people are suspect. Mother Teresa insisted on flying first class and staying in five star hotels for instance. Barack Obama has reputedly made millions out of his presidency. There are many examples.
So remember, be it a shopping bargain, an offer on television or a political promise, read the fine print first.
If it seems too good to be true chances are it is.