Lip service is telling someone what they want to hear.I think we are all guilty of it. ‘When I’ve got time I’ll be around to help you’ or ‘If there’s anything I can do just give me a shout’ or the classic exchange of addresses at the end of a holiday when we rashly say to people we have known for a fortnight to ‘call in if you’re passing.’We are all involved in this dance of social niceties but of course it is just superficial nonsense.If the friend really wanted to help, he’d just do it, not talk about it.
Politician are terrible purveyors of lip service; they are masters at professing loyalty and sincerity but usually later the voters find out they are insincere, hypocritical, double-dealing, well, liars I suppose covers it. Who can forget Nick Clegg’s complete U-turn on tuition fees? Or John Major banging on about family values in his ‘Back to Basics’ campaign whilst continuing an affair with Edwina Currie. Their words are not consistent with their actions.This is manifesting itself in a lack of belief in politicians and disinterest in politics as witnessed by the pitiful voter turnouts at recent elections.
Government inquiries too are the ultimate example of paying lip service to a public clamouring for answers to past events where governments and public services have quite clearly misled them. These inquiries generally run for years at huge cost to the taxpayer with conclusions finally being published usually after a change of political party in power has taken place, giving the sitting government the opportunity to blame the previous government for the misdeeds and wrong doings. The leaks to the media are drip fed whilst awaiting publication of the conclusions so that by the time it is released the public have lost interest; witness the Chilcott Inquiry on Iraq, the Hillsborough Inquiry and the fifteen year long inquiry in to Sunday Bloody Sunday,the conclusion of which was finally published forty years after the event at a cost of £150 million. These and other inquiries like them are nothing short of a farce and really the epitome of lip service by government.
And of course lip service is commonplace in marriage; on living together most couples agree to share household chores evenly but despite constant reassurance during courtship and the early years of marriage, in reality it falls to the woman to do the lion’s share, thus leading after years to a situation where the husband comes in from work, sits down and has his meal, much as it would have happened forty years ago.In the same way, though most pregnant women are reassured by their partners that the task of child-rearing will be shared evenly, again in most households I know, it is the woman who takes on this responsibility.
All in all, I would rather have a friend say ‘I can’t help you’ or a government say ‘we don’t know’ than them paying lip service with a trite expression of wishful activity that leaves one disappointed in the long run. In other words one should always try to walk the walk not just talk the talk.