Many of us have often used or heard the popular cliché, “All is fair in love and war.” But do we really understand what it means or who said those words? I have heard and used the phrase many times, but never really understood what it meant, so I decided do some research in an effort to decipher this paradoxical mystery or reality. Ask.com credits the phrase to English writer John Lyly who penned the words in his best known book “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit”. Lyly wrote “the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war” how then did we arrive at “all is fair in love and war”? Can we conclude as I was led to believe that during situations where love is at stake, or during war, people are not bound by rules of fair play? Is it that because the intricacies of our “play” are not revealed then it is “fair”? Or can it be argued that because our motives are pure or the results were favourable then “all is fair in love and war”.
As clichéd as it may sound, I have to make reference to our politicians here in Jamaica. Do they cling to this paradox as if their lives depended on it using it as their excuse for deception? ”I talked to the people about having to pay for the light bulbs, but they received the light bulbs didn’t they, so all is fair in love and war” or “we didn’t tamper with the ballots we just wanted to ensure that we won the election…all is fair in love and war.” Is it that we are constantly in a game where it is the “survival of the fittest”, so if all the deceptive tactics are used to my benefit its quite fine, maybe if you had thought of those tactics you would have used them against me too, so all is fair in love and war.
Should we accept that the concept behind the phrase is that some areas of life are so important and overwhelming that you cannot blame someone for acting in his/her own best interest? For war, this implies that spies, torture, lying, backstabbing, making deals with enemies, selling out allies, bombing civilians, wounding instead of killing, and so on are "fair game" in the sense that by taking these options off the table you are only hurting yourself: Your opponent has no reason to comply to your moral standards. (This entire concept is mostly void with regards to the current political atmosphere of Earth. Countries have actually declared certain things taboo with regards to war — with mixed success.) The point of adding love to the list is likely to compare it to a war. There are two main subsets here. The first and most relevant is the idea that you can wreak all the havoc you want during the pursuit of true love. This includes sabotaging the third side in a love triangle or using deceit and trickery to woo the object of your affection (including hiding from them past lovers.)
In the movie “what’s your number” Ally is on a mission to find her prince charming among the past 20 guys she has dated, she resolves to fit the persona that each guy wants/desires until she is successful. Colin, her neighbour agrees to help her and as predicted they develop feelings for each other, he finds her high school sweetheart Eddie (who she desperately wants to find) but does not reveal it to her because he feels he cannot compete with that guy so he keeps it a secret, she gets mad at him when she finds this out that he ‘deceived’ her on the premise that he loves her, but why is she mad wasn’t she deceiving all those 20 guys that she tried to rekindle the flame with…but hey…all is fair in love and war, right?
Should we revisit our varying morals, values and societal norms in an effort to explain our views on “all is fair in love and war”? Could it be that the cliché could indeed be true based on our definition of the words “fair”, “love” and “war”? In the final analysis does the outlook rely on who or what a person is in love with, does that then make everything all right? Is all really fair in love and war…Maybe it will forever remain an issue of controversy. So… is it a paradoxical mystery or reality? You choose.