‘You can’t handle the truth.’ In the movie A Few Good Men.’ Jack Nicholson pronounces those words. They have come to mean things that are more than we can grasp or understand. They are an excuse for not sharing the whole truth and I am sure many governments have found comfort in the idea that their voters, couldn’t handle the whole truth, and therefore they don’t share it.
Truth is a curious thing. It is like a currency. There was a time when that currency had immense value. Now it is almost without value. What happened to cause such a drop? The notion of relative truth happened. It’s something I have talked of before because it is so important. If truth is relative then it’s value is effectively floated on a stock exchange of ideas to be compared with other things of value. That was the beginning of the devaluation of truth. ‘If it’s true for you then that’s OK’ was the concept. That simple idea devalued truth. Because truth was no longer ‘true’, truth was relative to experience. You had a truth and so did I. I am not saying that there was any sinister motive in this change. In fact the opposite was true. It was a kick back to a world of hard rules and hard judgement. After all we all want to be accepted and loved. But making everything right and true is not the way to achieve that. It’s how we react to truth that matters. We don’t have to ignore it.
The trouble with kicking back at something is that we tend to throw everything out. Poor baby goes out with the bath water. That happened with truth. In making truth relative then truth became so devalued that it had no meaning. All ideas had equal value, all you needed to make your idea accepted was a large enough group of people to accept it. So the new arbiter of truth became public opinion and how do you sway that? By the media. Those who knew how to play the media became those whose ‘truth’ was most accepted. If you have ever wandered why it is that over these last 20-30 years we have had one fad diet after another, one panic after another, one crazy notion after another, it was media pushing relative truth and how on earth we could end up with people in power who we would have laughed at 10 years ago (and did) then it’s relative truth. There is no absolute so any ideas go, therefore if you can push your truth loud enough and well enough people listen. Media manipulation by those who can play it well has meant that we, the public are being led to ‘believe’ one thing after another. Is that really better than knowing what the truth is? Has obscuring the real truth by a series of relative values done us any favours?
If I as a writer had written a plot about the current situation in the USA and the UK 10 or 20 years ago and submitted it for publication. Publishers would have seen it as unbelievable and silly. I am living through it and I expect to wake up any minute. Truth has become so devalued that it is meaningless. You can see that in the Trump impeachment farrago and you can see it in the unfolding drama in our own country. Relative truth means that even as we are lied to, the politicians have an answer and people believe them! After all what can their behaviour be held up to as a standard, there is no standard any more. We removed it.
But truth cannot be relative. There has to be a time when we wake up and realise that. One day, hopefully soon, we will again find the ‘truth’ in ‘truth’. That day we will no longer say ‘if it’s true for you that’s ok.’ But instead we will engage our logic and thinking faculties and say, ‘you say it’s true for you, but have you asked the question whether it’s actually true.’ Let’s stop calling lies, misunderstanding and folly truth. Truth is truth. Let’s stop floating ‘truth’ on a stock exchange of ideas and put it securely where it belongs. Let truth again be true.
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