Does the truth matter anymore?
Does it matter if corporations distort the truth in order to sell their products to unknowing consumers? In politics, have we become so accustomed to being lied to that this is the reality forced upon us as a society and to which we now embrace?
Instead of abiding by and demanding the truth – as a matter of a true moral principle of which to live our lives – have we openly welcomed and accepted the alternative – open deceit? Do we look the other way, condone and make excuses for the outright lies perpetrated by elected officials and those seeking office?
Hannah Arendt wrote an essay in 1967 titled “Truth and Politics” in which she probed and asked interesting questions regarding the common practice of lying in politics. She asked many questions such as “how much honesty should we even expect from politicians” and “should we believe facts even when they are presented as such?”
Think about the one question she poses – “how much honesty should we expect?”
Interesting and disturbing at the same time, isn’t it.
In a democracy, our democracy, I would suspect that truth – a majority if not all of the truth – is needed for self-government to work and function as designed. But as Arendt pointed out in her essay, the expectation of truth and honesty from our politicians is not as simple as it may seem. The expectation of clear-cut honesty – such as we generally receive from other officials in society such as judges, scientists, scholars, etc. – may not be what we want nor should expect from politicians.
Interesting to me is that Arendt’s views and opinions were developed during an obviously turbulent time in this country – the 60s. However, it seems to me that these last several years have been just as turbulent and contentious as those from the age known for great social change.
Perhaps even scarier, as Arendt notes the art of politics actually requires lying or at least some form of it. One fascinating form of lying is “negating existing realities in order to envision and articulate alternative ones.”
I don’t know about any of you, but it took me a few minutes to fully comprehend that concept. Think about the meaning of these three words – negating, existing, realities.
Encarta Dictionary definitions:
Negating – logic, to deny the truth of something, or prove something to be false.
Existing – to have actual being.
Realities – actual being or existence, as opposed to an imaginary, idealized, or false nature.
So, negating existing realities is to deny the truth of something that is in actual existence.
Isn’t that lying? In media circles, I suspect this is referred to as “spin.”
But then even more concerning is the other half of the concept being – that reality is turned upside down and presented as an alternative reality.
So, to understand this: a politician denies the truth of something that is in actual existence and then presents an alternative truth or reality spun around the original reality.
However, if you think about it, isn’t that exactly what we have been experiencing for many years now – particularly the past 7 years. To pick on Obama, whom I think is extremely adept at doing just this, isn’t that what he has done with Benghazi, ISIS, Obama Care and maybe his entire presidency? I feel that is why so many people feel betrayed by Obama. Remember, he pledged and campaigned on a platform of transparency but became the total opposite.
As for Hillary Clinton, I am not so convinced that she is very good at this. I think she is just a pathological liar who is hell bent on achieving as much power as she absolutely can by any means necessary and without a conscious to speak of.
Sort of like the TV Show “House of Cards” on serious steroids.
However, there may be hope. Perhaps with the firestorm of irregular non-establishment candidates – beginning with Donald Trump – we, the people, from across the political spectrum are finally demanding the truth from politicians. Maybe when 4 Americans are killed at one of our embassies and a litany of lies and a cover-up is offered in the face of overwhelming evidence, we, collectively, have had enough.
Or maybe, more to the point and perhaps even more important, are we finally awakened from a deep winters slumber – no, an unconscious state? A condition – a place of existence – constructed by our own laziness and propensity to accept whatever is spoon fed to us. Perpetual couch potatoes content with ingesting our daily slop never moving an inch to wipe the crud from our face. In a state of perpetual acceptance based upon our own human condition.
Perhaps with the frankness and anti-establishment plain speak we hear from at least one candidate, Donald Trump, we have been shaken and brought back to consciousness, sitting straight in our chairs, now attentive and listening. If nothing else whether Trump is the GOP nominee or not he may be credited for awakening us to the power of truth by barging into our homes and shaking us out of our stupor.
Perhaps we, as citizens, finally see and understand that we hold the keys to the kingdom, that we are in control and together we can demand change and demand the truth.
And perhaps, candidates and the government at large are finally listening to the uproar across this land and finally understanding that we will accept nothing but the truth – that the status quo will no longer be tolerated. And perhaps, ultimately our collective awakening will bring an end to the all too common act of politicians outright lying to the public.
I certainly hope so.
Because if there is one common thread that I am hearing from folks, it is that they are sick and tired of the endless lies being spewed at them. And even more disgusting is when the politician doing the actual fibbing denies it in the face of cold and hard facts.
To bring it back to election year 2016, you can easily see how people across this country are plain ticked off and seeking something new, something different, something real – something truthful.
Have we as citizens finally reached a point that we have just plain had enough with the lies? Have we had it up to our eye balls with the scandals and cover-ups associated with notorious affairs such as Watergate, Iran-Contra, Clinton-Lewinsky, Iraq WMDs, Fast and Furious, Benghazi and a host of others?
Perhaps that is why Trump is being so successful in his run for the GOP nomination because he just says what he wants and it sounds like something you or I may say. Now, the problem Mr. Trump seems to have is whether or not he has any substance and real solutions to all his generalities, or is he just cruising along on this populous anger.
Maybe that is why folks across the country and in both parties are sickened when Hillary Clinton boldly lies in the face of crystal clear and mounting evidence – “existing realities”- gathered by the FBI surrounding her felonious email server scandal and by the House Special Committee on her Benghazi cover-up.
And maybe that is why some people are “feeling the Bern” and somehow believing that socialism is the answer, however crazy that may be.
Whatever the outcome of this election cycle, I hope that we, the citizens, continue to demand the truth and accept nothing but the truth from our representatives.
More importantly, does this specific decay of morality effect our nation in more ways than we know? As we drift away from a moral center, beginning with truthfulness, are we destined to propel ourselves upon the rocky and jagged shores filled with relativism? Relativism defined as the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, but they only have relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.
Without an anchor, relativism makes perfect sense because everything is accepted because everything is relative to something that is constantly moving.
I fear that without a firm and true compass heading, the course we are on will take our country into dangerous uncharted waters. Waters that may be uncharted, yes, but not previously envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
Viper One Six – Out.
You nailed it Dave. Where would we be without a moral center that puts the truth at the forefront of how we live our lives? We need to demand this of ourselves and from our elected officials in every sense. We are not children, we can take the truth and if it is not what we want to hear, then so be it. At least it is the truth and we can move on from there. This is especially true when we don’t get it right. I would rather admit we did not do something right and tell the truth what happened and why instead of feeling shame and embarrassment when our government “spins” the truth or outright lies.
Great commentary Dave, keep them coming.
Another deft and thought provoking post.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” Frederick Douglass
I don’t mean to be melodramatic or add hyperbole but I do believe we are an important juncture in US history; the future of the US, as we know it; could possibly be in our hands, in this election. As the sleeping minutemen getting up out of their beds at Paul Revere’s call to fight – they didn’t know the fate of this fledgling country was in their hands. I too think the heavy gauntlet of the eventual fate of our great nation has been thrown down at our feet by the gods – it rests with us – at this point in time. Are we going to take responsibility for our government or are we going to let the government be responsible for us? Do we have the guts, the fortitude, the fight, the realization that it is up to us to demand change?
Why? Justice and righteousness are a powerful force – almost invisible to most of us- but justice/righteousness is a force in almost everything we do; work, laws, business, money, every transaction. Once justice/fairness in an institution is gone – it’s nearly impossible to get back. Justice was a driving force as the founding fathers formed our government. More precious than life – something they would die for – fairness, justice, equality in a form of government. For 200+ years, this form of government drew the best out of mankind because of this government of righteousness and justice. Never before in the history of mankind has a people lived in such prosperity.
It’s strange to me that I would even question the current integrity, justice, and righteousness of our government and leaders as an institution. But something is terribly wrong. It’s not just one thing or two things wrong– but the list is too long! How did we let Obama care get it? Benghasi, Iran Nuclear deal, $1.1 Trillion 2016 budget passing a Republican Senate and House (and a new Leader of the House saying he couldn’t do anything), a US president refusing to meet the Prime Minister of Israel, a president seemingly more concerned about protecting the Muslim religion than the safety of his own country, a Secretary of State who feels she is above the law when it comes government wide security protocol, a government that has manipulated government reports on employment, unemployment, economic strength, etc.
Lets get it right this time.
“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous” Frederick Douglass