The Fake news controversy only serves to illustrate a subject I tackled in a piece some years ago. To the surprise of friends on the Right, I wrote the piece in reaction to political double talk from Barack Obama, but don’t feel left out, Righties, it is a universal affliction and far more prevalent on the Right. I am forever amazed that the government, lawyers, PR agencies corporate spokespersons and many in the political-advocacy media continue a lie despite knowing that no one actually believes those lies. Although as we saw most recently, a lie repeated often enough and without rebuttal, such as Hillary Clinton email faux controversy, saturation can sell most anything to a lazy or ill-informed public.
It isn’t easy in the current mass media, social media world to parcel and choose from the avalanche of information which is valid and which is not. In preparing for several trips to the Balkans during the civil wars in the break up of Yugoslavia I consumed dozens of books on regional and European History, filtering Ottoman Turkish sources with French, Italian, German, Yugoslav, Russian and Austrian and more ahead of the first trip. While no guarantee, volume and diversity was the key to fending off a litany of near constant justifications for atrocity by one group or another.
But how does one disseminate truth from lies, particularly in a Post-Truth Age, in which facts and truth have been so eroded and so muddled that both falsehoods and truth are indecipherable? First, some agreement is critical in building the first bridges towards re-establishing faith in concrete truth. That’s a negotiable space between people, but for this article we can establish a few basic points. First, facts aren’t truth, since the omission or rearrangement of facts can make a set of facts a lie. Truth is not a perspective. Truth is a commodity and it is measurable for those who place ultimate value as a glue that holds society, relationships, politics and the economy together. And finally, establishing truth balances, settles and centers us as human beings.
Pain and suffering is the only language that both binds and separates us. At the end of everything, it becomes the basis for all communication and for community. Since each of us fully understands the depth and burden of our individual fears and pain, there is no better language through which we can begin to re-establish truth between each of us and towards a stronger community. It is the currency of conversation in a post-truth America. Understanding that, we are left with but two choices. The first is to build walls and desperately defend our pain from the world, and cocoon ourselves against community. In that scenario there is but one self-focused truth, one that makes everyone else’s pain a lie or an untruth. In that world, from everyone’s individual perspective there is then, no truth.
The second path understands that all of our pain is equally valid and paramount to each of us. That redefines each person’s pain and experience as an island of truth. The space between us becomes a no man’s land where no one’s pain is any lesser or greater. The negotiation towards accommodation and mutual compassion begins forging the communal truth we so desperately need to rebuild in America and around the world. The natural state of mankind is not in building walls, but assailing fortresses and building bridges. It is the basis for love and marriage, friendships, business deals and the currencies we establish in economies. It is essential to us.
In establishing and deciphering truth once more the task is to validate the burden of our neighbors. That effort will illuminate not only their pain, but avenues for alleviating their pain. And ultimately for human beings, born looking out at the world from cradle of pain and fear and our individual burdens, that is the preeminent truth.