This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours

The Oxford English Dictionary chose as their word of the year post-truth, which is an adequate representation of the sort of discourse we have dealt with this year and in recent times.  Yet this is not a new problem.  Like many of the issues we have been dealing with, and much of the malaise and even despair that it is easy for people to feel about this year, it has been a long time coming.  When our own news has about as much accuracy and balance as, say, Pravda, and when Alex Jones is trusted as much as Katie Couric, we clearly have some serious problems.  When those who seek to provide truth, or even cautious insight, are roundly condemned by those who think they know better than the rest of us, and where those who are responsible for providing insight and information are considered to be no more reliable than mere entertainment, it is clear that we have a crisis of legitimacy when it comes to truth.  The shameful corruption of institutions by their devotion to propaganda instead of truth leads to any truth claims being seen as suspect.  And when we cannot agree on facts, we have no basis for reasonable discussion because we have no common ground to begin from.

In 1998, the socially conscious (read:  leftist) English group Manic Street Preachers came out with a successful album called This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.  The album managed to hit #1 on the charts in the UK and won a lot of awards.  Of course, it was not as well known stateside, but for some reason being an anglophile I became familiar with the song’s most successful single “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next,” which captures a great deal of the hypocrisy of the left.  Although the left considers itself to be a bastion of tolerance, the song itself shows an avowedly pacifist narrator motivated to violence in the hostility of what he deems to be fascism.  Apparently there are some things that can be tolerated and some that cannot.  That which we consider tolerable if undesirable and that which we consider absolutely intolerable is not a line we all draw the same way, and when we have no common basis for judgment because we believe the facts are different from someone else who draws the line differently, we are faced with a situation where we are encouraged to have a sense of fierce moral indignation at people who simply do not understand where we are coming from at all.

I feel it necessary to point out something that should be obvious for those who know me personally but may not be obvious for those who know me only by my writing.  I believe very fervently that there is a complicated but absolute truth that includes not only reality but our individual subjective understandings and interpretations of that reality.  Our ability to successfully navigate the difficulties and complexities of life depends a great deal on how well our understanding corresponds with the absolute reality of the situation, and our ability to get along with others depends on our ability to understand where they are coming from, and for us to convey where we are coming from.  None of this is easy, which is the reason why communication is so important so highly fraught with difficulty in our day and age.  It is not enough that we have an opinion, or that we feel we are justified in what we do, for we all seek to justify whatever it is that we do, say, think, and feel.  All too often we fail to be honest about the presuppositions and givens from which we operate.  So long as we are ignorant about what we consider the authority for what we think and believe, and so long as we are not up front about that, we do not provide any means for others to reach us where we are.

Ultimately our root disagreements often spring from different questions as to authority.  If I engage in a discourse and I base as my authority what is termed the mainstream media, and I am speaking with someone who does not respect that authority at all but rather bases the authority of their judgments and views on alternative foundations, we will have nothing from which we can come to terms because our authorities will contradict the other.  At best, we can maintain a tenuous peace through silence and preserving rules of decorum and civility because there is no fundamental agreement that we have at all to engage in any conversation upon what is most important to our worldviews [1].  The same is true depending our political and religious and scientific commitments.  Even where there may be a belief in the same authority, such as the Bible or God, for example, there may be disagreement about subsidiary authorities, and about who has the authority to interpret scripture.  Such disagreements do not admit to easy solutions because where people fancy themselves to be authorities and their authority is not respected by others, conflict and rancor are nearly guaranteed.  And so it is in our society.  We have no agreement on authorities, no agreement on fundamentals, and there is widespread argument over whether truth and reality exist at all or are merely useful concepts and fictions by which we marshal support from others in the support of common aims and common causes.  In such circumstances we cannot help but disagree to a frightening level, to the point where we wonder what we have in common with those who are on the other side of the lines we have drawn in the sand and have sworn to defend with our lives and our sacred honor.  Even where we doubt truth still exists as a larger society, the severity we are willing to fight about it indicates that we still view it as important even where it is intensely contested.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours

  1. Pingback: What You Didn’t Say | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: An Ambivalent Culture | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth | Edge Induced Cohesion

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