Over two thousand years ago a certain Pontius Pilate asked the question ‘what is truth?’ a hugely important question for so many reasons. In the current so called ‘post –truth’ era, it takes on a new importance and it behoves us to ask does truth actually matter?
I believe it matters in a fundamental way as it is the foundation of relationships, of States, of law and of institutions. If the opposite of truth – that is lies – is to hold sway then all our relationships, both personal and civic are in jeopardy. Not only will we not trust our loved ones and rulers but we will lose out on the security which that trust brings.
The problem for ‘truth’ lies in a subjectivism which often rules the day ie the idea that there is no objective truth and therefore everything that comes out of our heads (and mouths) is valid as truth. This is palpably not the case and yet we can act as though it is. The evidence is seen in the power of social and mainstream media which can peddle any sort of lies that can be picked up and believed by millions.
Many people report experiencing deepanxietysome of which may be described as a type of existential angst or dread. How much of that anxiety is caused by uncertainty and distrust in a world where we cannot rely on others by taking them at their word. At the deepest level of an ‘I – Thou’* intimate relationship, be it lover, friend, child/parent, much of who we are is to be found. It’s no coincidence that the grooming of children for sexual abuse is all about lies and dissimulation. The more we are disconnected from ourselves, the greater the vulnerability to abuse and destructiveness.
On the world stage the consequences of lying is seen in the destruction of nations and their peoples, in the injustice that binds many to the yoke of poverty, in the erosion of the planet through irresponsible usage and so on. The case for objective verifiable truth is essential for personal and collective well-being at both an existential and planetary level.
Truthcan encompass the objective scientific method of building on verifiable evidence as well as the inner subjective truth which is built on observation and experience. To distort the truth for any reason – be it egomania or the end justifying the means – never ends well. History, experience and hard facts teach us that lesson time and time again.
I believe we should be looking at teaching critical thinking, logic and the capacity to ask why in addition to what and how in our schools. We need to be engaging our youth with high level thinking which includes an understanding of the interplay between the intellect, will and our emotions, the ideal being the engagement of all three. Like a three legged stool, if one is missing, our capacity to access truth is compromised and the risk of being blind fodder for megalomaniacs increases exponentially.
*‘I and Thou’ – Martin Buber