The war on truth

By Raymund Fernandez |August 16,2016 - 09:28 PM

Before all else, there was chaos. Before titans, demigods, before even the Gods themselves. Chaos was already there. The course of life, and civilization, is therefore the travel of man away from chaos to order. These are the primordial urges that histories tell the stories of.

Ancient Greek philosophers spoke of kyklos, which are universal cycles describing peaks and troughs of civilization and the social well-being, the observable cycles of relative peace and war, relative chaos and order, life and death. We accept these cycles to be inevitable and act accordingly. But we mark ourselves as civilized people by observing this inevitability and because of it striving to understand why. The civilized person observes the importance of truth, justice, and freedom, and keeps these close to heart. The civilized person knows these are essential in the primordial human urge for a relative order. And there is a reason why truth comes first before all else.

I was thinking this when I found myself, the other day, having to share my table with two strangers in a public place. I could not help but eavesdrop on their conversation. After talking about the business of farming and poultry, the two, a man and woman, started talking about their neighbor. One of the sons was recently captured by anti-drug police agents. The son survived only when the mother placed herself between her son and the drawn weapons of the policemen. Otherwise, the son would have been killed for sure, the woman said. The man disagreed. He said, the instructions given to policeman was only to capture, not kill. He was sure of this, he informed the woman, because he had been talking about it with friends. One supposes, his drinking buddies were equally in the know and as certain as he was.

And that seems to be the way things are now. How easily do people become certain of things. A claim needs only to come out in media, whether traditional or social, and then people become quite certain of the truth of it. If it comes out twice, three times, three times seventy times, then the claim must be a certainty. It must be truth, such as we abide by. A person more rational than the mob would show a bit more incredulity.

Such as with news of how this and that politician is involved with illegal drugs. But we only have the word of a drug pusher to prove it. Or, that this judge is equally as guilty but we do not even know where the accusation comes from besides the fact our beloved sitting president has said so on television. This fact will surely come out in social-media. And then, we will talk about it with friends, and then that will be enough to decide: Yes! This is true. I am sure of it!

It makes sense that in the age of information, the truth becomes so easy to come by. The thumbs have it. And if it were a question of dead bodies on our streets, it takes only a small corrugated cardboard label to tell us all we need to know. But the thing with cardboard labels is this: If we can believe that little cardboard sign, then we can believe anything and everything they want us to believe. So now these questions: Are we closer now to truth? Or farther away from it? And with each passing day, each media headline, why does it feel as if we are once again descending into chaos?

It seems amazing how social media has trivialized truth; in a sense, demeaned it both in practical function and fundamental value. The thumbs bring us now to the oracles of truth. But it will neither change us nor set us free since all we can do with it is use our thumbs to move it to another place, or from place to place, in the virtual chaotic world.

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