On Writing: “Post-truth” and the Unbearable Lightness of Being Ridiculous*

The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

 In this case, the “post-” prefix doesn’t mean “after” so much as it implies an atmosphere in which a notion is irrelevant — but then again, who says you have to take our word for it anymore?

Washington Post Nov. 16, 2016

Facts it seems no longer matter. What is important apparently, is how something makes you feel. The deciding characteristic is how you relate to an event and whether it makes you feel all goggly inside. This would be the adult version of a self-esteem trophy.

During a contentious debate years ago, on what subject it doesn’t matter, I was told that an opinion cannot be wrong, because it is your opinion. Facts did not matter. How you felt about something and what you believed to be true is all that mattered. The concept of post-truth seems to be just another limb on this ridiculous tree. The narrative, not the facts, is what holds sway. This is irredeemably inane.

And yes, this is my opinion, so it can’t be wrong…

secondaryrainbow

On the other hand, adults who successfully want to navigate the world and promote decency and humanity understand the need for facts:

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Realistically, if you take the concept of post-truth, or opinion uber alles, to its ultimate conclusion, then you need to ask: If an opinion can’t be wrong, then how could Hitler’s opinion and resulting actions leading to the Holocaust have been wrong? If every opinion is valid, how do you actually decide right from wrong? Who then says murder is wrong, or stealing, or any other vice, sin or broken law? Of course, the thought is reductio ad absurdum, but then again no moral human being ever thought that “genocide” would be the hallmark of the 20th century either.

If your narrative, and how you feel about a topic, is more important than the truth of the matter, who is to say that there are limits to what we think, believe or act upon? Can eugenics really be that bad if your opinion is that it is good for society as a whole? Just ask Ezekial Emmauel, an architect of Obamacare. The same with post-truth.

In essence, post-truth, validates the politically indefensible. At one point in the history of the Earth, politicians, professors and those who run our daily world, were held to a modicum of truth. Yes, there were times when yellow journalism, or Gulf of Tonkins, held sway over society, but in a more modern era, we are supposed to want to seek the truth. After all, we have an immeasurable amount of information and fact checking ability at our fingertips. Yet people, and society, find this reality daunting.

Is it because with the truth so readily available, when our notions and beliefs are so easily challenged, that we go for the cuddly comfortable feeling of what we know, rather than seeking out the real facts? We decry the self-esteem movement and foolish notion of non-earned trophies. Yet it seems that it is the adults who perpetuate this concept of post-truth who are the ones in need of trophies, validation, acceptance and safe spaces.

Why else would the “adults,” who run our world be so happy to leave everything up to those who cannot function outside their own echo chamber and safe spaces? Why is it hard for humans to deal with the realization that everything they thought, believed or pursued may have been wrong? What happened when presidential candidates perpetuated post-truth pabulum, without any information to back up their rhetoric? There were fact checkers who continually gave our candidates Pinocchio’s or thumbs down, yet no one really cared. What they cared about was the partisanship, the fight, the my side is better than your side scenario of a political free-for-all.

It is like the “perfect mommy” movement. Here insecure moms need to shame each other about their choices. It’s as if the choices that these women make regarding their child-rearing skills are only good if everyone else is doing the exact same thing. But they don’t want to hear of alternatives so that they should change, oh no, they insist everyone else change in order to validate their own reality. Be that reality based on fact or not. See the anti-vaxxer movement for more of those who live in a post-truth, opinion only directed sense of existence. An existence, by the way, that puts others at risk, and not just their own offspring.

In truth, if we are to live in a era of post-truth and opinion narrative over facts world, then who are we to hold responsible if things do not go right? If the post-truth of the economic realities facing people are a lie, and the government follows that lie without eliciting a course correction, how do you hold those leaders responsible. After all, it is post-truth touchy feely, hand holding, safe space enabling reality. It doesn’t matter if Keynesian economic, or socialist reality, or corporatism is not the way to go. They simply had the “feeling,” and didn’t need any economic models and understanding to make sure the theories worked.

You simply can’t hold anyone responsible for anything they do, say, or provoke in a post-truth world. Laws do no matter. Social convention does not matter. There are no more rules and regulations. While the individuality of a post-truth world is something to be celebrated-I suspect,- there is also the lack of social contract, which is anathema to a healthy function society.

Society is built upon a social contract. Something we can all agree is good, and for the benefit of everyone around us. We learn how to interact, on a social level, an economic level, and a political level. This is how human civilization has grown and developed into global phenomena. No other animal on the planet can say the same. In general mammals, do not manipulate the world, but are manipulated by it. We, humans on the other hand, have the ability to change and shape the world around us, creating a social atmosphere that has lead to extraordinary developments in art, science, education and economics.

Without a social contract, in a post-truth world, the watch words are chaos, fascism, and the denying of the humanity of others in order to facilitate your version of reality. There is no self-awareness, self-reflection or acknowledgment of error. When you cannot admit your faults you cannot grow as an individual. If society cannot admit its faults, it stagnates and in the end, all you get is loneliness, despair and destruction.

Humanity does not do better in a post-truth world. What you actually get is the Dark Ages of middling minds and the ridiculousness of absoluteness without any thought to consequences of actions. In other words, society epitomizes a pre-school class surrounded by spoiled three-year-olds (I want what I want when I want it) all requiring the same things without the ability to come to a rational decision on how to accomplish a goal, who end up pulling each others hair in a fight to gain the upper hand over the Playdoh and Legos.

Not really a formula for successfully navigating life.

…And that is my opinion in a post-truth world. So my narrative, my emotionally held beliefs, which create my opinion, and the opinion itself, cannot be wrong…ever.

 

*For the heathens among you, my post’s title is a play on the title to the wonderful novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera about society during the Prague Spring** of 1968

** Prague Spring

 

 

 

 

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About Elise "Ronan"

#JeSuisJuif #RenegadeJew... Life-hacks, book reviews, essayist...
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4 Responses to On Writing: “Post-truth” and the Unbearable Lightness of Being Ridiculous*

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  3. Pingback: On Words: Alternative Facts and Narratives…Lies, lies and damned lies – journaling on paper

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