We have the prophets speaking ‘Alternative facts’ KellyAnne Conway,’ Truth is not truth’ Rudy Guliani and ‘Do not believe what you read or see’ Trump. And boy do they never stop talking. They hit every talk show in the history of humanity, tweet into the early morning, and preen before every appreciative crowd they can find. They have a lot of explaining to do. And the truth is not very convenient to the way they want you to see the world. So the onslaught comes and continues to come until the end of time.
While I can not necessarily go the full monty with Guliani, Trump, or Conway (pleasing image huh) I can give some ground to the fact that many people’s truth is relative. In fact this can even be Gandhian. Gandhi taught that none of us hold the total truth. It is only in exchange with our opponent’s that we can find the greater truth that transcends any one of us.
Now having said that if you truly believe that truth cannot be fully known, if this is a philosophy of belief and not just convenient when you feel most people are not going to believe you then there is an ethical responsibility you have. If truth is not truth than you must err on the side of laxity of your beliefs. You cannot be dogmatic and demand draconian policies that may persecute someone whose truth and love or otherwise you can be guilty of punishing or harming an innocent person. Only those who are convinced they are right and they alone know truth can be dogmatic and measure out harsh punishments.
For example if you can never be sure someone has committed murder then how can you be a strong advocate for the death penalty. You can never have evidence beyond a doubt. If you cannot be sure when life starts how can you demand a woman carry to term especially in cases when their lives are in jeopardy. The fact that they want to build walls, reverse Roe vs. Wade, keep out immigrants, roll back gay rights is not the action of someone who believes that truth is not truth or the world is filled with alternative facts.
So one must ask what are they doing. I think there are two things they are trying to accomplish. First they are attempting to be able to challenge the truth of the allegations when Mueller finally delivers his work. They have in fact at various times admitted such. But secondly I think they are being even more devious. They are sowing so much confusion as to what is truth that you give up your search for truth. When truth is no longer being searched for it leaves those in power with complete freedom to do whatever they choose. This too they have admitted to. Trump has declared that he could shoot someone in the middle of the street and no one would care. And of course this is the way they wish to roll. And they may even be given that right if we stop searching for and believing in truth.
This is the most litigious president and person our country has ever known. Over the last three decades the United States president Donald Trump and his businesses have been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state courts, an unprecedented number for a U.S. presidential candidate. Trump spends a lot of legal time trying to bend the truth to the way he sees things. This is also why he tweets. Tweets by the way that are treated as much of a source as the AP. He writes tweets and his tweets are transmitted even more than an article the AP submits to newspapers for possible printing. I would not be surprised if the AP is having trouble meeting budget. This is why we have Guliani as the television lawyer for Trump. What is a television lawyer? Someone with charisma enough to make spin attractive. It is an attempt to not to win a case but determine how the politics of the nation go. That is why Trump attacks the press. To make them seem less trustworthy. That is why he immediately attacks someone who challenges his truth with a viciousness. He cannot win and seldom does in court.
They apparently have to do this because they know in a case of objective truth or in a court of law they will lose. But in the court of public opinion there are no objections or judges to even the scales. We have freedom of speech not freedom of truth. Therefore they throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks.
So hold on to your truth because there is a gust of hot air blowing your way every day and it won’t let up until its settled in court or at the polls.
TAmerica has from its beginning thumbed its nose at authority. Especially authority that centered around knowledge. This was one of the contributions of the Great Awakening. Before the Great Awakening it was thought the educated elite would be able to lead the masses the right way. Therefore education and advanced theological training were for the rich and elite. But what happened way too often was the educated elite ruled the masses for their personal gain with little regard for the masses. But In America the concept of universal education and individuals having a voice in the things that concern them took strong hold. The Great Awakening theology challenged the Old School of religion. You were not elected but made a choice for salvation. The Holy Spirit was available not just to the elected elites and priest but also to the common man. This became ingrained in the revolutionary mind. Thomas Paine writes Common Sense meaning things that anyone who thinks could know. It was an age of everyone should have access to knowledge and everyone could be enlightened.
Flash forward approximately 232 years and this disrespect of the authority of knowledge is alive and well. Universities’ feet are held to the fire. The scientific community has lost some of their authority. All of this would be fine except we have not really given up authority of institutions or people. Many have merely changed their sources of authority. The new authority does not have to go through any academic rigor they merely have to sound good and not challenge the status quo. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck all are college dropouts. They all have higher ratings than PhD In political science Rachel Maddow or Ivy League graduates Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell. Fox News and talk radio are the only and trusted source for some people.
Many are no longer personal thinkers: they are followers (Limbaugh fans in fact tongue in cheek call themselves ‘ditto heads’). These new generation of pundits yearn to have the approval of academia. This is evidenced with the practice of ‘academic’ books ghost-written for them in an attempt to gain notoriety for their intellectual endeavors. They use terms such as Limbaugh Institute and Beck University as though wishing they had the credentials of a professor.
We need yet a new revolution in the way we think about authority. If we are to be our own authorities we have to do the work. Watching a television news show for a couple of hours doesn’t make you an expert. If you are exposed primarily to only one point of view that does not make you an expert. We also must learn to listen to those who have put the time in. We do not have to agree but it helps to have opinions to bounce off. We also must become life-long learners. Many college graduates after graduation rarely read another serious book again. So their knowledge ten years later is dated. For example if you received a history degree in the eighties but have not continue to read you would not have studied 911, Afghan War, Clinton Impeachment and so on. You would have opinions on the subjects formed by your dated education but you would not necessarily be an expert on the subjects.
Plus the authorities we choose must prove to be worthy. You should have a job description in your head of what your expert’s qualifications should be. Personally, I give less credence to experts who show no life experience to also draw on. I do give credence to those who have spent years of their life dedicated to the study of a subject (PhDs). We also must ask, are we an expert on what we talk? Are we an authority?
What the country desperately needs is for everyone to be their own thinkers but also return to a modicum of respect for the traditional intellectual institutions. Throwing the baby out with the bath water has never been the solution. When Mao did his Cultural Revolution he attacked the educated and artists. He was attempting to rid the Western influence on Chinese Culture. While it is debatable how successful he was at this, he was successful at gutting most of the creative class. Which may have put China a few decades behind.
We have people who follow authorities who want to take our country back to the mythical fifties when white, heterosexual, males were the authorities. But the country has changed in demographics and values. Which brings other cultures and people to have claims on authority too. Martin Luther King Jr. shared a new vision for America. Cesar Chavez also has grown our vision, and many others who would not have a voice in the white culture we once had. The trick for us in the current cultural place we find ourselves is not to throw the white way out with the bath water. We need a shared culture that includes all. But in the end I am afraid: if the white, heterosexual, male does not allow other voices of authority their proper place, they will engender the need for the white voice to be thrown away.
The principles behind Jubilee found in the Torah are seldom remembered. The year of Jubilee is a concept found in the Torah. It was a practice that was to ensure that there was never too big a gap in wealth in the nation of Israel. Georgia was founded with a similar concept. When the male owner of the land died his property was to go to his heirs. If there were no heirs the land was to go back to the government so that they could redistribute it. This was to try to prevent some one individual from grabbing up all of the land. If this policy had been adhered to the push west would have been slower and maybe the rush for Native American lands would have been slowed.
Whatever you may think of these kinds of policies it shows that people have always been concerned about the distribution and accumulation of wealth. So it is either ignorance or disingenuousness when the rich and politicians act shocked at concern about these issues. For a society to be just and fair there must be opportunity for each succeeding generation to claim their fair share of the country’s wealth. This cannot happen if the scales continue to be tilted toward the wealthy. It cannot happen if there is not, in some form, a redistribution of wealth from time to time. This was what the recently revoked inheritance tax was meant to address. The sons and daughters of the rich may have an advantage financially but the advantage is limited by taxes.
Corporate taxes in part were to make up for corporate welfare. The problem is that all too often taxes are not used to ensure a more fair land. Free tuition for all would be an opportunity that made a more fair deal for our people. The same with healthcare. The assurance that a crisis in your health will not diminish your chance to succeed is level ground. But we resist these as if they were poison. But we want to promote ourselves as the land of the free. Freedom to succeed with an equal chance as the next individual is part of the land of the free.
Of course as the right is so quick to point out you can never have a totally level playing field. But this should not prevent us from creating an atmosphere and conditions as close as we can to a level playing field. Confucius was the first great teacher of a merit based society. He implemented tests for government jobs so that hiring was not based on who you know but what your abilities were.
But we in America have inherited in our cultural genes classism from our European ancestors. We of course denounce classism but it nevertheless has found its place in our society. We tried with capitalism to create a fair place. But after a while of robber barons, monopolies, racism, we have created a great divide in our country. Class warfare does exist. Both sides struggle to gain the upper hand. But after many generations the great fear is the one percent have finally learned how to win. A billionaire who has a fraudulent charity, has defaulted on contracts, loves to attach his names to buildings, is now considered a populist, a man of the people
We are in need of a Jubilee Year to balance the scales a little. Maybe the elections of 2018 will be the call for this. Yes it would be better but it is not an elixir for a fairer world. That only comes with the ongoing declaring and working for Jubilee every day.