Two days later an American friend, Daniel, posted his disgust at a homophobic quote allegedly by Ted Cruz. But others say it doesn’t check out with independent verification sites and seems a smear; maybe by the Democrat spin machine, maybe not. This drew very different responses from two others who’d originally applauded Daniel’s post. Ellen, whose initial comment had been to describe Cruz as a hate mongering jerk, could not have been more gracious: Robert thank you – it seemed so likely that I didn’t [check it out].
Now that’s what I call a courageous response. None of us like being found to be wrong but it’s what we do then that counts. Marva – initial comment, stupidest thing I have ever heard – had a different message for Robert: I still won’t be voting for Cruz … get over it
Non sequitur and childish bad grace are the least of this. There are moral and practical reasons why truth matters. Personal reasons too. Bear with me a moment or two while I elaborate. I say capitalism condemns us and our children’s children to a world run by and for the criminally insane, but am frequently racked by doubt. Not that I’m wrong. There’s too much evidence for that: evidence that ties laws of capital accumulation and falling profits to environmental and military recklessness; evidence of the chaos that does and must ensue when, to maintain levels of inequality too staggeringly dysfunctional to be explained as societally incentivising, wealth production is driven or stalled not by human need but by profit or its absence. No, the doubt that has me up in the small hours, wide and dismally awake, is a Devil’s insistence that nothing I say in this or any other medium can change things one iota, so why not do myself and everyone else a favour and just STFU?
And then? Truths carry their own imperatives. More sophisticated thinkers in the 17th Century Church sidled up to Galileo. ‘Look here old chap. We know you’re right. The earth does orbit the sun, not the other way round. But the people aren’t ready for this. It’s in the best interests of everybody that you just STFU.’ He wouldn’t, of course. I don’t think he could. Psychologically, he’d passed the point of no return. I’m no Galileo but have been around the lower echelons of the corporate world, academia in my case, long enough to know there are no cost-free options. Those who close their eyes to falsehood and irrationality and injustice in the interests of an easy life, or to further their precious careers, are diminished by such choices; not just morally but also intellectually. Cynicism does that to us. There’s no magic to this; no metaphysics of Good and Evil. Humans simply haven’t evolved with the capacity to bear much cognitive dissonance so, when confronted by a choice of either acknowledging – if only to ourselves – that we did the wrong thing or saying black is white, all too often opt for the latter. The price of course, which Galileo refused to pay, is that we become stupid.
In the end, truth is all we have. I don’t wish to personalise this, do not myself intend to fess up to all my wrongdoings and iniquitous passions, and don’t advocate that course to anyone else either. I’m arguing for something different: that in our age of corporate and clannish spin – and instant relay by social media – we don’t lazily go along with important assertions, or the details underpinning them, just because they seem good for our careers or chime with our wider belief systems. One way or another, we’ll be billed for it.