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. I say capitalism condemns us and our children’s children to a world run by and for the criminally insane, but am often racked by doubt. Not that I’m wrong. There’s too much evidence in my favour, tying profit and capital accumulation to environmental and military recklessness, and of the chaos that must ensue when, to maintain levels of inequality too staggeringly dysfunctional to be explained as social incentive, wealth production is driven or stalled not by human need but by profit or its absence. No, the doubt that has me lying dismally awake in the small hours is a Devil’s whisper 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. For the Greater Good we’re asking that you just STFU.’ He wouldn’t, though. 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 opt to close their eyes to falsehood, irrationality and injustice in the interests of an easy life, or to further their precious careers, are diminished by that choice; 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. When obliged to choose between acknowledging – if only to ourselves – that we did the wrong thing or convincing ourselves black is white, we too often opt for the latter. The price being, of course, that we become stupid.
In the end, truth is all we have. I don’t wish to personalise this, far less fess up to my iniquitous doings. I don’t advocate that course to anyone else either. I’m arguing simply that in our age of corporate and clannish spin – and its instant relay on 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.