How to think about things you hear others say that you believe are not true…..
Truth – there is such a thing. It is not as simple as you think.
We, as humans, live in language. We tell ourselves stories about the interpretations we make up by the way our nervous system is perturbed.
Two people walk outside. One says it is hot and the other says it is cold. Is someone lying?
Assessments of temperature reflect how someone interprets their experience of their surroundings. But there is a measurable temperature. So the measured temperature is the fact – the truth.. The assessment of warmth or cold is an interpretation of how one human body experienced the temperature. When one is warm and the other is cold, each may authentically be assessing their experience. They are declaring their truth about the temperature as they experience it.
So what is ‘lying’?
Lying requires you to know something is true – verifiable by independent sources. And then you speak as if something else is true – you intentionally say something you know to be false. This is what lie detectors detect – the physical aspects it takes to say something you know to be false.
But what if you think something is true but it isn’t.
Is that lying?
At first, you can just be ignorant. You can think something is true that isn’t.
Birthers thought that President Obama wasn’t born in America. For them, this was ‘true’. So at first, you heard them express their interpretation – often based on what they saw [he is black] and what they heard or perhaps read [on the internet?]. They demanded proof. But then the facts came out – a birth certificate, first short-form then long-form. Yet some persisted – he wasn’t born here…..
When a ‘Birther’ declares that Obama wasn’t born here, are they lying?
For them, the truth wasn’t true. The facts were rejected. They chose to believe something to be true to fit their view of the world – to fit into the rest of the stories they tell themselves.
So this isn’t being ignorant, but what is it?
I call it living in a world you choose to create based on what you want to be true. You aren’t trying to convince anyone but yourself that the world works the way you want it to.
But there is another set of actors that operate outside the truth. They don’t lie – because they actually don’t care if what they say is true or not. They often contradict themselves…. because they don’t care. Over time, they may even lose track of what is true.
They have an agenda – a hidden one. They may want to be liked and say whatever they think it will take to be liked or popular. They may be trying to sell you something and will say anything to get you to buy what they are selling. They may want to distract you from what they are up to and will say anything it takes for you to stop paying attention to what they want you to ignore.
This is what it means to bullshit. This is the con. And some people do this so much they, too, lose track of the truth.
What we are watching play out in our country – the United States of America – is a combination of people who want to believe the world is other than it is, liars who are deliberately saying things they know to be untrue and bullshitters who are working a con.
And our President seems to be a combination of all three.
And the danger is that he sometimes seems like he can’t tell the difference and neither can his supporters.
How do we tell?
Well, votes are counted and there are real numbers that are certified and become the official results of an election. There are real statistics based on real numbers of murders or crimes. And when someone says they won the popular vote when they didn’t or that the murder rate is the highest in years when it isn’t, they are not speaking the truth.
And when others believe it – they aren’t lying. They are just trusting someone who should not be trusted. Because the ‘truth’ isn’t in the person they choose to believe.
So watch the polls for how many people believe things to be true that we know are not true. That tells us how many people are rejecting facts for living in a world they prefer.
Birthers preferred a world that didn’t have a black president of the United States. They were conned or lied to – does it matter? They were ready to accept the falsehood because it produced a world they preferred.
So watch out.
Keep an open mind – you might hold things to be true are not. You bought the story because you wanted it to be true.
Because this is what the Russian hack may have done. They may have created so many sources of things that people wanted to be true – about Hillary, about our president, about the democrats – that they created hundreds of thousands of people who believed what they read. And those people may not even realize that they made their choice based on ‘facts’ that were manufactured by the Russians to get people to either stay home and not vote or to vote for Trump and the Republicans. And those people spread the lies as if they were true and convinced others to believe – for there is safety in numbers and we can’t all be wrong, can we?
It is hard to prove what really happened. Because people have a rough time locating why they believe what they do.
But when many people still believe President Obama was not born in America, you know that the fantasy is alive and well. And when people believe that President Trump won the popular vote or that the murder rate is the highest in years, they remain in that fantasy world.
The danger of the liar and the bullshitter is that they produce people who no longer know what is true and yet who think they operate from truth.
This is one source of the bitter divide – one side believes things that they hear but are not true and the other adopts the truth and cannot accept those that can’t ‘see’ that they believe lies. There is no compromise here – the war is a war of what is real not of policy. And behind it is a war of values. Some believe that all are created equal – others believe that some are more equal than other. Rights are rights vs. rights are earned.
So what do we do?
Start talking to each other more.
Question into the things we do not agree on. Are we dealing with different ways to interpret something or different facts. If is a difference of fact, be careful. Some hold onto facts because they reject the truth. It will be hard for them to let go – because their world will become less to their liking. But the conversations are important.
Because we, the people, are supposed to care about truth and justice.
Care enough to be willing to find out what we want to be true isn’t. And to help others see that what they want to be true isn’t.