Should It Be Required?
“I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Maybe we should require every American citizen to promise to tell the truth. Maybe not. Or maybe we should require every American politician to promise to tell the truth. Maybe not. Or maybe we should require every American president to promise to tell the truth. Maybe not a bad idea.
It is foolish, of course, to expect everyone to tell the truth because everyone probably doesn’t know the truth. And many don’t want to know the truth. It is foolish, of course, to expect every politician to tell the truth because honesty is not the best political policy. Some could not get reelected if they told the truth. But why can’t we expect, or even require, the U. S. president to tell the truth (under oath)?
This game of truth telling is just a game of course. But I propose we use it to help think about the problem in today’s politics of “Post-truth”: An adjective defined as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are les influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Post-truth is a well-known phenomenon today. Three books were just published with that title. Knowing that objective facts are less influential today doesn’t cause people to want to be more influenced by facts. Public opinion today seems to appeal more and more to emotion and personal belief. If this is a trend, and it seems to be, where are we heading?
I wish I could provide some perspective on truth telling. Maybe looking at the definition of truth can help. Truth: A statement proven to be true or accepted as true. The American Heritage College Dictionary. The trouble with truth is the definition. Apparently something that is accepted as true, although not proven to be true, is true. (Examples: The sun rises and sets, the earth is flat, UFO’s, conspiracy theories, climate change, God exists, God doesn’t exist, etc.). These beliefs, by definition, become truths, if accepted as true by enough people. Truth varies.
So the way we define the problem is the problem. And required truth telling won’t solve the problem. What will?
… depending on the perspective of the viewer, the angle of vision, the time frame, and the scale of observation, one might see very different pictures of the same underlying truth. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi