It’s Post Truth World!
In 2016, Oxford English Dictionary declared “post- truth” as its word of the year.
To understand post truth, lets for a moment think of what truth is or could be.
The dictionary meaning of the word truth is fairly interesting.
The Collins English Dictionary defines truth as “something that is believed to be true.”
And Truths according to Merriam Webster is a “body of real things, events and facts”. The etymology of truth suggests that it’s having to do with or characterized by good faith.
Q.E.D. - Truth is centred on belief or faith. We first trust something or someone and then truth follows.
And Post Truth?
Oxford Living Dictionaries define post truth as “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
A complete turnaround!
In history, we have BC and AD to guide us through timelines. How about BSME and ASME for modern turning points: that is - before social media era and after social media era.
The Post truth world is ASME.
And how has it become a defining, definitive feature of our existence?
In the BMSE, there were experts who gave views, government bodies and organizations who gave us our facts and figures, grandparents shared their wisdom, parents shaped worldview, teachers taught and then there were real friends and only one government run television channel. A common though sometimes well crafted narrative framed our world view. The channels of communication were few, restricted to those who were qualified or very famous. Most people were similar and believed in the same stuff.
AMSE – Search on Google!
Post truth phenomenon is here because all of us have:
The right to our opinions.
The freedom to express our opinions.
A medium that is widely accessible to all do that and finally the speed at which we can connect.
And so if I have a view, someone will have a counter viewpoint. If there is a fact, there is also a possibility of an alternative fact. And why not? The problem is not so much with alternative facts being out there, but with our extreme reactions, narcissism, sheer intolerance and severe manipulation.
In an online article “ A pre history of post truth, East and West by Marci Shore there is an interesting term - Pharmakos which means something that’s poison and a remedy at the same time. The explosion of information is pharmakos, which makes post truth even more complicated and complex. There are no simple solutions.
Getting back to beliefs because it all starts from there.
Once upon a time, people believed in God who was supreme and that his chosen ones were ordained by divinity to rule. Society was ordered and civilizations flourished. The chosen ones had access to information, learning, and knowledge. They held onto power by guarding the great secrets. People believed in divine providence, myths and legends.
It must have taken an enormous amount of courage and compassion for Christ and Buddha to make people look within for answers, to make people believe in the power of human potential. They defined humanity and people believed that all mankind has universal and free access to God.
And then there was the age of reason and we put our belief in science. Truth became something that could be verified by scientific methods and was amenable to generalization in all contexts. Gravity, relativity, force, electricity, biology, chemistry, atomic science combined to make marvels and people started believing in material progress and wealth.
We then believed in power of trade and commerce, subsequently in free markets, we believed in globalization, we believed in being social online.
And now we know that gravity is not really a force but ripples caused by warping of space and time. And quantum mechanics tells us that all known laws of physics break down both at subatomic levels and at level of the Universe. Quantum particles are dual in nature; they could be a wave or particle and that might ultimately depend on the observer. Enigmatic!
Science has become mysterious.
God, we don’t know.
Experts - we are cynical about.
Most People - we don’t trust.
How do we deal with this Post Truth Phenomenon?
Mindfulness could help, if we could pay attention to what we’re paying attention to and why. Also, if we can think about our thoughts get past our cognitive bias which quickly makes us believe in what we want to believe in.
Also to perhaps understand that truth is far more complex than we can imagine and the post truth world could make us look voraciously for truth which could be something which endures I guess.
In Hinduism, it is often said that our life is an illusion. The word used is “Maya”. I could never figure that out because everything around was always so tangible, happiness, pain and sorrows feel so real.
Now, I think I’ve just about started to understand Maya. In attempting to understand Maya, maybe, someday at least I’ll be able to figure my truth. And so with others.
Post truth phenomenon could actually, if navigated mindfully could prove that myths are facts, and facts actually myths.
But before we could think of people or powers or something we believe in and become anchored there and keep figuring out if that’s true?