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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Post-Truth

When I was a fresh-faced teenager, just beginning secondary school, I vividly remember a moment of clarity.
I was looking through my brother's biology A level book, (looking, not actually understanding anything) and I found a page which described the skin, and its layers.
I had eczema, and it was interesting to see such a comprehensive breakdown of the skin, the thing that had caused me so much annoyance and pain over the past ten years of my life.

Intrigued, I asked my Dad over dinner to talk me through, in 13 year old language, how the skin works, and what the reasons were for eczema. He told me, and I went back to my brother's book and what my Dad said was there, in the book. Me, a mere kid, understood about a sentence and a half of my brother's A level book, I was basically a God.
I was enthralled.
I thought if I simply had the time, I could read every book, and understand every thing, and then I would be much cleverer, and wouldn't that be a wonderful thing.

Thus began my love affair with books.

Fiction was my favourite superficially, I could immerse myself in different worlds, I could be totally different characters. I was a keen actor, and loved to spend days acting out roles of characters I'd read. But my real favourite, the books I'd want to really comprehend, were non-fiction. History books. Science books. I read hungrily, if you knew me around that age (and bless you if you did) I would read, and I would sleep, and I would eat, and I would smell like a teenage boy. My happiest days were in our book section at my parents' house, curled up on a rug with a hot chocolate and a book. How very twee, I know.

The most important bit of non-fiction for me was the truth. The facts that were stated were, until proven otherwise, irrefutable.
And I liked this.
Amongst the hormones, amongst a tough time growing up at home and at school, I had books, with facts, that were true, and I knew they were true.
And I have carried that love with me throughout my life, right next to making the perfect instant noodles, and the correct answer to "how do I look in this?"

Then I got introduced to politics.

Anyone can be a good enough politician if you can gesticulate enough, if you can pretend enough, if you have enough money.

Yesterday you had the new President Donald Trump denouncing the pictures of his inauguration, stating that the pictures were wrong in fact, there were far more people there than at Obama's. Although that's patently untrue, and President Trump has lied through his teeth throughout his campaign.

On the day after the Brexit vote, you had Nigel Farage stating that the claims 'Leave' made that £350m was going to the NHS were actually untrue.

And it turns out that Brexit hasn't been catastrophic for our economy, as experts predicted it would be, and as David Cameron trumpeted from every roof he could get his grubby little feet on.

Turns out adolescent me was naive.

That's often the case though, but when people told me to grow up, I didn't expect growing up to mean accepting that liars get to run the countries we live in.

I didn't expect growing up to mean accepting a rise in popular nationalism, as Trump has shown so well in his campaign.

Most of all, I didn't expect growing up to be so lonely. You can see nationalism as a way for some to rediscover a common identity. You can see the white-lash after Obama as the same thing.  But with that nationalism, with that sense of common identity, of us and them, comes the unpleasant reality, the facts of nationalism:
The rise of hate crime, of racism. When one distinguishes commonality by skin colour, or sexuality, you get a gay man being pulled from his car and beaten, or images of the swastika or Nazi salutes popping up in schools(Ibid).

Post-truth and Nationalism aren't one and the same thing at all. But it seems that it is now acceptable to make them so, and while that remains, the concept of a world-wide community is dust, and we have no common man.

We should not honour man more than truth. And we do, and we are.





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