We find ourselves subjected to a political world of fixations of opinions around claims to truth, half-truth, distorted truth, fake news, suppressed information, falsehoods, deceptions, denial, and outright lies.
We find ourselves susceptible to the political persuasions of the media with the support of the demagoguery of our politicians and corporations. Powerful figures combine to persuade us of their beliefs. Personal abuse, ridicule, blame and accusations matter far more than a healthy political dialogue to get to the truth of the matter. Far too much politicians prefer arguing and shouting to a thoughtful debate.
Two prominent examples of ruthless political ambition in recent years show the depths of corruption of integrity that certain politicians will sink to in order to get their way – regardless of evidence.
UN inspectors stated that they found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Yet the US and UK army invaded Iraq due to the unsubstantiated claim of American President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair that Iraq produced and stored WMD weapons ready to launch at the West. The US and UK armies swept across the entire country. The troops did not find a single weapon of mass destruction. The President and the Prime Minister sanctioned the killing of around 500,000 men, women and children in Iraq based largely on their desire for US/UK domination of the Middle East and their personal ambition.
The second prominent example involves Brexit. Brexit politicians, who campaigned to leave the European Union in July 2016, stated the British government could give £350 million more per week to support the NHS instead of giving the money to the EU. Along with an anti-immigrant campaign, they made this a central pledge. Brexit politicians ordered the pledge to the NHS to be written on the side of their campaign bus that took the same powerful British politicians around the country.
The bus was seen on numerous television news channels night after night. After the result, the Brexit leaders described the message on the bus as a ‘mistake.’ 52 per cent voted for Brexit and 48 per cent voted to remain. What would have been the election result if the Brexit campaigners had not made such an obscene ‘mistake’ and not undermined foreign workers in the UK?
The Brexit campaigners consistently avoided recognising the immense contribution of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who have been granted residence to British society and the British economy. People from overseas have made an immense contribution to public services.
The British government operated a ‘dispersal’ scheme for asylum seekers, who were sent to live in various parts of the UK. The government paid private contractors to run the dispersal programme. Outside London, local politicians of wealthy counties of southern England refused to house asylum seekers suffering from wars and famine. The contractors sent them to the poor towns and cities, which placed an immense burden on the town. Private companies housed different families in the same room in run down properties to make more money per person.
The town of Stoke (population: 270,000) in the northern England accepted twice as many asylum seekers as the entire area of southern England with 9 million residents. The local authority of the Prime Minister did not accept a single asylum seeker. Is it surprising that Stoke voted two to one to leave the EU? Around 300 councils representing towns and cities declined to be part of the scheme, leaving a burden on the poorest places in the country. The situation in Stoke repeats itself in populated areas of the north, where many citizens live on a low income.
Thus, the most significant foreign policy decision and domestic policy in generations made by the British government were based on lies, deceptions, aversion and ‘mistakes.’ Brexit politicians misled and deceived the public. The same politicians still sit in Parliament. Their deceptions of the public have triggered in the UK a democratic and constitutional crisis that may generate widespread social upheaval and hardship in the years to come. Should such politicians face banishment from public office for their promotion of misleading campaigns?
We cannot always tell fact from fiction, an honest reflection of a situation from a dishonest one, or clarity from corrupt views. Sometimes we believe what we are told. Sometimes, we can smell a rat.
Relentless repetition of the same rhetoric by our politicians eventually persuades more and more people to believe their claims. We are not offered any evidence to support the rhetoric. Numerous politicians fail to recognise that their personal self-interest takes priority. Opinion polls show we have little trust in our politicians.
We hold back from challenging questionable views and opinions of others, whether liberals or conservatives. Or we take sides. Is there swallowing of the rhetoric that every view is as good as any other view? Silence or polite responses reveal a lack of conviction and fear of challenging viewpoints that will lead to personal, social or global catastrophe.
Cynicism replaces truth.
The Dissolution of Truth
Truth reveals knowledge/bare facts about suffering, the causes for it and the steps to resolve it. It is not enough to name the suffering.
A wise view shows the necessary actions to end suffering.
A biased view shows itself in an increase in levels of suffering for people, animals or the environment, often a wish to hurt, belittle or violate others.
Truth disappears under the weight of unexamined dogmatic views. Truth also disappears when we fear to express our views, our concerns.
We have lost faith in our capacity to see a situation clearly and show the way to resolve it. This reduces our capacity to act in caring ways. Far too many people resist taking up a view; thus, leaving them passive with a refusal to enter any kind of discourse with another, who offers warped and prejudiced views.
This endless output and suppression of views weakens our resolve to challenge the status quo of harmful and destructive political actions. The incessant repetition of harmful views generates a gravitational pull on the minds of many, who sink down to a sense of helplessness.
The opinions of the influential impose upon our sensibilities with such frequency that we adopt one view, reject another or sit on the fence. For every fact we share or offer, someone else comes up with an alternative fact, no matter how skewed it appears.
The argumentative will distort facts and then rubbish views different from their own. Politicians and civil servants show contempt for society when they hide information from each other and the public. Fearing the exposure of truth, they find ways to suppress information to maintain control over events.
Fragmented views show a failure to examine the causes and conditions for a problematic situation. We cannot know the truth of a situation through attacking or heaping vitriolic outbursts upon another. The relentless desire to be right corrupts the power of truth to transform a situation through clarity and insight.
Truth? What’s that? Truth becomes an inconvenience.
The partisan mind will identify itself with other similar partisan minds, even adopting more intense and rabid views. Jaundiced views gather more support with politicians and organisations partaking in a bizarre world of toxic opinions. Such opinion makers express a contempt for others who they belittle.
Identification with distorted perceptions leads to a disconnection with others, who think and act differently. We need to understand the daily life reality of many of the poor and the way successive governments and politicians treat them.
The Outpouring from News Feeds
The 24-hour production of news feeds on social media feeds prejudices of viewers, listeners and readers. In this deluge upon our consciousness, we find ourselves left with a residue of opinions. Depending on our tendencies, we find ourselves with attraction to certain views and aversion to other views
We find ourselves unable to recognise the truth of a situation and respond wisely to it. We have no time to inquire deeper. More and more people settle for multiple perspectives rather than go into a major issue. We hear with alarming frequency such views as there are:
- “Different perspectives,”
- “Everybody has their truth.”
- “Everything is so uncertain”
- “How can we know that we are right, and they are wrong?”
- “More than one way of looking at a situation,”
- “Numerous ways of interpretation”
- “This is how we think about a situation right now”
- “We can never know the real truth”
- “We have to show the views of both sides.”
- “We only know a little of what is going on”
The list of views may sound reasonable, but we fail to recognise that they paralyse boldness, action and wise political change. Such opinions perform a spell over consciousness gradually eating into our resolve to change the harmful behaviour of our rulers and those who support them.
The equalisation of opinion means that any opinion is as good as any other opinion. This view nullifies actions to end suffering.
These viewpoints give the impression of an equality of value to every opinion. This expresses a philosophy of despair, a nihilistic attitude which discourages compassionate action.
The creation of doubt serves as a powerful way to weaken and dissolve an unwavering analysis and wise political action. Doubts infect the perception of harsh realities rendering impotency. Far too many scientists, politicians, economists and experts perpetuate doubt and obsessively qualify or undermine concerns and subsequent action for meaningful and compassionate change.
Thoughtful and compassionate scientists, respected academics and investigative journalists find themselves ridiculed and rubbished by those who promote mis-information and simplistic narratives the undermined co-operation, compassion and supportive beneficial expressions of democracy to reveal wise action.
- “I am a human being. I do not want to experience pain and suffering. Others share the same truth. Therefore, I do not want to inflict pain and suffering on others.”
- “I do not want others to subject me to wilful deception, their prejudices and abuse. Others share the same truth. Therefore, I do not want to subject others to wilful deception, my prejudices and abuse.”
If we trust in such a universal truth, then we must explore ways to walk the talk.
If we settle for a world of multiple personal truths, we have no reason to take steps to resolve suffering.
There is little point in saying: “I do not believe anything I read in the media. I do not believe any of the politicians. I do not believe a word that the CEOs of big corporations tells us. They are all in it for themselves.”
Such a view will not make a scrap of difference. Millions hold such a view. They don’t vote. They don’t read newspapers. Perhaps they don’t care. Through non-engagement and alienation, the disconnected inadvertently support the status quo – namely the dogmatic, the deluded and the aggressive. We need to reflect, meditate and apply conducive action for the real benefit of others. For a start, this usually means going out of the comforts of our home to attend meetings.
We claim we live in a democracy to benefit all the people. We believe that all citizens over the age of 18 years can vote. The facts obscure other facts. A fragmented Parliament, politicians making self-interest their priority, disregard for truth and insular views disillusion voters. More and more voters find themselves left with a single question – “What is the point of voting?” There is little enthusiasm to ensure a high turn-out of voters in local, regional and national elections. Far too many politicians do not appear to have the deep interest of the electorate. Truth becomes subservient to personal ambition.
We treat ‘democracy’ as if it held an inherent existence superior to all other forms of governance. We think democracy reflects the will of the people.
- Is it the will of two thirds of the 1340 million population of India, a democratic country, to live in desperate poverty?
- Is it the will of millions of people in democratic countries to live in hardship, to live in debt, to experience depression/racism/rejection/obesity?
- Is it the will of the people to endure pollution/chemicals in food, air and water along with disregard for their well-being?
- Does ‘democracy’ serve the people or those in power?
Political parties depend upon large sums of money to run a campaign. Wealthy donors influence candidates’ attitudes around wealth. Politicians find themselves subservient to the demands of big business. They show little or no motivation to hold them accountable for their actions along with the hardship, despair and suicides.
Words in politics often become a weapon to neutralise honest dialogue. Politicians will bang on and on until more and more of the public submit to their views. The preservation of power depends upon endless repetition of short statements. The repetition dissolves truth and replaces it with power.
The alienation of voters from our so-called democratic institutions provide politicians with massive egos to:
- set their own agenda,
- construct their own narrative of realty,
- speak an aggressive language of polarisation,
- reinforce insularity,
- feed prejudices,
- ignore facts
- favour crude, attention seeking beliefs.
Power comes through publicity, not through clarity and compassion.
The Media and a ‘Balanced’ View
Television, radio, newspapers and social media have adopted a view of presenting viewers, listeners and readers with a so-called ‘balanced’ view around an issue. Take climate change or more accurately climate crisis. There is an overwhelming consensus among environmental scientists of climate change in various ways all over the Earth. Hundreds of scientists share a common consensus of deep concern due to years, even decades, of research.
Numerous citizens in various parts of the Earth have no need for scientists to tell them that glaciers are melting, intense storms cause floods, a single spark burns down huge forests or a burning hot summer brings great hardship to farm animals, crops and wildlife. We can witness climate change from own homes.
The media then presents a scientist, politician or ‘expert,’ who refutes the evidence of climate change to back up beliefs of powerful businesses wishing to exploit diminishing resources. These businesses often fund the climate change deniers.
Similarly, with international conflict. For example, the media frequently sees the occupier and the occupied in warfare as having equal status. A President or Prime Minister, who ordered the invasion speaks. A spokesperson for those suffering under invasion also speaks. The media believes this offers a neutral perspective. The formation of an equal status between an invading army bearing multiple weapons and a largely unarmed population makes a mockery of ethics, justice and truth.
There is suffering. There are causes for it. The causes need to be named.
“We (both sides) are all suffering” reveals a denial of the unbearable imposition of killing and punishment of the powerful upon the powerless. The media makes a mockery of truth due to their fear of appearing one-sided in their reports. A ‘balanced’ view confirms a one-sided view due to the lack of imagination in the media to offer other ways of report international conflict.
The media primarily offers their spin on reality while rulers and army generals ensure that journalists have little or no access to the killing fields to see the truth of the situation
The ‘experts’ on international conflict refer to the ‘actors’ in a war and to the ‘theatre of war’ – as if the killing, wounding and other horrors had as much significance as a Hollywood movie or a game on X-box. Such a language reduces the emotional impact for the West of the nightmare of waging war upon men, women and children. Our leaders sanction a variety of political and psychological strategies in the media to keep the general population docile and/or remain totally out of touch with society.
Pakistan, a poor country, allowed 1.5 million refugees into their country following the US/NATO led bombing and invasion of Afghanistan. The UN stated that five million refugees have fled the horror of Syria. Most have taken refuge in the relatively small, poor nations of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These countries did not launch these wars nor have the factories to produce the arms. Around 600,000 Syrian have been granted refuge in Germany.
Between January and April 2018, the US government accepted a total of 11 refugees from Syria. Governments and patriots spin the narrative of the USA as a hospitable, generous and benign world leader. Poverty, violence and serious health problems saturates American life. The Washington set marginalises the truth and the desperate suffering of huge numbers of its population. The top 1 percent of US households possess more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.
The rapid dissemination of digital news feeds into our preconceptions forces us to look at the world through our own narrow prism. We need to find a fearless voice to ensure that truth becomes relevant to political discourse. Otherwise, we live imprisoned to fake news.
Varied Voices of Science and Reason
We might delude ourselves into thinking that science has access to truth and reality. We might even imagine that facts belong exclusively to science and reason.
There is a growing public concern about this branch of human interest. Supported with views, science has contributed to warfare, military expenditure, production of harmful chemicals, environmental destruction and obsession around competition. The application of specific forms of scientific research supports global exploitation.
We can find endless differences around ‘facts’ between scientists and the applications of these ‘facts.’ Science does not have a single voice on medicine, education, research, economics and social sciences
We might imagine that scientific research offers independent, objective and clear conclusions to support our understanding of life on Earth. Do we believe the science always offers a wise application of scientific knowledge for the welfare of life on Earth? Like every other institution, it has a range a range of strengths and range of weaknesses. Science serves the welfare of life on earth and contributes to its destruction.
Science encompasses the “systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Have scientists ignored their responsibility? Scientists need to meet to engage in soul-searching. Scientists must ask themselves. “Are my colleagues and myself part of the problem or part of the cure to the global challenges facing the Earth? Does my research support the welfare of humans, animals and the environment or increase harm to life on Earth? Do the sources of funding influence conclusions in scientific research?
Ongoing research in biology, physics, chemistry and astronomy changes the ‘facts’ to new ‘facts’ or modified ‘facts,’ which contributes to making old ‘facts’ redundant. When former ‘facts’ become outdated we call them beliefs. Science offers us sustainable facts and beliefs.
All the scientific research, statistics, graphs, charts and predictions failed to pinpoint the slide into the massive banking crisis of 2008. People lost their investments, savings, homes and work. Medical science has authorised medication that has led to suffering and death for patients. The ‘experts’ mistook their beliefs for facts. Millions of citizens paid a high price for such an error of perception.
Governments and businesses fund scientific research, which can influence the outcome of research.
Does Self-interest replace truth?
Liberals love to champion diversity, human rights, environmental justice and anti-racism. These messages offer a certain kind of comfort for many of the middle classes, who wish to applaud such views. Huge numbers nod their head with approval. The truth of a wise view confirms itself in action.
- Do we set limits on human rights?
- Is it a human right for people to flee war and famine and take refuge in another country?
- Do we set limits on diversity? 60% of mammals, reptiles, birds and fish have disappeared since 1970.
- Do we barely raise a word of protest?
- Do we do nothing about the systematic extinction of species?
- Do we carry on eating animals, birds and fish as before, despite the costs to creatures and resources?
- Do we believe in action for climate change?
- Do we submit to the ideology of endless economic growth while resources rapidly deplete?
- Does our lifestyle continue in the same way for decades?
- What steps/actions are we willing to take?
- Are we coffee latte liberals?
In the absence of inner authority, those who submit to a passive liberal agenda allow the demagogues to take control over our democratic institutions and impose authoritarian agendas on society. The meek will not inherit the Earth. The powerful have control over the Earth and its dwindling resources after a mere 300 years since the birth of the industrial revolution and the ‘Age of Enlightenment.’ Powerful, bombastic voices of the political/business world have bullied the ‘liberals’ and ‘intelligentsia’ into a state of inertia, unable to initiate real change.
Citizens protest about the war on the poor nations, brutal exploitation of factory/farm workers worldwide, massive environmental destruction and rising costs of living. The liberal intelligentsia often seem far removed from the truth of action to end suffering.
Self-interest. Self-indulgence. Self-help
In a pessimistic climate, people fall back into a belief in self-preservation, a form of narcissism. This inner emptiness does not stay quiet for long but builds up a rage against the other(s). In this impotence, the emotional energies start to build into revenge, a desire to see the impotency of others.
If this impotency does not express itself through fear and blame, then the endless pursuit of comfort and pleasure takes priority. With no capacity to respond to major issues, people make their own happiness the priority – regardless of the cost to others.
Those who have developed a tortoise-like mentality withdraw into self-indulgence, personal success, making money and contraction to such priorities.
Religious/spiritual interests might emerge to develop further strands of self-interest. Some might attend self-help classes, go into therapy, participate in mindfulness classes, hire a trainer, join a yoga class, go on a Buddhist retreat and meditate on self-compassion. As an afterthought, the spiritual elite utter the words “May all beings be happy.”
The withdrawal from the world and the detachment from reality gives more and more reality to the “self” – a self which the Buddha made clear had no substance and no essence to it.
The increase of importance of self-interest and self-satisfaction gives the state of the world a virtually unreal status – a minor object of interest because the ‘self’ takes priority. Inner work serves as the support for responding to the truth of situations, otherwise it is a confirmation of alienation from reality.
Consumerism ranks as the cult of the self in the ‘Age of Enlightenment.’ Self-indulgence dramatizes the stories of the self and reduces interest in the suffering of others, except as a form of conversation. Self-dramatization depends upon embellishment and fabrication of events around a story and its consequences. No wonder the Buddha’s teachings of non-self/no-self bemuse any mind besotted with self.
The truth of the ‘self’ reveals the self abides empty of any substance.
We, the West, have been spun the Age of Enlightenment. We might as well call it the Age of Delusion. In the space of three centuries, the world has witnessed world wars, brutal colonialism, Darwinian competitiveness and application of major features of scientific research that has led to a real threat to all of life on Earth.
The fixation with the Age of Enlightenment obscures the harsh reality in daily life for billions, as well as loss of species at a phenomenal rate.
The Age of Enlightenment ignores the homeless, the poor, asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants, Muslims, Black citizens, Asian citizens and many more. Western enlightenment confirms a long-standing example of fake news.
Truth includes ethics, the capacity to resolve suffering, rather than the perpetuation of it and reveals a break from reactive conditioned patterns.
We can know the truth of a situation with a mind free from fear, blame and helplessness. Unexamined standpoints easily distort truth.
Change comes through the initiative of individuals and co-operation with thoughtful and caring people. We may have the necessary information at our disposal on a matter of concern due to reflection, inquiry and research. If the truth of a situation touches us, we respond in confident and clear ways.
We know we can make a real difference. We can know the truth and the truth sets us free to act.