Why Not the Truth?
by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. February 20, 2009
The truth will set you free. But freedom signifies responsibility, and who wants to be responsible? Ignorance, after all, is bliss – and bears no responsibility whatsoever. The most common excuse in any language is, “I didn’t know.” When they were gassing millions of Jews in Hitler’s Europe during the 1940s, how many were interested in the truth? With one voice, like the caricature of a German sergeant, we hear them cry: I know nothing! Oh, well, in that case, you can’t be held responsible. You are too stupid, by far, to take responsibility for anything. You are the perfect totalitarian drone, mindlessly goose-stepping with the Fuhrer’s legions. Millions stripped and killed by your fellow citizens? Not something you should have known about. And what of the mounds of jewelry stolen from the victims? I know nothing!
The truth is dangerous. Who will protect us from it? Our institutions will protect us: the state, the bureaucracy, the Congress, the Office of the President. The link between truth and responsibility here assumes tremendous importance. Those who evade responsibility must also evade the truth. Inevitably, they turn to the state. Let the state be responsible, they say. Let the state signify truth. This latter point they dare not make openly, for everyone would see – in a flash – the disaster they are incubating. It is the disaster of the state as savior. The flight from responsibility, as a corollary of the flight from truth, is the distilled essence of it. Is there a financial crash? Let the government prop up the market. Are people unable to pay their mortgages? The government will pay. Are banks in trouble? The government will bail them out. Why should anyone take responsibility for anything?
The mad dash to learn the truth is proclaimed on every side: at universities, on television, at major newspapers. One smells the fresh manure upon these fields. There is no desire to discover truth, but a desire for good grades and good ratings and millions sold. Who poses as a truth-teller in these settings? It is the professor who berates his country as “sexist, classist and racist.” It is the television pundit obsessed with his own celebrity. It is the newspaper editor who elegantly packages the great misconceptions of the day as news.
Then there is the language of self-deception, the language of the politically correct. In his book, 1984, George Orwell wrote about Newspeak, the official language of the totalitarian future: “The purpose of Newspeak was … to make all other modes of thought impossible.” This is accomplished by “eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings….” If people have no words to express a dangerous truth, they cannot arrive at this truth. According to Orwell, “[The] reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”
Those who spend their lives watching the Idiot Box do not need the Newspeak Dictionary. Their vocabularies are automatically attenuated. They are ready to believe that government officials can save them. For example, they think the president can fix the country’s problems. He has the brains to accomplish miracles: to deliver us from penury through government spending. Meanwhile, the country leaps from the frying pan of deflation into the inflationary fire. It is called “a stimulus package.” It is the biggest white elephant ever sold, at the dearest price. If it doesn’t work, we’ll do it again, and again, as many times as it takes – or until the currency collapses. A stupefied country listens in suspense to those fateful words: “We are from the government, and we are here to help.” Euphemism is the native language of every bureaucrat. For them, loot is “revenue.” Waste is “progressive.” Propping failed industries is “a good investment.” Stopping a market correction is “saving the economy.” Every event is an excuse to spend money. If the economy is flush, spend money. If the economy is contracting, spend money. Do you want more golden eggs? Cook the goose that lays them. Everything is going to be okay!
“When words lose their meaning,” warned Confucius, “people will lose their liberty.” Watch the fanatic waving the “truth” like a tattered rag in everyone’s face. He is tomorrow’s Hitler spouting an ideology of hate. His day is coming. Look around and ask yourself who will stop the rise of the evil fanatic when the country goes off the rails. Will you be brave enough to speak out? Will you oppose the bloody revolution that is being prepared?
The truth has always been connected with suffering. This is famously celebrated in the world’s largest religion, Christianity. The world’s 2.1 billion Christians are taught to “pick up their crosses” in imitation of Christ. If Kierkegaard were alive today he would ask if anyone has sighted 2.1 billion crosses in the world. When Christ was interrogated before his execution, he told the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate of Judaea that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth. The Roman dismissively asked, “What is truth?” For the benefit of Pilate and other government officials, the dictionary defines truth as: “the actual state of a matter; a verified indisputable fact, proposition, principle; the state or character of being true.”
The truth is seldom found during election campaigns, where slogans and catch-phrases reign supreme. Under democracy, majority opinion takes the place of truth. This leaves the field to pollsters and social science statisticians. Instead of Pontius Pilate cynically asking what truth could possibly be, polling firms tell us what everyone thinks it is. Here the pollster has put the word “average” and “think” into the same formula. Here an equal sign is placed between knowledge and ignorance, resulting in a statistic. As British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once noted, “There are … lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
And then there is the point of last resort: the truth. We are destined to arrive there some day.
© 2009 J. R. Nyquist