How did we get here? Can this mess be fixed?
We have entered a dark age. Truth, not always abundantly obvious, has been increasingly shrouded thanks to the growing cynicism and polarization of our day. The condition is getting worse by the day.
What to believe? Who to believe?
An easier question used to be, "Does truth matter?" Incredibly, our woke age today can't even answer that question truthfully. Today's preference for relativism allows that one man's truth may not be another man's. That premise assumes that reality isn't really real but instead is shaped by interpretations filtered through personal passions and biases.
This results in such absurdities as "If you are white, you are racist," irrespective of evidence for or against the proposition.
Reflex has replaced reason in that way, but it's not the sole domain of the left. Ironically, many on the right reflexively think it's strictly a failing of the left without noticing their own irony.
That's one of the prices paid when truth is jettisoned. We lose not only the ability to see the logical flaws in others' arguments, but we also don't see our own either. Instead, it is "correct" if our pals say so, and "wrong" if the other guys say so. End of discussion.
This intractable difference of opinions leaves no room for negotiation, no room for persuasion. And it ends with the unavoidable conclusion that might makes "right" — which is to say, "Since I can't persuade you, in order to progress, you must nevertheless accept my 'truth,' and if you disagree, you will be forced to comply."
This perverse logic is embodied widely in daily living. The president of the United States, unable to persuade half the nation of his "truth" about the only solution to the threat of COVID, has resorted to force. You will wear a mask. You will distance yourself from other human beings. You will be injected with an experimental drug despite its adverse effects on health in the short term and utterly unknown and unknowable effects in the long term. End of discussion.
How far has this thinking been extended? In previous diktats from on high, there have been exceptions allowed for conscience and religious beliefs. Not on Joe Biden's watch.
The path was cleared for this tyranny by the medical establishment, media, Big Tech, and corporate America suppressing all dissenting views. Freedom of speech has morphed into freedom to agree.
This all is the consequence of losing our bearings as a people. There was a day not so long ago where great numbers of Americans could find solace knowing they shared a belief in certain "truths." Much less so today.
Partisan dogma has been substituted for truth. This is not to say that partisan dogma is untrue in every case. As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. But the question must be asked: how can anyone know any more whether what "those people" say is true is in fact true?
My craft, journalism, certainly has given a helping hand on this road to ambiguity. Long ago, there was a day, we are told (because none of us was around to witness it), when most people believed what they read in a newspaper. Gradually, that myth faded.
We learned that journalists weren't always truthful. Today, a scant 14% trust what the media, press, or journalists have to say. That's part of the price we pay for undermining truth. Lying, conniving, and propagandizing journalists get a fair share of the blame.
But few people understood journalism's function even in the good old days.
Journalists do not tell the truth. They tell what people tell them.
If a reporter or commentator limited his published words to "the truth," he would publish little with certainty apart from the date. I've yet to meet a journalist, and I've met thousands, capable of ferreting out "the truth" in complex issues. Some do better than others by compiling an array of evidence and testimony. But in the end, it's the same story: "so-and-so says so." It's unavoidable, a hazard of the genre.
Nevertheless, journalists are supposed to help us arrive at the truth because the truth emerges when competing views clash and can be weighed one against the other, or so we used to believe. By this competition, the truth will out. The Bible describes it as iron sharpening iron.
That process moves us closer to truth, if for no other reason than its product better matches the reality we experience than do lies and half-truths.
Today's polarization, some say, can be solved by compromise. Beware of solutions that are worse than the problem.
We have reached our woke relativistic condition precisely thanks to compromise. It's a compromise only if something is surrendered. When a person who holds a truthful belief compromises with someone who believes a lie, the result is a truth-believer agreeing to recognize partial truth. The more compromises, the farther one moves away from truth.
This is how truth has been progressively undermined in our land, leading to the approval of baby-murder by the child's own mother in the place the kid should be most safe, and a political "leader" who dictates what people must do "for their own good," whether they want to or not.
If you've read this far, you may have gotten discouraged. You probably long for the good old days. You understandably would like to hear a solution.
Sorry, I don't have one. But don't hate me — as a journalist, I'm just the messenger.
I will offer a suggestion people tell me: don't compromise the truth.
Mark Landsbaum is a Christian retired journalist, former investigative reporter, editorial writer, and columnist. He also is a husband, father, grandfather, and Dodgers fan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic credit: geralt, Pixabay license.
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