The current trend for blitzing populations with a confusion of facts and ‘alternative’ fictions through the media has led some to call our current times the ‘post-truth’ era. The sales of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 have sky rocketed as the intelligentsia on the left and the right struggle to look for insights into how we have come to this place. A rather grey landscape with sporadic media fireworks where we seem to have moved beyond the truth having any meaningful currency. A place where evidence and rationality are merely optional to the masses who feel left behind and betrayed by the political elite. Leaving them exposed to authoritarian leadership due to its promise of bringing immediate and ‘common sense’ change.
It really doesn’t matter if Donald Trump is caught lying as lies are no longer the benchmark to the masses for either proving or discrediting someone’s political stance on public matters. Both sides of the political divide have been smeared and the masses respond no longer to reason, but instead to the highest bidder. Trump is essentially the highest bidder in America so the masses backed him (the majority of the political elite i.e. the electoral college). The same happened in the UK with Brexit. The facts of EU membership didn’t matter to the 52% that voted to leave, what mattered was that only the leave campaign had any extra cash to offer i.e. £350 Million per week plus the cash patriotic Britain Firsters could pocket with fewer EU immigrants (also not a real deliverable with Brexit).
Again, the vote went to the highest bidder. Not to truth, not to facts and definitely not to Reason. We know this as neither of the highest bidders had any intention of paying up when they won their auction. The NHS will not be receiving any additional funding as per the Leave bus campaign, and the cost of managing the trade agreements on every level of contractual negotiation and implementation will overshadow any potential gains from Brexit for at least a decade if not two. Much to the roaring applause of the America Firsters who wanted ‘no brainer’ solutions to complex problems we now have an administration that treats all problems like a nail because it is only skilled in the use of a hammer.
In fact international business travel to the US has recently dropped by almost 4%, federal reserves look set to be spent on building a pointless wall to prevent the flow of mexican immigrants that mostly fly into the US anyway, and there’s been several attempts to take all restraints off the banks that were put in place post the 2008 crisis and subsequent bailouts. Trump has actually already signed enough ultra right-wing executive orders to take America back in time to a place where a civil war was the eventual answer to such a vast political divide. All whilst restarting a war on women’s rights to have the final say about their own bodies through attempts to repeal long standing and hard won abortion legislation.
Trump has even set about installing a theocracy (trying to remove the barriers that prevent the church from funding political campaigns) which is set to cut out most of the gains that the masses have enjoyed from separating Church and State. The largest underlying problem here is that we have not been teaching critical thinking and logic as a standard, core subject in our schools at all ages. We have a couple of generations of voters that have no way of appreciating that their way of life is being undermined, and that it really can be limited to an extraordinary degree. People simply to do not realise that they are dealing with the last gasps of a level of development in mankind that valued the story of their people over the truths that have set them free since the age of the enlightenment.
Every inch of ground thrown into the light by the ubiquity of the products of the rational mind has made it almost impossible for pre-rational “because a book says so” beliefs to grow there. Whole communities based around pre-truth (truth that doesn’t stand up to rational inquiry and evidencing) have increasingly hunkered down inside their own private media, film makers, newspapers and economic circles. Ironically however the reason why we see so much shaming of Brexiters and Trumpers by the ‘left’ is that they lack the critical capability to show the working behind the thinking that has created the current progressive landscape.
Presented with what seems like obvious stupidity and faced with a frustrating inability to defend their world view millennials and ‘lefty’ liberals alike find themselves defending their beliefs so dogmatically it can make them look like fundamentalists. Making it very hard for the average bystander to see any clear moral high ground when calibrating from the emotional content alone, so they stick with what they identify with. Which is a tragedy as these beliefs are actually underpinned by a rationalism that unfolds beautifully if one takes the time to study it so that you can clearly show how being increasingly humanistic in our outlooks only serves to protect all of our interests.
The last 20 years of progress, largely accelerated by the rise the internet and the acceleration of communication, building on the back of globalisation have put the pre-truth communities under immense pressure. The rise in radicalisation amongst the Worlds religious traditions, both in Christianity and Islam most notably has come from the last fight to grasp a hold onto power. A power that those who have a vested interest in will not consider conceding any further ground as they cannot accept becoming the change that they are seeing in the world. The battle we see before us in the USA right now is not therefore between the left and right, it is between pre-truth and the pursuit of truth itself.
It is not the case, in my view, that religions have no validity or rational voice. There are huge communities within the Worlds religious traditions that continue to pursue the truth above all else, through the vehicles of their particular transformational practices (as can be seen in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism and Taoism to name just the major traditions). A real pursuit for truth cares only for what we uncover through direct experience that can be shared by all and that includes all of us.
This pursuit is a freedom above all others. Right now there is a battle for this freedom being fought by the last line of defence in the US – the legal system, which is the institutionalisation of rationalised beliefs for a way of life enshrined in the constitution. It is facing its first real attack from a US president since Nixon. If it fails and burns and a theocracy rises in its ashes then it won’t take long before the UK and Europe feels the heat.