Does truth have a future?

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Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration: “Most Americans are indifferent to liberty and are content with tyranny. This means that truth does not have a healthy future in America.”

In their different ways, the ‘affairs’ of Assange, Manning and Snowden would seem to support his point – and not only in regard to Americans. So what happened to “The truth will set you free?”

It’s easy to say: ‘The truth won’t set you free, because it’s relative: my understanding and yours may be different, but they’re equally valid.’ Too easy: because of course it’s ‘true’; but still only a partial truth. There are incontrovertible facts, which may be inconvenient truths, and thus conveniently ignored.

I do think there’s a difference between ignoring inconvenient facts, and being fed deliberate, manipulative lies. And I do think that any real democracy – when we finally get around to inventing one – will offer access to facts: not just one facet of ‘the truth’, but several. This was the promise of the information revolution: encyclopaedic information at the fingertips of everyone. Wasn’t it? And will we find ways to maintain and enhance that access?

Our new democracies will educate in the tools needed to handle facts constructively: mental tools like critical thinking, and emotional tools to handle our own reactions. In fact: can that be where real democracy starts, rather than with structures and laws?

 

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