From the Cambridge Dictionary:
“truth – the quality of being true”
“the truth – the real facts about a situation, event, or person“
“truth – a statement or principle that is generally considered to be true“
“truthfulness – the quality of being honest and not containing or telling any lies“
Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality
I guess I could go on and use definitions or descriptors from many other sources, and still there would be a sort of ambiguity reflected in the term “truth” that can’t be dissolved. Words such as “quality“, “real“, “facts“, “generally considered“, “being honest“, “lies“, they are a far cry away from an axiomatic meaning which would establish something like “an absolute truth” which can not be disputed by anyone, or any argument.
Looking at the above, truth is a relative term, and it requires consent between those who state that a thing, an event, a statement, a concept “is true”.
So, truth is not only a label, but also a relationship between conscious entities, such as human beings (but not only!) through consent, or agreement, or unfortunately also by unchallenged imposition, or through joint perception. For any non-colorblind person, “red” is “red” and “blue” is “blue”, despite the fact that I cannot prove that what I see as “blue” is seen the very same way by another person agreeing with me on labeling the color of a thing as being “blue”. There are people who, just for example, perceive colors and sounds VERY differently from the majority of humans: “Chromesthesia or sound-to-color synesthesia is a type of synesthesia in which sound involuntarily evokes an experience of color, shape, and movement.” Those who have experience with substances such as LSD, or Psylocybin, will report about sound or especially music creating patterns and extremely detailed textures and colors, once one closes the eyes. It helps in understanding the relative truth of conventional perception, and the limitations coming from if I just assume that another person is assuming the same things being “true”.
If it is true for me that this color is “red”, it requires a consent with you to agree on labeling a perception the same way. In order to understand you, I need a certain degree of joint experiences, and languages being used in a similar or same way.
Is there something which is beyond a requirement to consent in order to be considered being “true”? Aren’t the facts from science undisputable? Isn’t mathematics something which is founded on axioms? So, looking up “Axiom” reveals the definition that “an axiom, postulate, or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments.“
Here we are again, using the term “true“, or “taken as true“, meaning that we have to consent on accepting some statement as being “true”. If I believe in a flat earth, my fellow flat-earthers and I will claim that it is true, and will not deviate, whichever scientific facts which I consider being true I throw at them.
I remember a science lesson at my high-school, probably around 1974. The teacher had invited two members of Jehova’s Witnesses into our class. We were invited to discuss their belief that the World has been created by their Creator roughly 6000 years ago (plus the almost fifty years between that discussion and today…). My friend Peter and I, who loved loved science, used every fact we knew about in our reasoning that, according to our knowledge, the Earth was roughly 4.5 billion years old, in a universe we nowadays believe has been evolved from a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. There was literally no way that we could penetrate their arguments and make them agreeing on some form of truth which would have established a consent between us and them. Neither could they convince us related to their version of Genesis, just mentioning.
So, as an intermediate thought: What does it mean if people in our current state of antagonisation say “Truth Matters”? What is the meaning behind a brand label created by Number 45, “Truth Social”?
It means nothing else than that consent on an unspecified number of qualities, beliefs, policies, worldviews, or else, is called upon. And at least “Truth Social” would be an example for a dogma such as “As long as you consent to my view, you are in line with my truth, and if you are not, I may even call you an Enemy of the State.” Truth as a means of control. Number 45 did this on countless occasions, and more recently he is hard-pressed by people who are attempting to establish even more radical forms of white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, and anti-semitism. Read in The Rolling Stone: “How Trump Got Trolled by a Couple of Fascists“.
So, when we talk about “Truth Matters”, is it about imposing my truth upon you, or finding a mutual platform of consent, through listening, empathising, understanding, agreeing, compromising, finding common denominators?
Before coming back to my last question, here another source of my personal belief system:
In the Buddhist teachings, there are Two Truths. …”there’s an idea that everything has two levels of truth, relative and absolute: how we experience life when we’re immersed in it, and how we experience it from a distance when we can get a vaster perspective” (Pema Chödrön – How We Live Is How We Die, 2022 Shambala Publications, Page 51).
Essentially, in my interpretation (sic! need of consent again…): Absolute truth is a concept from the spiritual realm, including, but not limited to, religious faith. Please note that in my view Buddhism is not a religion, but a spiritual source of wisdom. I don’t believe in a personalised God concept. But I am firmly rooted in a spiritual connection with Everything.
If you, the reader, would agree with me, then we would conclude that the world of phenomena has only relative truths, based on perceptions which are mutually held. The absolute is the realm of the spiritual world. However, if people claim they have understood the Absolute (Or claim God spoke to them), and they allow it to permeate into the world of phenomena, dogma is born: My truth is absolute. My God will protect my soldiers, and not your soldiers. My God says that women need to be veiled. My God allows me to fight a Holy War. Radical Muslim dogmatists have done that, radical Buddhist fundamentalists have done that, radical Hindu fundamentalists have done that, Christianity has its share of radical violent dogmatism and suppression and brutal violence, Judaism is not without such phenomena, no religion or spiritual belief framework is without shameful stains resulting from imposing an absolute truth on my fellow women and men, human beings of any sexual and gender identification, followers of a belief, and especially also children.
Where does this lead me to, here?
What I see is the widespread use of catchphrases such as “Truth Matters” with a reduced understanding as if there would be “one truth”, and that others fall victim to “untruthfulness”. That those who manipulate with lies do establish the opposite to truth. I don’t see it like that. I see it as the attempt of replacing “your truth” with “my truth”. I see it as an attempt to control the narrative, and through it, others.
That is why I continue to note that still, increasingly, and on a global level, we see antagonisation thriving, and collaboration and listening in an effort to understand the position of others diminishing.
When the Biden Administration took office, there was a refreshing silence for some time on Number 45. Nothing today is reminding of those few months. Everywhere I look, listen, watch, read, I see Trumps, Ye’s, Elons, Victors, Matteos, Björns, Vladimirs, and their copycats. And everywhere, the radicalisation leads to that the next copycat is more radical than the one before.
That’s why I choose “Truth Wars” as the title. Truth Wars do not require consent by argument, in such a violent scenario it matters that I succeed, by imposition and manipulation, not by accepting another person’s reality as equally relevant to mine.
What I see is that after a perceived “lull”, the Truth Wars have become even more radical. Racism, xenophobia, hate against transgender people, hate of and supremacy over women, anti-semitism, anti-muslim sentiments, they come closer to be part of the mainstream. As a part of a larger pattern of xenophobia, in the Western World the white hateful male lower middle-class and impoverished lower-class underdogs fall victim to pied pipers, some of them extremely privileged and dishonest.
What I also see is that we deploy force against force, loudness against loudness, control against the attempt to control. Literally every such concept is pouring gasoline on the firepit.
In my line of professional work, I support the consent between the six jurisdictions forming the Western Balkans, on the belief that fewer weapons, explosives, and ammunition, and more control over all licit aspects of them, and the fight against illicit aspects of using weapons, their ammunition, and explosives, is good for peace and security in these societies. As a consequence of this consent on a jointly held truth, these six jurisdictions (we name them jurisdictions, since Kosovo is not un-disputed amongst all of them and amongst others in relation to statehood, different to Albania, Bosnia &Hercegovina, Montenegro, North-Macedonia, and Serbia), these six jurisdictions communicate, collaborate, and cooperate highly joint in implementing policy and operations. They do this despite the fact that some of them have disputes on a political level, and that cultural, ethnical, and faith diversity creates this amazing and wonderful mix which has also seen violence, oppression, war and genocide when some considered their truth more supreme than the truth of others.
I am using this as a practical example for the opposite of what I have labeled “Truth Wars”. This is one of countless examples were people sit together and listen, and learn from each other, willing to do things jointly, whilst acknowledging that they do not agree on everything, for the sake of a higher objective, and advantages for all, instead of only for oneself.
Yet, the fundamental consent (sic: truth) on how to control Small Arms and Light Weapons could not be more different from, for example, the United States, where there is a widely held belief by many (don’t know whether they constitute a majority, and doubt it), that only the Second Amendment ensures the protection of the First Amendment. The accepted truth, and the consequences of it (exponentially more violence and unprecedented levels of mass shootings) are radically different, and this permeates literally into everything, including how for example policing concepts are being developed and implemented: It is not only about the need of police to protect themselves against an ubiquity of weapons; If citizens reject policing as something they want to give up their own weapons for, community oriented policing is VERY different in understanding, concept, and implementation.
If truth matters, it includes to accept that there are many different subjective truths. This allows for their coexistence, their learning from each other, their development, and ideally the growth of something that is more joint. So, very different to what we seem to nurture, or to fight, right now.