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Truth Ache
The truth has been taking its lumps recently. As recently as the late 90s there seemed to be a consensus, at least in this country, about what was a fact, what was conjecture, and what was total bullshit. Those days are gone now, and made-up stuff competes in the same league with provable truth for believability. Maybe it was always a phantom, this consensus, but if it ever existed, that tacit agreement ended with the advent of the Information Age. How ironic.

Huntley, Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite, who used to dispense versions of reality that had been researched by people whose job depended on getting it right, are long gone. They have been replaced by anyone with a a computer. Some of those people are trustworthy (ahem) but many offer nothing more than suspicions of truth that are decorated with shiny objects spun from pure imagination. And yet, a lot of our fellow citizens choose to accept these fevered hypotheticals as gospel.

How do we explain why these people — many of them well-educated — come to believe assertions for which there is no good proof? Assertions, in fact, that are easily disproven? How did these folks find their ways into this alternate “reality?” Are they fated to be gullible or do they choose to be? What, exactly, is their trip?

People who live in the provable reality are understandably concerned about these questions. For one thing, people who inhabit that alternate universe actually vote in this one. Their decisions, in and out of politics, directly effect us — mostly for the worse.

There have been attempts to answer these questions. Last spring, there was a flurry of articles about the The Authoritarian Personality. Psychologists have been looking at this phenomenon for decades, but it has resurfaced as a popular topic over the last year. The mind in question there was not mind of the authoritarian himself, but of his followers. Among their attributes is a tendency to accept whatever they are told by their leaders. They don’t even look for proof. In fact, they prefer the simplicity offered by utter acceptance of authority. Often, they prefer superstition over observable fact because mystical explanations do not require proof.

This analysis rings true, but we are still left to ask, Why? What makes people be this way, in spite of the obvious danger to their own well-being? How did the poor schmucks of the People’s Temple or Heaven’s Gate ever get to the point of absolute, unquestioning obedience?

Another analysis that’s popped up over the last year points to distinctions between conservatives and liberals, not just as as matter of politics, but across the cultural board. On the right (so the theory goes) faith and intuition are given a standing above actual evidence. These “conclusions” are not mere errors of judgment, but illusions. Perception itself is influenced by a need for consistency and order. Anything that disturbs that state is rejected — not because it’s wrong, but because it’s upsetting to the status quo. And that would mean chaos.

That’s why it’s been such a hard road for truth. It can make a dent in the chaos, but it takes time and patience and work to pull it off. Make-believe, by comparison, has it easy.

Until the rent comes due, that is. And the rent has to be paid in this universe.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee