I’m currently fighting against a nearly overwhelming urge. But I’m not sure you can accurately call it an urge. It’s more like, an inner pressure, fueled and built by various things coming in through my ears and eyes, rolling about in my head, then steadily building with a tangible pressure I can bodily feel. I think it might be an urge to rant, and even rave.
This feeling is uncommon, not because I work to avoid it, but because, I suppose, there is something within my character that tends to grant the “benefit of the doubt” to people and groups of people. Doing so requires a certain open-ended-ness, justified by a trust in people’s ability to examine themselves and learn, to examine others and learn, and to, at some point, realize they have a responsibility for something more than just themselves, their immediate group of family and friends, their employers, their country, and even their religion. But above all, my release valve is: I believe that truth is really, in the long run, what people prefer, desire and feel compelled to move toward.
Ok. Truth. Stop rolling your eyes, and indulge me for moment. The minute you say Truth with a capital “T”, many intellectuals and most pseudo-intellectuals just leave the room. If you want to play smart and tell me “truth is subjective”, I won’t argue — but I will suggest bringing your philosophical understanding of truth a little more up toward the 21st century, even if you must, afterward, tout that depressing, purely biological basis. Even still, we’ll find that intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals are more comfortable with, “it’s almost certain that”, or “strongly suggests that”, or any phrase that will leave them a little wiggle room when more information comes to light, which inevitably happens. It is safe, and it is certain, being always a little uncertain. Unfortunately, and fortunately, being uncertain often predisposes us to inactivity in the socio/political realm.
On the other hand, religiously bent people turn all quivery and slobbery at the prospect of a genuine Truth, rushing in to quickly glance at it, seeing if it fits with what they think. If this truth does fit at least as nicely as a popular pair of sneakers you can wear, they’ll snag it, grasp onto it until their knuckles turn white, and happily swing it around as a weapon so they can get their way, through brute force if necessary. However, if they don’t like this truth, they’ll not just walk away from it, they’ll grab the nearest heavy thing they can find to smash it into pieces, so that nobody else might ever come to see what they, themselves do not like, for whatever reason. These people happily engage actively in the socio/political realm.
I have met very stubborn intellectuals who adhere, stringently, against all odds, to something they feel is right, rather than the currently accepted truth. Einstein is a good example with his infamous statement that God does not play dice with the universe. He went to his grave being fundamentally wrong and trying to prove otherwise, yet interestingly, recent advances in the unification efforts of physics are showing that much of what he was doing in his wrongness, is actually very true, even though his underlying premise was not. And, for the love of God, thank God for that! He was working in the realm where truth is always being explored, and happily, if grudgingly, revised when the body of evidence requires it. So, even in his wrongness, he continued to do valuable work that still benefits us today in our search for greater understanding. This is a framework that does not, at its best, enshrine any truth, but instead enshrines the process of coming to understand truth in all its glory. This framework has an inherent humility built in that says, we may never know for certain, but this is what we’re thinking now, and it’s worth trying to understand things better.
A few days ago Johnny sent me an article written by Chris Hedges that contemplates the recent use of science to bolster the tangible and immediate credibility of the Christian religion. It does a very good job of demonstrating just how much liberty these Christian “scientists” are willing to take where the truth is concerned, and also goes a very long way toward explaining why they might be doing so, and what effects this might have upon all of us.
In the article he describes a 25 million dollar Christian science museum recently built with a full scale model of Noah’s Ark. The dinosaur fossil problem has been solved by Noah bringing only baby dinosaurs, though I’m not exactly sure why they didn’t just let the dinosaurs drown since that would neatly explain their extinction. Apparently, Adam and Eve used to share the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs. They are depicted as frolicking around with Tyrannosaurus Rex, who was vegetarian at the time. TRex, says the museum, had big fangs so he could open coconuts. When Adam ate the apple, it turned TRex into a carnivore. This makes me wonder if these museum people consider meat-eating to be bad, and if so, might they be convinced to promote vegetarianism? I’m guessing the lions and tigers and bears were all herbivores, too, until Adam ate the apple. I’m not sure how they explain the bone remains found, though, and how you just find dinosaurs with dinosaurs.
These tidbits aside, Hedges goes on to touch upon how spiritual and religious imagery is often used historically as a means to hold captive the loyalty and devotion of the population to a totalitarian state. He says:
The belief system becomes the basis to understand the world. Random facts and data are collected and made to fit into this belief system or discarded. When facts are treated as if they were opinions, when there is no universal standard to determine truth, in law, in science, in scholarship, or in the reporting of the events of the day, the world becomes a place where people can believe what they want to believe, where there is no possibility of reaching any conclusion not predetermined by those who interpret the official, divinely inspired text.
It seems to me this was rather hastily written, leaving many things unclear. So I’m going to re-write it before I carry on:
The belief system, not reason, becomes the basis to understand the world. Reason becomes subject to an immutable belief, and as such, facts are either “hen-picked” or distorted until they fit within this belief system. If a fact cannot be made to fit within the belief system, the belief system is not revised, but rather the inconvenient fact is discarded. When facts are so easily ignored or distorted, when there is no universal way to determine truth other than by appealing to some group’s belief — then law, science, scholarship and even news coverage becomes nothing more than a mouthpiece and mechanism for those few who control the official interpretations of these enshrined beliefs.
And that is no longer science. It is the empowerment of the few to control many, without regard toward truth. It is the empowerment of the few to control many, with the objective of furthering their own beliefs, agendas and expanding their own influence in a methodical and calculated way. In fact, it eventually becomes not about their beliefs at all, but rather their own power, and the maintenance and expansion of that power.
In science, a truth is power — a fact is power. They can be used as tools to accomplish things or even to find further truths and more facts. These truths and facts are not people. People discover them, yes. But they exist in and of themselves, without ego, without a need for our worship, and they exist whether we want to believe in them or not. Conversely, beliefs are inexorably tied to the ego of a person where they are held and grow within our own prejudices, preconceptions, frailties and desires. We cannot base a process with its foundations rooted in belief and at the same time call it science.
Most mature religions recognize the distinction between spiritual belief and science. They have confronted the challenges presented to them by science and embrace them, expanding their own understanding of the world while simultaneously maintaining their beliefs without some terrible crisis of faith. Many even contribute to the body of scientific understanding, actively pursuing their curiosity about the universe around them through both the tools of science and their own personal faith, without conflict. Unfortunately, the more adolescent flavors of religion tend to be unable to resolve what they interpret as discrepancies between their faith and science. Their reaction is not to more closely explore their faith and what it really means, but instead to attempt to alter the science to conform to their faith.
I cannot say that science is a sacred thing that should be free from challenge. In fact, it is a tenant of science that all things within science must, by definition, be challenged as fully and completely as possible before anything might be considered even possibly factual. These Christian “scientists” do not subscribe to even this most basic and fundamental tenant of science. Instead, they are interested in starting with a completely unchallengeable assumption as a basis, then bringing in facts to support it, while omitting facts that subvert it, regardless of the preponderance of evidence one way or the other. These people are insisting this is science and are exerting tremendous pressure to have this non-science taught as science in our children’s schools. Strangely, they have been making headway.
I suppose it is not really a great surprise. Truth has become mutable in our society, or at least our expectation for truth. We are not surprised at all when people lie, whether they are government officials, corporate leaders or even our friends and family. It’s expected. What’s more important is how things appear. If we can make something appear to be true, then it doesn’t matter so much if we have doubts. After all, we could well be wrong. Even when we know for certain that something was a lie, if the liar can continually repeat that lie and maintain some kind of overwhelming PR campaign with just the right distractions, it’s only a matter of time until the lie dissolves into the murky histories of our collective memories, never to resurface. Or, if it does resurface, is not worth the bother of bringing forward again.
It’s a little like the mass hypnosis Hedges alludes to in his article when touching upon the techniques of the totalitarian state. We can overlook the facts, in the interests of the images, or the belief. We can overlook the active and aggressive censorship of environmental scientists in the interests of our enshrinement of money. We can overlook the harassment and incarceration of political “suspects” in the interest of some abstract notion of security “for the people”. We can even overlook that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to prove that some woman gave one of our presidents head, yet no money can be spent to see if another president tricked us all into a war that is greatly benefiting his friends monetarily, and thousands upon thousands have died as a result.
One of the things I hear very often from people “caught” in one way or another at their machinations is that, we cannot dwell on the past, we must come together now to fulfill the vision. We must come together positively to work toward our common goals. And if they are questioned after that, the become angry and attack the questioner, accusing them of trying to subvert the purpose that everyone else is trying to accomplish. In other words, one of the greatest and most common techniques of the practiced liar in a position of power is to deflect attention away from any wrongdoings and re-focus everyone on the abstract vision once again. If they are challenged after that, make the challenger into the bad guy instead.
I do not mean this to be limited to our current President. This is true for many government agencies, corporations, religious organizations and even families. It is one of the ways that bad forces remain in place, even when they are discovered. And, with this particular technique, it is one of the ways that the people supporting, or somehow benefiting from these bad forces, can justify to themselves that they, themselves, are not bad too, for continuing to support them or by benefiting from them.
So, I suppose this is what we might want for our children. We should make sure they are educated in a way that says, it’s not the facts that matter, it’s what you are told that matters. And we have to teach them, both in words, and by our own example, that twisting the facts to fit within and support whatever ends we have in mind is just the way things are, and something that you should learn to be very good at yourself.
Yesterday, I vented a little bit of this all to a friend living in Washington, DC. He told me “…give it a year. Change is coming. “conservatives” are realizing they’re liberals. Farmers are realizing they could be “growing” oil.” I hope there is truth in that. But I think the problem runs far deeper than just a liberal or conservative disposition. It runs down to each of us, and what we are willing to compromise within ourselves, and how much responsibility we are willing to take for both our actions and our inactions.
My faith has always been more in the faith of the human spirit than anything else. A faith that we might one day transcend many of the shadows that keep us locked toward suffering, darkness, and entrapment in one form or another. The course these adolescent religions would have us walk leads only further into darkness. There is very little spirituality within them — they merely hand out little feel-good pills that help make another day pass more easily. The self-examined life is practically non-existent, with everyone looking for anything, anywhere, to make them feel better. Looking at themselves honestly, most people become terrified.
So here we go then, off into the hands of the people who create the images that let us look elsewhere than where we are. And these people making the images are not motivated by our benefit, but rather what “more” they can gain for themselves. And we do nothing, but exist. Yea, yea. Consuming and excreting, both individually and societally, without regard to anything more around us than how we might benefit. Never a consideration as to what might really be right, or true. Oh, sorry, yes, we’ll consider it, but the sacrifice is usually far too high for us to pay. Like having to deal with a recycle bin, or quit the job working for a liar, or demanding news coverage that penetrates past corporate interests to the truth.
The President wants $100 billion more from us, right now, to carry on a war that should never have started, and only causes suffering. Most of this money will go straight into the military/industrial complex, just as President Eisenhower, himself a general, so long ago warned us.
For $100 billion dollars, the cost for what will keep a war running for a few more months, we could have a complete national infrastructure of hydrogen fuel stations — in fact, we could have 8-15 entire sets of national infrastructures for hydrogen fuel. Not having these stations is the main reason car manufacturers cite for not mass producing hydrogen powered cars. We solve the fuel problem, and we solve a huge chunk of our contribution to global warming problem, all in one swoop. But, do you think we’ll have any money available for this when this war ends? Even if we stopped this next payment of $100 billion, do you think even a tiny percentage could be used for hydrogen fuel? Why not?
Now, go be a good bitch, get back to what you were doing, and shut the hell up.