We Hate Truth
June 21, 2004
by Richard M. Dolan
Blaise Pascal once wrote that unhappiness in this world could be eliminated if only people learned to sit quietly in their rooms. We constantly pursue outside stimulation. Anything will do. From all types of games and trivial pursuits, right up to joining the local navy and engaging in wholesale plunder.
The reason, Pascal argued further, is that most of us are unable to bear the poverty of our own minds. We have few thoughts to begin with, and when we do ponder our lives, we realize our weaknesses, our immoralities, and especially our mortality.
I think Pascal was exactly right. How long can we bear to sit quietly and reflect on our life, before allowing some distraction to take over? How much time do we spend reflecting on the fundamentals of our existence? Questions such as, “what am I doing here?”, “what is good?”, “how can I strive to live in accordance with goodness?”, “do I approach other people as objects to manipulate, or as fellow human beings in a spirit of love?” “What do I need to do with my short life in order to make this world a better place, or at least not to mess it up?” “Am I living in accordance with my highest ideals?”
Of course, our own society, dominated by a crass gimme gimme culture, actively discourages such quiet pursuits. If you do insist on becoming such an oddball, the first thing you should do is unplug your television and radio. Controlled utterly by a centralized corporate structure, these media spoonfeed us like children so we can (a) spend our money on useless products; (b) worship the State as a loyal imperial subject; and (c) not think too hard.
Internet is also suspect, since – like TV and radio – it is largely dominated by the same corporate entities. But at least in cyberspace, there remain a few pockets of freedom where you can still breathe fresh air.
Most people – and by most I mean about 99 percent – don’t set aside even ten minutes a day to reflect quietly on matters of truth and honor (yes, honor) in their lives. How can a person think when the car radio is on? Or when watching a t.v. commercial?
The effort of those who would wish to get inside our heads is unrelenting. These people have lots of money at their disposal, and they use it. They have sophisticated knowledge of propaganda, and they use it. They want to shut our minds down.
And most of us, quite frankly, want them to do it.
We do not want truth. What we usually want is information, usually of a specific kind. What did the Mets do last night? What’s on for dinner? How do I remove that zit? What’s the best school for my kids? Should I move to Atlanta, Vegas, or Phoenix?
You want information? No problem. This is, after all, the Information Age.
However, this is most definitely not The Age of Truth. When it comes to meaningful issues, the things that really matter, people prefer to be fed palatable illusions for the duration of their lives. I have to think hard to find a few people I have known who genuinely and regularly tried to challenge their worldview. Who wants to discover, at the age of forty, that some foundational belief they’ve held all their life is … wrong?
I grew up believing all the typical things about my country. That America was the world’s land of “freedom.” That America’s wars were all just. That people naturally seek truth and freedom.
Most Americans still tell themselves these things. How many people really want to know what their society is doing? Who wants to put the pieces together and question whether the entire social and economic structure of … well … our civilization is not only suicidal (increasingly, a few of us are figuring that one out) but also immoral?
That the shallowness and emptiness of American culture is itself largely to blame for the horrific and apparently widespread instances of torture of (innocent) foreign civilians? That the constant spread of faux-grand mansions in our never-ending suburban sprawl (complete with double-wide driveway and SUV) is an affront and assault on what was once a beautiful natural world? That by dropping our kids off in daycare or even many (most) of our public schools, we abdicate the job of parenting? That by spending our entire lives deluged with poisonous advertising and commercial culture, our commitment to things has outweighed our commitment to people?
Can you imagine what someone of the past – anyone more than a century ago – would think upon seeing our society?
Our technology would amaze them, of course. The gadgets and goodies we have would appear to be nothing less than a direct gift from the gods. But once they turned their attention away from the technology and directly to us, I think the most common reaction would be disgust: “I broke my back trying to create a better world, and ended up with … you?”
I fear that world civilization has already gone past the point of no return. If you think that humanity may one day strike up a relationship with alien beings – whether you believe this will happen in some idealized, future setting, or is going on secretly today – what is it exactly that humans would contribute to the mix?
We did not evolve in a concrete jungle. We evolved in a real jungle, which is fast becoming obliterated within the blink of a cosmic eye. Our rapacious gobbling up of all that we see around us cannot and will not last indefinitely, nor probably even for another few generations.
All things must end, including our lives, including our civilization. When the big ship finally goes down, will it even be worth saving?