After the ‘post-truth hospital’episodes that I wrote about in my previous article, my friend and I are concerned about what the future holds in this post-truth pandemic. Will the court of law, pharmaceutical companies, media and the other institutions uphold truth and justice?
But before going any further, my friend wanted me to answer his question: How do you know what truth is. I don’t know if I was rude to him, but I did not give him an answer. Instead, I told him, “You are a medical scientist, you know how to investigate it better. The only question is, are you really seeking the truth? If yes, then you will do your homework.” I said so because I wanted him to search and find truth by himself.
Anyone who wishes to test truth seeks logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance of it. That applies to morality as much as it does to science.
Coming back to post-truth. Cambridge dictionary defines post-truth as “relating to a situation in which people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts.”
In the media or the political sphere today, we call these truths as narratives. The Chinese narrative of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) narrative, The American narrative, the Hindutva narrative, etc. The WHO congratulates the Chinese in their narrative. The Americans condemn the Chinese in their narrative. Are we satisfied with these narratives? Since we have rejected the truth, aren’t we left with narratives that ultimately deceive us?
Thinker and historian Yuval Harari said, “The truth is, ‘truth’ has never been high on the agenda of Homo sapiens. If you stick to unalloyed reality, few people will follow you.” Does Harari presume that he is speaking the truth?
Harari is right that humans have been fascinated by myths from the beginning. But just because false beliefs and superstitions thrive does not make truth non-existent or irrelevant? Stories and legends captivate the human imagination and can even bypass logic and reasoning. Stories and legends are beautiful when their substance is truth and love. But they are dangerous when corrupted with deceit.
When a popular journalist from India Today news channel asked Harari over a call for his comment on India’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, he was hoping Harari would praise the Hindutva narrative. But Harari rightly spoke against the fascist narrative that vilified Muslims as the spreaders of the virus in the country. But if Homo sapiens are wired to believe narratives, why is he condemning one story over the other? Is he not trying to lean towards what he believes is the truth? Yes, otherwise, his philosophising will be self-defeating. That is why even Nietzsche confessed: “I am still too pious that even I worship at the altar where God’s name is truth.”
If you observe carefully, in post-truth times it is not really that truth is relative and we all can live in harmony with our personal truths. It is a false narrative to legitimise our own way when we are not at the receiving end.
The conversation with my friend that I am writing about is fictional, but through a story I am truthfully arguing my point.
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias spoke at UN prayer breakfast 2016. He mentioned speaking to a person at the venue who had spoken with all the ambassadors there individually, and had asked them one question, ‘do you have any hope for future’. Everyone gave him a long speech on what they thought the future may hold, but none gave an answer in the affirmative.
I asked my friend the same question way before the ongoing pandemic hit us. He said he did not see any hope. “We are doomed,”he said. Why have we lost hope? Is it because we don’t trust others anymore? Is it that when we reject truth, we find it hard to trust others?
In this post-truth pandemic, truth is killed in the halls of scientific laboratories, politics, judiciary, governance, academia, hospitals, religious centres and in the secret recesses of our hearts.
However, there is an ultimate cry for justice in every heart when wronged. And, justice counts on truth. Without justice and truth, civilization will crumble. The post-truth narrative is another deceit of the post-truth species. Until we begin to seek the truth in our hearts, the future for humanity will look grim.
George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” So what does it mean to speak the truth? To speak the truth, we first need to know the truth. Our Indian sages sought it in a prayer in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, which says, “Lead me from the untruth to the truth…”
The reason my friend initially thought truth does not apply to morality or belief as it applies to science is that materialism has taught us to believe that our reality is mere material. We rejected transcendence. As love transcends chemistry, so does truth transcend the physical, i.e., the body. Martin Luther King, in his Nobel-prize speech, said: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” If this is true, where do we see this? Here is a clue. I see this on the Cross. The one who died on the Cross and rose again said, “I am the Truth.”