If What You’re Really Interested In Is The Truth
By Dennis Loo (3/28/14)
It has become popular nowadays to say that "everyone has their truth." Anyone who asserts that there is such a thing as objective truth is seen from that perspective as being impolite, arrogant, inflexible or dogmatic and to be avoided in polite company. It is true that there are those who assert that they have a monopoly on the truth and that their critics should be silenced. But these sorts are hucksters and reactionaries who are not truly interested in the truth but are instead interested in dominion over others. They are frequently to be found citing chapter and verse from holy texts or from secular versions of such allegedly uncontestable authority. One of the telltale signs of their lack of fidelity to and feigned concern for the truth is precisely their intolerance for dissenting views and their refusal to have an open discussion and debate with those who disagree with them.
There is also a phenomenon that declares that truth is wrapped up in one's "identity." According to identity politics, what is true is specific to, knowable by, and only really understood by those of a subgroup such as one's gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on. Others "wouldn't understand" and have "no right to speak about" the truth known by that group. While people's identities obviously vary due to differences in life experiences, positioning in various social inequalities, and so on, treating identity as the be all and end all interferes with or makes impossible finding common ground and working to end the marginalization of certain groups. The zenith of this outlook's shortcomings I witnessed firsthand while attending a conference at the University of California at Santa Cruz during the 1990s when a well-known African-American scholar actually declared at a plenary session that "we should accept it that we will always be at the margins [of power]." In other words, he was making a virtue out of being marginalized and oppressed and ruling off the table the effort and goal of ending oppression.
The intolerant belligerence of those like Bill O'Reilly and others of the Right finds an unlikely ally philosophically with those of some of the political Left in postmodern and identity politics. Both advocate an exclusivist philosophy. Truth is not something, however, that is anyone's exclusive territory to be jealously guarded against others. That approach reflects an atitutde of treating truth as a commodity to be hoarded rather than as something to be shared.
If what you’re really interested in is the truth, even if the truth means inconvenience, difficulty, embarrassment, and/or sacrifice on your part to acknowledge and act upon what’s true, because truth is what animates you rather than what is personally expedient, then approaching things in a straightforward and fearless manner and taking on all comers and critics is not only going to characterize your attitude, it must characterize you because truth emerges through contention and controversy.
What is true has always had to fight against the odds to be accepted and what is true is something that is a process rather than a finished product. Humanity has grown in its understanding of the universe, both the physical and the social and psychological, through striving for what is scientific and what corresponds to facts and evidence. It has had to do so and will continue to have to do so against the complacency and frequent hostility (including deadly hostility) of at least some (usually most or even all) established authorities throughout history. Those who prize the truth, therefore, have to be courageous and willing to take on the odds in the name of fighting for what is more advanced.
Being sure of one’s self in this particular manner, then, and speaking plainly and fully and always inviting debate and thorough discussion and exploration is not a sign of arrogance, dogmatism, or inflexibility but the opposite of those attitudes.
One does not get to the truth by hiding behind the seal of authorities’ approval or the safety of seeing things “the way everyone else sees it,” but by braving the storms of controversy and insisting on truth and empirical evidence being the ultimate authority.
It is not acceptable to acknowledge that something is true but be unwilling to act upon that truth. It is also not acceptable and should be roundly criticized to refuse to acknowledge what is true because it is personally inconvenient or disadvantages your interests. Those who elevate their own private interests over the interests of the whole are destroying the world. It is time for us to gather together our forces and to win increasingly larger circles of those who recognize this fact to wage the fight that needs to be waged to take the fate of the planet out of the hands of those who are now imperiling the planet.