What is Truth?
Jesus once stood before Pontius Pilate and said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate, seasoned politician that he was, asked, “What is truth?” According to US News and World Report, everyone lies from once a day to two or three times in ten minutes. But then we don’t trust the news media, so why trust that statement?
The fact is, we all know that we will lie if our best friend asks how we like their haircut with a big smile on their beloved and inquisitive face. We lie if we really hate the hair cut, that is, otherwise there is no problem. We may lie boldly, “Oh, that looks so great.” We may lie more subtly, “Wow, you look so different.” We may try to change the subject, “Who does your hair? Where are they located?” We lie so we don’t hurt our friend’s feelings. We will also lie to enhance our image, to make a story more interesting, and to avoid the consequences of our bad choices.
Never Lower the Bar
The fact that people do lie does not let the government off the hook. Human beings condemn murder yet do murder; they condemn rape and yet commit rape. Should we just accept rape and murder because we don’t live up to our own standards? While people do universally lie, people also universally acknowledge that it is wrong, at least they universally acknowledge that they do not want people to lie to them. But why is it wrong to lie? What is going on when lies are told and believed?
Lying is an sneak attack on what may be our only truly inalienable, natural right: the right to choose. While Jefferson claimed that our Creator endowed us with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there are two problems with that statement. For one thing, if they are given by our Creator, does that mean atheists don’t have any, since they don’t have a Creator? And secondly, our life, our liberty, and our pursuit of happiness can be alienated from us at any moment; and so they are not inalienable.
Somewhere right now, someone’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is being forcibly alienated from them. Maybe we should call Jefferson’s rights fundamental rights, rights we all agree we want and therefore must extend to others. That way atheists can have them, too.
They Can’t Take Away Your Right to Choose
Although people’s fundamental rights are being forcibly alienated right now somewhere, nowhere on earth is their ability to choose being alienated by force. “Wait,” you protest, “a person in front of a firing squad has no choices.” Sure he does, he could kneel down and pray, he could burst into song, he could run toward the shooters (and wouldn’t they be surprised?) He doesn’t have a lot of pleasant choices, admittedly, but the private inner workings of his mind cannot be taken by force, as Viktor Frankl writes in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Choices Hour by Hour
Dr. Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist in Nazi Germany and was sent to a death camp. Even there, where everything could be taken away, the ability to choose how to react, hour by hour, could not be alienated. He found he could choose to focus on his frozen feet or on a flower poking up through the snow. He could form a choir of skeletal men to sing songs for the rest of the skeletal men, or lay around bemoaning his fate. He could think of his love for his young wife or imagine her death.
We Must Have Truth
If the ability to choose is the innate, inalienable right all humans possess, then truth is the fuel it requires for sustenance, like plants requires sunlight for sustenance. Truth is powerful and manipulators of power understand that very well. The fact that they with hold it from us shows us that they do not want to share their power.
Lies the Gvernment Told Us
For example, if we knew the truth that the US had financially supported both Saddam and the Taliban, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that most of the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and that Saddam had no connection with Al-Quaeda, would we have chosen to invade Iraq? We would certainly have asked some very inconvenient questions. Now that we know these things, are we angry that we were lied to, or do we accept it passively?
Recent Government Lies
In a more recent example, a man named Raymond Davis was arrested in Pakistan for shooting two Pakistanis. He claimed diplomatic immunity, he had a camera with photos of military installations, he shot the two men he said tried to rob him in the back, then got out of his car and took photos of the bodies. The US said he was “our diplomat” and must be released. When his status as a CIA spy was discovered, the administration asked US news media to say nothing-and they agreed!
The Truth Matters
Does it matter? The truth always matters, especially when US citizens are getting angry at Pakistan for holding “our diplomat,” who actually was a murdering spy. A UK newspaper, the Guardian, printed the truth, because they don’t have to answer to the US government about what they print (and our news media does?) Davis was released after $2 million in “blood money” was paid to the relatives of the men he shot.
Believe That and I’ll Tell you Another One
When Hilary Clinton was asked who paid the blood money, she said the US did not pay it. Do we believe that? People in Pakistan are furious, protesting, and demanding justice. If we showed their demonstrations on the nightly news would we spin it to say they were Taliban sympathizers? Would we be then choose to increase the size of the military budget and lay off teachers so we could afford to expand the military budget?
Good News Sources
The government lies to manipulate public opinion and the news media cooperates. We do not have a free press anymore. If we want the truth, we will have to hunt for it. During the Japan quake coverage I checked my six favorite news sources several times a day, and found that BBC News and Al-Jazeera offered the best, most comprehensive, most up-to-date and in-depth coverage worldwide. Find the truth, it is out there.
We have a right to choose and we must have the truth to choose wisely. Otherwise, they have wrested our power out of our hands and turned it against us to advance their own agenda. And that should make you very mad.