THE TRUTH WARS

THE TRUTH WARS

Epistemology and Why We Need It Now

Let’s talk about the truth. I started writing this a couple of weeks before the historic breach of the US capitol building on January 6, 2021, Though the events of the day have seared themselves into the memories of all who lived through them, the battle began decades earlier with politically-based disinformation wars.

After spending most of my adult life committed to global transformation and a new social contract, I am watching the old one ripped apart before my very eyes. Dovetailing emotions and thoughts spin me about as air currents curl smoke. Torn between wanting to believe in all the prophecies of a new golden age and feelings of fear as my homeland grapples with harsh reality, I spent the weeks between insurrection and inauguration collecting scraps of news to assure myself that the star-spangled banner yet waved.

I present here the second installment of a series I’m calling “My Conservative Values.” In the first, I called for a return to communication, alleging that there must be values that we hold in common with those who disagree with us. The search for online validation led to this quote:

“There are still things worthy of our love. Honor, decency, courage, beauty, and truth. Tenderness, human empathy, and a sense of duty. A good society. And a commitment to human dignity.”

Peter Wehner, The Atlantic 12/20/20

            Fact v Opinion

Mr. Wehner is a conservative writer, and though I agree with all of the values he named in his statement, the word ‘truth’ stands out to me. Truth is essential to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, yet it is under assault in our country today. We must learn how to recognize what’s factual and separate it from opinion.

The word ‘truth’ sounds solid, like ‘brick’ or ‘rock.’ But as we look closer, that which appears to be concrete turns to fog. Your verities sound like baloney to me and vice versa. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what about truth? In reality there are two kinds of truth; fact, or objective reality, and opinion, otherwise known as subjective reality.

The tendency to confuse fact with opinion seems to be baked into the human psyche. and our truths often collide. Some people say there’s no such thing as absolute truth, but I disagree. Facts represent objective reality. Snow forms when the temperature is below freezing, for example. In our numerical system three is greater than two. There is a correlation between burning fossil fuels and air quality. The goal of science is the discovery and sharing of objective truth.

Religious leaders, philosophers, and politicians deal more with subjective truth. Personal preferences, religious beliefs, and ideologies are all examples of opinion. Some people may think blondes are prettier than brunettes, but this is preference, not fact. The world is home to over two billion Christians. If you ask a true believer whether the virgin birth is opinion or fact, most would defend their faith as fact. We all have the right to believe anything we choose, but believing doesn’t make it so.  When we argue with others about our opinions, we might as well be children saying, “My dog’s better than your dog.”

Ideologies fall into the realm of secular thought, usually political. I think Jesus’ sense of humor has been underrated. Just think about his word picture of people who “strain at gnats and swallow camels.” Pretty funny when you think about it, but it’s all around us these days. Disinformation fuels conspiracy movements. It stretches my credulity to contemplate this, but recent polling, as reported online, indicates that millions of people currently believe the following: “Democratic politicians and Hollywood stars are part of a global network that tortures and sexually abuses children in Satanic rituals.”  Here’s the link if you’re interested.
https://www.wired.com/story/qanon-supporters-arent-quite-who-you-think-they-are/

          Barriers to Knowing the Difference: 1) Bias

Human thinking tends toward bias, a trickster that can cause us to confuse fact with opinion. We’re predisposed to accept or reject ideas based on how well they line up with our pre-existing beliefs. Bias can be validated and reinforced by disinformation, religious doctrines, and political ideologies. One’s social environment and conditioning shape preferences on such a deep level that they become as invisible as the proverbial air to the bird and water to the fish. People who have escaped to freedom from a communist country, for example, are apt to have a bias against socialist economic policies.

Scientists must always beware of their own biases when designing experiments and interpreting outcomes.  Prejudice can also affect the scope and design of research, limiting our knowledge base. For example, doctors currently know much more about how disease manifests and how to treat it in men than in women. This is because most studies throughout the history of medical research have focused on males.

The enticement of disinformation feeds on bias, seducing you to swallow fake stories you already want to believe like a fish taking the hook hidden in a worm. Make no mistake, there are movements invested in playing to your preferences. If you’re blind to them, you’re setting yourself up to fall for lies. We want reality to line up as neatly as a row of baby ducks, but in a global society as complex as ours, truth is far more nuanced than anything presented on the six o’clock news, let alone your favorite corner of the web.

One’s social environment plays a role, too. We’re all affected by the ‘group think’ of our communities. If you don’t know a single person who voted for the other party in the presidential election, (and many people in small-town middle America don’t) it might be hard for you to believe your candidate lost. This is only one of the many reasons millions of people believe that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.

          Barrier 2) Propaganda

We all want to think state propaganda doesn’t exist here in the land of the free, but if you paid attention in history class you know better. An old saying alleges, “Truth is the first casualty of war.” Governments have used misinformation to control the masses since the beginning of civilization. The United States is no exception.

This is a two-pronged problem. The first is obvious. For example, before the US invaded Iraq in 2003, our intelligence agencies knew that there was no credible evidence supporting the assertion that they had weapons of mass destruction. Yet the media became the megaphone for insistence from the White House to the contrary, persuading public opinion in favor of invading. The cost has been tragic. Both sides have suffered the loss of many thousands of lives. Veterans come home with physical and psychological injuries. We still spend billions on warfare while saying we have no resources for basic human needs or infrastructure at home.

The second prong of the propaganda problem is less obvious, but perhaps more dangerous. People who find out they’ve been lied to feel betrayed by their own government and mainstream media. As they struggle to make sense of a world in chaos, they become susceptible to anti-establishment disinformation. It doesn’t help to know that all corporate media outlets are owned by half-a-dozen companies. This is something conspiracy theorists point out, and they’re right.

As a ‘boomer’ I have lived through so many events shrouded in corruption, conspiracy and conjecture that there isn’t room here to narrate them. I resort to bullet points to mention a tiny percentage of topics in truncated subject headings:

  • JFK’s assassination
  • Watergate
  • The Pentagon Papers
  • Iran Contra, Oliver North et al
  • International Trade Deals/World Trade Organization/The World Bank

Human minds want answers, especially explanations that line up with their own biases. When the official story seems questionable, people will connect the dots on their own. Disinformation sources take advantage of the vacuum, filling it with fantasy and conjecture. Social media allows for the uninformed to comments and share, thus further shaping a false narrative.

           Down the Rabbit Hole

Is it any wonder, then, that millions of people follow breadcrumbs down a rabbit holes that leave them believing absurd allegations? Believers don’t get there overnight. It usually starts when someone you care about shares something you question, and they’re more than happy to provide you with the links to their sources. If you already feel disaffected and powerless it’s easy to get sucked in.

It’s tempting to think that it happens to those with less than top-notch critical thinking skills, but in my circles, it’s the most intelligent who fall the hardest. This, in spite of the fact that some conspiracy claims have ancient roots. The Q-anon allegation that liberals feast on the blood of babies, for example, repeats assertions made against witches and Jews in the middle ages.

If you’re lured by a friend or relative to read one of their introductory offers, I suggest you read up on the response from more widely trusted sources before getting in too deep. Unfortunately, believers dismiss anything that contradicts their bias as ‘fake news.’ This is true regardless of the political track record or party affiliation of the person who dares to disagree with the lies they believe.

          The Cost

The cost is huge on all levels, from personal to national. Those who invaded the US Capitol building on January 6 believed themselves to be heirs of the American Revolution of 1776.  Most remain convinced that they were true patriots acting to defend the country from a stolen election. There’s a truth crisis behind the historic insurrection and coup attempt that happened on January 6, 2021. We know how it came about.

Months before the 2020 presidential election the incumbent started saying that he couldn’t lose a fair election. He would repeat this statement hundreds of times. When he lost, his most loyal followers had the only evidence they needed to prove him right. What irony that His lies became their gold standard of truth, making it impossible to counter their belief with facts. After 60 court cases presented to 86 judges, many of them conservatives, the administration failed to present credible evidence confirming allegations of election fraud. Thousands of people stormed the capital to ‘Stop the Steal’ based on unfounded allegations.

This is the cost of living in a society that treats truth like chewing gum. We don’t value it, and toss it aside or stick it under the table when it doesn’t taste good anymore. Whistle-blowers are subjected to incarceration and punishments more appropriate for murderous mafia bosses than truth-tellers.  The little boy who cried wolf paid the price for playing games with his words. In our case, the cost could be our democratic republic.

          The Antidote

The antidote is honesty. Regardless of your beliefs, you can tell the truth as you understand it, and acknowledge your own bias. But, like a vaccine, it will only help if enough of us take the medicine. All of us need to play by the same rules. If you seek good faith communication while the person you’re talking to only wants to dominate and win an argument, the angels cry for both of you.

Allowing bullies to win the day serves no higher purpose. This conversation brings to mind an episode of the original Star Trek TV series in which Captain Kirk becomes divided between his kind but weak self and his aggressive but evil aspect. Our society sees human relations through this flawed dichotomy. We can and must take a stand for compassion as well as truth, for mercy as well as justice. The future belongs to the peaceful warrior.

It hurts too much to keep things the way things are. I, for one, am no longer willing to tolerate the damage and the pain. Perfect communication is an ideal, and no one is perfect. Some topics arouse so much passion that objectivity seems out of reach, but we can make a start. We all need to learn to say what we mean and mean what we say, but to say it in a way that isn’t mean.

The more we communicate honestly with each other, the closer we can come to operating from a healthy shared reality. Let’s all practice separating fact and opinion. Our thinking will become more flexible, and we’ll get better at making informed choices. We’ll be less likely to fall for the rhetoric of those who appeal to our emotions with agendas which may not be in our best interests.

There is a word which describes the study of truth, epistemology. We need it now. Only when we take this challenge to heart will we be able to create a win/win world. Learning to communicate honestly from truth is the skill that will lead us from the slums of dysfunction to the alabaster city shining on a hill. Please join me in the quest to Make America Honest. We have nothing to lose and a government of, by, and for The People to gain.

Do your own research and use your judgement. Here are some resources you might use for starters.

https://library.bridgew.edu/c.php?g=590539&p=4086409

https://www.newsguardtech.com/special-report-2020-lists/

https://www.npr.org/2019/10/29/774541010/fake-news-is-scary-heres-how-to-spot-misinformation

 

 

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My Conservative Values: Part One ~ A Call to Communication

My Conservative Values

Part One ~The Case for Communication

By Janus Blume © 2020

“Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”~Ambrose Bierce

In spite of our differences, I think we share core values we can use as a basis of communication~Janus L. Blumë

As I sit down to write this my mind goes back to a day when I participated in a human potential course. This happened a few years into my fourth decade of life, a pivotal time for me. With my youth behind me, I hoped for a life of contribution and satifsfaction. We were assigned to look deep within and identify a possibility, a core value that would make it worth getting out of bed every day for the rest of your life. For much of the afternoon, I drew a blank.

When my turn came, I went up onto the stage with trembling knees and declared, “My name is Janice Blumë. I am the possibility of a world with adequate nutrition, housing, and health care for every child born on Planet Earth, and I am the possibility that the United States of America is truly a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” No lesser vision could spark my soul. I have neither deviated from it nor turned my back on it since that day.

Devoting my life to the kind of social transformation it would take to achieve the vision I spoke of has guided me to a focus on my own personal transformation. This in turn has led to a deeply satisfying life, but manifesting my vision is not going as well. Children in the US currently experience food insecurity at unprecedented levels. Globally, the world allows over three million children to die of malnutrition each year while producing enough food for one and a half times the global population. The United Nations estimated that 168 million people would need humanitarian aid to survive 2020, “due to conflict and disasters, natural and manufactured.” This came out prior to COVID-19.

My mind cannot picture 168 million people, and certainly not three million children. If we were confronted with a single starving child, instead of numbers too big to comprehend, we might be moved to some sort of action. Pictures on the news seem distant, two-dimensional images with captions that focus on policy disagreements rather than the human crises they represent.

Facing problems of such national or global scope will require an unprecedented level of cooperation, yet the USA remains deeply divided. Conflict and disagreement go hand in hand with the democratic process, but it seems we have reached a stalemate. How can we survive as a democratic republic if we can’t work together?

On a personal level, I can’t even have a conversation beyond small-talk someone very dear to me. When my parents adopted me, my mother had a best friend with a teenaged daughter named Janice. They named me after her. I always looked up to her as a role model while growing up. She and I can’t have a heart-to-heart about current events because we’re on opposite sides of the conspiracy wars. Our relationship is too precious to threaten with discord around political ideology.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke might well be applied to the current culture of the US. I’m using ‘we’ as in “We the people,” the populace, the voters, the only legitimate source of governmental power recognized in our founding documents. It has become difficult, even impossible to agree to disagree. But If we have no ‘we,’ from where does our government derive its powers? It’s as if the Grand Canyon now exists in two forms. One, a vast chasm runs through Arizona. The other separates friends, neighbors, and families as surely as if we were standing on opposite sides of the Colorado River with cliffs a mile deep between us.

It’s painful, but that’s mere discomfort. The real problem with our dissension is that it stands in the way of actual progress. We need to address the problems of our nation. Given our military influence, we have a major impact on policies around the world. We can’t have a democracy without conflicts, discussion and compromise, but we seem to have lost the art of negotiation. I would love to engage in productive conversations with my fellow citizens. If we can’t discuss specifics now, maybe we can start by talking about the deeply-held values that unite us as a nation.

Don’t we all want to preserve the best aspects of our society? Democracy will fail unless we can effectively wrangle over public decisions which affect all of us. I dream of a country worth handing on to future generations—one which reflects our shared core values. It’s tempting to give up and conclude that there are none, but I’m not buying the cynicism. It’s too expensive.

My Conservative Values

Since one of my core values and the goal of this piece is communication, it might be most productive for me to start by sharing those I label conservative. One definition of conservative is “…traditional, handed down from generation to generation.” What values do I mean? One of them is democracy. I how my mother explained our system of government to me.

“We don’t have a king; we have a president,” she told me. “Every adult gets to vote, for who they want, young and old, rich and poor, men and women. When you grow up, you’ll get to vote, too.”

I was thrilled. How did I get so lucky? I lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave. As a child, you don’t question overtly. Somehow it seemed almost too good to be true. Sadly, it was. The promise of America shone for me as a precious jewel, yet there was much I didn’t know. We learned about slavery and the Indian wars in school, but the mindset of American exceptionalism, the threats of Godless communism, and the words in our textbooks painted White America as the good guys, the torch-bearers of Western civilization.

I came of age during the era of Viet Nam, the Watts riots, and Woodstock, but I didn’t start to wake up until the late 80s. I came to comprehend that this nation was built on land stolen from her original inhabitants, land that produced great wealth. Yet those riches were coaxed from the soil and harvested by slaves, the victims of human trafficking and their offspring. But we don’t need to deny our history to maintain our status as a great nation. In fact, facing reality might go a long way toward healing and uniting us.

Democratic Ideals in a Changing World

Although our history contains horrific events, I want to think that we can evolve. I want to see our future to better fulfill the ideals for which we would like to stand. If we agree to seek common ground so that we might learn to talk to each other again, we might start with our founding documents. Our founders risked life and limb to institute their new form of government. These opening words of our Constitution and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence still stir my heart.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

~The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -“

~The Preamble to The Declaration of Independence

We can’t ignore the gender specification in The Declaration. “…all men are created equal…” and “Governments are instituted among Men…” (emphasis mine). The word choice reminds us of the social changes this country has seen in its relatively short history. When the nation was founded, the idea of citizenship for women, black men, or native Americans was unthinkable. In fact, enfranchisement for every land-owning white male was a radical idea. We still grapple with the details of extending equality to all adults regardless of gender , sexual preference, or ethnicity. Protestors in the streets remind us that we have fallen far short in our attempts.

A concept called the ‘paradox of tolerance tells us that when we tolerate intolerance, the intolerant will inevitably take over. As it now stands, intolerance and obstruction keep us from conducting the business of the nation. This has to change if the bold experiment in democracy that we call the United States will ever live up to its potential. We need to grow up, respect each other as human beings, and learn to communicate cleanly, powerfully, and ethically. I wonder if we’re up to the task?

As stated in the title, this has been part one of “My Conservative Values.” In “Part Two—Starting Points.” I will  name more ideas I consider conservative, and look at Abraham Lincoln’s call for re-dedication to a people’s government. In addition, I plan to write about Gandhi’s words and ideas relating to the self and the world. I hope you will join me. Please feel free to leave comments or email me.

 

 

 

 

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An Update on “Witchcraft Power and Transformation…”

A Progress Report on “Witchcraft Power and Transformation…”

 

We don’t have a book yet, but we have a cover!

 

With great joy, gratitude, and excitement I share with you the final design for the book cover for Witchcraft Power and Transformation. There are not enough words to thank Steph Sparks for that beautiful cat with the magical eyes, Mia Pak for the gorgeous graphic design, and Rachel McCauley for the photo. These women have freely given their time and talent to help make my first major writing project a success. Scott Barnes gave his time to read the manuscript and gave me permission to print his glowing response beneath my bio.

 

AND HERE IT IS, TA DA!

 

 

The manuscript is once again with the formatter for some important changes. After then it will go to my editor again for review to fix anything which may have gone wrong from the formatting process. The expertise of these professionals is vital to creating a professional work. Learning to allow for turnaround time has been a tremendous lesson in patience for me.

By the way, I’m looking for another person to review the manuscript next time I get it back. If you have proofreading skills and would like to help get this project launched, please let me know. I love my book cover, and I hope you like it too. Your feedback is very welcome.

Virtual hugs and kisses to all.

 

 

 

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WE THE PEOPLE VOTE

October 16, 2020

Hello Family:

Casting my ballot at City Hall

Election time in the USA, and the challenges we face seem as desperate and divisive as they could possibly be! I remember when I learned that I lived in a democracy. I would have the right and the opportunity to vote when I grew up, and my vote would carry the same weight as anyone else’s, even the richest man in the country. It thrilled me to learn about the kind of civic power bestowed on the citizens of this land, and I still believe in the spark of liberty at the heart of this country. We can do better! We the people may not agree on how to get there, but we have already agreed that we stand for the freedom of every individual to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty and justice for all!

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True Color Monitors & All One Personal Books Workplace

By the same illusion which lifts the horizon of the sea to the level of the the sable cloud beneath was dished out and the car seemed to float in the middle of an dme illusion which lifts the horizon of the sea to the level of arof sable cloud beneath was dished out and the car seemed to float in the middle…

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