What is truth? How do we know what is true? When one looks at the earlier evolution of this word in English and other European languages, one finds that it was created from something other than what we know as facts at this point in history. Do you know the ‘truth’. Are you sure? What is the basis for your position?
Further research shows that ‘truth’ in many respects is a faith-based position. Meaning that we ‘agree’ that something is true based on the information given at the time… Based on so called ‘facts’ provided.
But what if the facts provided are not true? What if they are the opposite of ‘truth’—a ‘falsehood’, a ‘lie’?
What I am getting at here is that a lot of what we have come to accept as truth are little more than ‘beliefs’, that is, ‘faith-based positions’.
Truth in terms of theory, is simply what we believe now (currently) based on the information we have at hand in a process where we compare our ‘perception’ of what is ‘true’ with ‘reality’ which is a sort of baseline of understanding that each person, group, culture etc. holds at any given point in human history.
For us to function as human beings and to create and maintain our sense of self, we seem to have a driving need to seek ‘truth’—even ‘the’ truth. Surely most religions stem from this driving need as a cultural imperative? This drive originates from our ‘consciousness’, our awareness of self—our ego, as it were. Our ego drives our sense of importance and individuality. This part of us, compels us to ask, ‘Who am I? Where am I from? Where am I going?’ For most of us, this leads to questions about death and the fear of death. For many, this leads to seeking some kind of creator, god, prophet, teacher, teachings, religion that ‘tell us’ what the ‘truth’ is.
Think about it: what evidence—hard evidence—do we have for the ‘truth’ about Krishna, Jesus, The Great Spirit, etc. We go by what people tell us and what we read in books like the bible, yes?
Why do we do this? Why do we create belief systems (that can have some value but) then insist on them being ‘facts’? Is it because we have a need to know? Because our ego compels us to fear death? Is it because we are unwilling, or worse unable, to comprehend that there may be little more than the birth/death cycle and that other than consciousness of self, we are pretty much the same as the rest of the animals on this planet? Really? What do you believe or believe to be true? How did you come to those ‘beliefs’ or ‘truths’ or so called facts?
Considering that the first human settlements started about 7,700 years ago many of our current ‘truths’ are quite recent and some are still being questioned, like, how old the earth is or do women have equal value? Until only 300 years ago (less than 5% of human history) most cultures believed the earth was flat. The “Flat Earth” society has existed since 1800. They have proof that the earth is flat. That is the ‘truth’ as they see it.
Galileo, in 1616, espoused the theory that the earth revolved around the sun which was contrary to the popular belief stemming from people’s understanding being dominated by priests and the monotheistic teaching of the bible and Christendom. (Ecclesiastes 1:5 states ‘And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place’ etc.) Galileo was tried by the courts for ‘vehement suspicion of heresy’ and lived out his days in house arrest.
How about feminism? Women’s equality? This movement was borne of gross inequality which continues in much of the world. Not only did western women not have the right to own property or vote, it was believed that they did not even have souls.
As recently as the 19th century Europeans held the belief that storks delivered babies by dropping them down chimneys.
It was only in the eighteen hundreds that Louie Pasteur (who discovered pasteurization) finally got people to believe in ‘germ theory’ (that there are dangers posed by things we cannot see with the ‘naked’ eye).
So what has changed? Yes there is a lot more ‘information’ and we heart about the ‘truth’ coming out, but, do we really want to know the truth? Really?
If we really value the truth, then why are we not acting on it? Why do we treat whistle-blowers the way we do? Why do we create labels to discount, minimize and marginalize those who speak the truth?
Because it brings awareness like a chilling breeze that feels uncomfortable, to which we respond by recoiling, shrinking back, digging in and my all time favorite, attacking and shooting the messenger.
Labels like negative, pessimist, alarmist, doomsayer, greenie, hippie, pinko, wobbly, environmentalist, anarchist, bleeding heart and my favorite: radical (from the Latin word for ‘root’). Ironically, a ‘radical’ is simply someone who addresses the ‘root’ of the problem.
As Thoreau wrote: ‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.’
If we really care about the ‘truth’ then why do we lie each and every day? We lie to each other about things as small as our feelings. Like, ‘I love you’ when we do not have those feelings.
A common complaint I get from people is their friends saying they will help with moving, when, in fact, they have no intention of helping. The moving family relies on their friends telling the truth and come moving day, are faced with a very sad surprise. The people who said ‘yes’ wanted the good feelings of saying ‘yes’ only to hurt the people to whom they lied. Many times I have helped people move where only one or two people showed up.
How about Christ-mass? Where many of us pretend and hope that (somehow—by magic) that things will be different? When in fact we have avoided doing the real work of ‘relationship’ for 364 days and then wonder why the ‘magic of Christ-mass’ does not change any of that. So again, we prefer living a lie as we deem that preferable.
How about ‘recycling’? And the fliers we get from local governments proudly trumpeting how much we are ‘diverting’ from the landfill. First, where are we ‘diverting’ it too? Most of our blue box crap goes all the way to China, then back again as stuff we will buy that we don’t need, and then throw ‘away’, this time a broken toy or lawn chair that cannot be ‘recycled’. Some love to argue that ‘Well, at least its something’. Really?
Let me get this straight… 10% of the world’s population (us) consumes 90% of the world’s resources and then we have trucks specially designed to take our ‘waste’ ‘away’ to a recycling facility, a composting facility and a ‘landfill’? Who decided that the land needed ‘filling’? And if it is ‘filling’ we want to accomplish, why are so many ‘landfills’ mountains now?
My point is that while ‘recycling’ might be a good thing in and of itself, in the larger scope of things, it is largely ‘feel-good’ because what we really need is a reduction in our overall consumption by about 75%.
How does that feel? It that uncomfortable? Lets keep in mind that ‘recycling’ is a ‘last resort’. The hierarchy is actually: Rethink, Respect, Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Repair, and as a last resort… Recycle.
So the ‘problem’ with recycling is the degree to which we use it to obfuscate and avoid the larger underlying issue of consumption and the incredibly un-sustainable lifestyle we live.
How about ‘climate’ change. We talk about it but what are we actually doing about it? We, as a country, opted out of Kyoto. We talk of ‘carbon offsets’ and ‘carbon credits’ —what? A local airline advertises flying ‘carbon neutral’. How in earth’s name do you do that? Is the plane made out of organic hemp and drift wood? Do some really big strong men twist the propeller which has a giant rubber band attached to it underneath? Does it run off organic veggie oil that was grown on toxic golf courses and milled by windmill power? No?
Oh, I get it. When I buy my plane ticket I can opt for a ‘carbon credit’ surcharge… This ‘credit’ can then be ‘sold’ to another country as a pollution credit which helps them by keeping their emission numbers down by use ‘credits’ sold to them. Really? How is that ‘carbon neutral’?
The last one I will address, in what could be a book, is the new religion. It is only about 55 years old or two generations. The high priests (who are lying madmen) now wear three-piece suits and lab coats selling us products like automatic air fresheners that make our already toxic houses smell like a forest or field of flowers using petrochemicals and disposable packaging. Products like bouncy, cling free, swiffer, etc.— garbage to further delude us into thinking that everything is okay.
The church is now the TV, the televangelists are the ‘sponsors’ which, on TV commercials (as well as radio, newspaper, magazine and internet), lure us by employing our primordial urges: the need to feel good, the need to belong, social success, material success, sexual pairing, offspring, cute animals etc.
The mantra, rather than being ‘Jesus is Lord’ or ‘Alla Akbar’ is buy, buy, buy! Now the average consuming Canadian is 150% in debt relative to their net worth. The average Canadian spends $1,400.00 at Christ-mass. The average Canadian watches 25 hours of TV per week, the average American, 35 hours.
Why? How did we get here? A bigger question is: who is benefitting from all of this? On the surface, we all are. The number one thing on every Canadian’s mind is ‘Jobs and the Economy’. So one of the greatest lies ever promulgated is the lie of unlimited resources (on a finite planet, by the way).
Look around. Do simple searches on the ‘net. Or are you insisting that ‘things are getting better’? Sure, some things are. Look up ‘land grabs’ where China and middle eastern countries are leasing and buying land in other countries because they are running out of water and soil to feed themselves and keep their population happy. Note the many food riots around the world even with record harvests in the last 10 years.
Notice that the proof of ‘peak oil’ is that other countries like China and Norway are investing billions into extracting fuel from tar in some of the harshest conditions on earth!
Do a simple search of ‘violence against women, Toronto’ and find that it has doubled in ten years and the severity and nature of the violence has become even more disproportionally extreme.
So on the surface ‘we’ benefit from a ‘higher standard of living’ but what about our ‘quality of life’? What about all the hours (both) parents work now? What about the epidemic of single parents from a divorce rate of over 50%, 75% in the second marriage and 85% in the third? What about the epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and cancer? (One in four Canadians is slated for cancer and one in four children in Canada is slated for diabetes.
So who is really benefitting from the dramatic increase in our standard of living while our quality of life continues to decline and while we are compensating for the empty feeling inside us with shopping—spending yet more on birthdays, Halloween and Christ-mass? (Most retailers set up Christ-mass on Halloween night.) The answer is to ‘follow the money’. If and when we stop lying to ourselves and each other, and stop accepting the lies of the ‘high priests’ of marketing and consumerism, who sell us ‘happiness’ and instead, start telling the truth, then there is hope.
In today’s materialistic world, the ‘ruling class’ elite (some which still live in castles) are like popes, the CEO’s and marketers are the cardinals and bishops (the 1%, usurping the vast majority of the world’s ‘wealth’). For example there is a mansion for sale near Victoria, BC for just shy of $80 million. Canada has 60 billionaires, the US has 1,210 billionaires or 34% of the world’s billionaires (while only being 3% of the world’s population). A quick search on Christie’s auction site shows dozens of mansions priced at over $20,000,000.00. No they did not ‘work for it’! Who can produce more than $100,000 per year in labour, creativity, child care, elder care, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a basketball, or whacking piece of black rubber with a stick past a goalie?
My question is: What is truth? What is your truth? Are they really your truths? Where did you get them? Do you really agree, deep down inside? How well are they really serving you?
What truths would you like to have? Are you prepared to have this honest conversation with yourself? With others? If not, why? And if not now, when? What will it take? Sickness, injury, old age, a brush with death, divorce, bankruptcy?
If you feel deeply satisfied with your life and the world around you, then I guess, carry on. If not… Ask yourself and those you trust, what is really ‘true’. Figure out which lies you have been accepting, believing and repeating and stop the cycle of lies. Then start speaking the truth from a place of true ‘awareness’ of what things like ‘sustainability’ means for you, your children your grand children, all the children of the world and all of the living creatures in our ‘environment’ on our earth, we call home.
Then, when you and I get to the end of our life, we can feel good that we have truly been the very best human being we can be.
And that… that starts by asking ourselves what the ‘truth’ is.
Dirk Becker is an organic farmer, agricultural advocate and assists in the creation of this publication.