Truth and Propaganda

In the days before the printing press, and for a long time after, information was controlled by a minuscule group of people, who because of their monopoly were able to wield almost complete control over the beliefs of the general populace. Therefore the distributed propaganda favored the large, stable, monopolistic systems, whether they be a monarchy or organized religion.

No longer. The internet has distributed the locus of information control among the general populace and thus made propagandists of us all. The very nature of this democratization means that much of the distributed propaganda instead favors the diffuse, progressive, experimental ideas that themselves form the basis of our new systems of mass communication.

True, accurate information now exists in greater abundance, but in far greater proportional scarcity than before.

Accurate information is rarely emotionally compelling when compared to lies that have been designed specifically for the triggering of emotion in a targeted group. Therefore, because in regards to information for the general public, what is most emotionally compelling is what people are most willing to pay for and consume, the profit motive drives all propagandists, whether they be independent bloggers or large media conglomerates, to craft scandalous, controversial narratives that never resolve so long as they can generate attention and escalate so long as the public is entranced.

In the western world, detailed and entertaining information is now easier to get than food or water. But truth regarding contentious issues and moral quandaries is as difficult to obtain now as it was during the dark ages.

Not because the truth is nowhere to be found, but because we all believe we’ve already found it.

Accepting Chaos

I have an important question to ask you.

How many actions do you witness on a daily basis that are in anyway motivated by concerted efforts towards virtue or rationality? Include your own actions in that census of course, and be honest with yourself.

For myself, the number of such actions is so small as to be negligible, to the degree that such striving towards virtuous action usually sticks in my minds for months. I pat myself on the back for good deeds and am flabbergasted when someone interrupts their normal programming to reach out a hand to help another or refrain from a reflexive and toxic behavior.

Most of what we do is done without conscious care or consideration. The philosophical principles we study and logically understand only come into play if we make a massive moment-to-moment effort. Of course, in our pre-agricultural society, this made perfect sense. Actions needed to be quick and instinctive.

But modern life has granted us copious leisure time with which we can design our own standards of conduct. Few use their free hours in such a way. Even fewer actually apply the lessons they glean from centuries of the written word.

Therefore, in dealing with ourselves and other people, it is important to understand we are not dealing with consistent belief systems housed in logical minds. Each and every one of us is a web of conflicting drives and subpersonalities that all vie for manifestation in action.

Rationality, logic, and morality are not the default ideals or modes of being. In fact, those very words and their conceptual contexts took millennia to develop. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t expect them or feel they are owed to you by the individuals that make up our civilized society.

High standards will save you, and transform your life. But if you expect them, demand them from the external world, you will become embittered and distanced from the environment. Or else you will fall into the trap of cynicism, and adjust your standards to match the brutality and thoughtlessness that exists all around.

Progress is achieved through aiming at an ideal, whilst meeting external conditions and your own psyche exactly where they are in the present moment. 

An honest acceptance of conditions is the necessary precondition to conforming them to a virtuous ideal.

Truth is Order

Truth is the only stable organizational principle.

It is the equivalent of “nature” in the realm of ideas, in so far as “nature” can be defined as what selects for survival and reproduction of biological entities.

The truth is what can be arrived at by differed peoples across time and space, and that does not change according to the beliefs of the preceptor.

“But matter itself is directly affected by measurement at the quantum level!”

Indeed, but isn’t that statement itself an expression of conclusions based on repeatable, measurable phenomena? Isn’t our understanding of quantum mechanics still contingent on Truth, even if only as a measure of contrast?

We are disinclined to place importance on objective truth to the exact degree that such a value system would erode our current mode of existence.

The Truth is destructive of all that does not adhere to it. Perhaps a healthy fear of tyranny is what averts our eyes from those facts and phenomena that would cause us pain and direct us to change.

So often, our relationship to the world is rendered toxic by a pathological definition of truth:

That Truth is whatever our individual mind possesses.

Such a definition is so flimsy that it either makes our behavior disorganized and chaotic or else our identities so rigid that we stagnate because any change would imply our previous presumption of the Truth was completely false, and thus contradict the very principle our definition of Truth is founded upon.

The Truth is not something you inflict on other people. If it must be inflicted, enforced, propagandized, it is likely not the truth.

Because if it were true, why would force be required to make it manifest in the world?