From post-truth to John Gough
Tony Philpott’s forthright article on ‘Truth, garbage and politics’ (30 March) was welcome.
Politicians have always delivered half-truths and ambiguous rhetoric to a sometimes angry electorate. The difference today is that ‘alternative facts’ have become elevated, largely via the use of social media, to the status of a ‘norm’ in both our political and private culture.
It seems unlikely that we will regain a sense of reality by any natural process. So, how can we, as ‘Friends of the Truth’, help protect our democracy and counter this debasement of cherished qualities of personal integrity? Not by an insistence on ‘absolute truth’, as espoused by early Quakers. ‘Absolute truth’ oppresses debate and supports dictatorship in politics and intolerance in private attitudes.
But we can, for example, demand that Google and other online disseminators of information step up their efforts to filter ‘fake news’. Also, as educators in schools, or as parents, many of us know the great opportunity to lead young minds to examine facts, to reject disreputable sources of information and to challenge misrepresentation.
Following an example set in the USA, Quaker activists could be recruited and trained to ask the ‘unaskable’ questions that demand truthful, ‘unfudged’ responses from our public figures.
Our society has a long-term fight on its hands – how best can the Quaker influence be developed?
Friend Tim Rouse bemoans in his letter (30 March) Young Friends’ plight of being assumed to be unfamiliar with our Quaker business method and being eternally greeted as newcomers in a Local Meeting.
This reminded me of an experience I had in a Local Meeting I previously belonged to. I was in my early thirties and had been coming on and off to this particular Local Meeting for about eight months.
One Sunday, at notices, a Friend distributed a paper in preparation for the following Sunday’s business meeting. Over tea this Friend asked me: ‘Is this your first time at Meeting?’ I enlightened him that it wasn’t and told him that I had taken a copy of his paper, as I was planning to attend business meeting. ‘Oh, good,’ he said, looking somewhat surprised.
The following Sunday I was appointed Local Meeting clerk, a position I had already held in a different Meeting a decade earlier.
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