This morning I am thinking about truth.
It’s such a bendable issue, such a dangerous issue. We each live according to our very personal version of truth, but when our truth kills someone, or infringes on their sovereignty, who is to blame? Truth?
This week two young police officers were shot and then shot again (execution style) where they lay injured. Two other police officers escaped barely, by running into the surrounding bush and raising the alarm. A next door neighbour was also shot when he came to see what was occurring.
It was a routine welfare check; there was no way that the police officers could have anticipated what erupted on a quiet rural property.
There are other details, which are all over the news so I am not going to elaborate because I don’t think they are as important as the impetus behind the murders.
The impetus was truth. Or at least the murderers (three) version of it. The world is enmeshed in conspiracy theory. Millions of humans are stuck in dark corners in their own minds.
We operate according to our personal truth. Our version. Our beliefs. We seek reinforcement for those beliefs, we bond with those that mirror our ideologies and in this time of Uber connection to everything and everyone – every fetish and desire and belief finds a like minded tribe.
It’s terrifying how utterly deluded some people can become.
I know a guy that is otherwise pretty normal who once embroiled me in a conversation regarding Covid conspiracy theory; the things he said, the places his mind went and tried to drag mine were quite amazing. Luckily, I have very firm ground on which I stand and in the end, (when I could get a works in) I replied in the most diplomatic way I could
“I don’t believe any of this” I said. I didn’t offer counter facts or argument. I stated that his facts did not align with my beliefs. Oddly, that was enough.
It was awkward and then it was fine. He knew where I stood, I knew where he did. End of discussion. Now and then when I see him, he still sometimes tries to convince me of the latest conclusions that some website or other has drawn. I shake my head and smile. Then he recalls, I am not capable of being enlightened to the dark currents that apparently sweep beneath our society.
I’m aware of dark currents but mostly that they are perpetuated by so called truth seekers that are primarily fed lies by mayhem peddlers who emotionally feed on drama and disorder.
I am dismissive, light and let people think what they want to think. That is, after all, one of our last great freedoms – to think as we wish.
But when that thinking turns into violent action against innocent people who are going about their work in this world, then I have to wonder if it is okay to think whatever we want, or is it incumbent upon ordinary society to call people out on their crap.
During the Covid years I was scanning groceries at Woolies when a particularly lively roaming shop assistant began telling me all about how her son had put her onto a website with all sorts of information that refuted what the government was telling us. She prattled on while I sped up scanning my groceries. Finally, unable to bear it any longer I said “I’m sorry, I don’t believe any of this and I know you do, that’s your business but I’m just trying to buy some groceries here”
Her face dropped, the glow in her eyes turned hard and her mouth tightened. She walked over to “assist” someone else. I felt sad for her but also bullied and harrassed by her passionate opinions, opinions she was trying to force on me.
Her theories gave her power. She was fully charged with indignation and wrath. This is why people love the dark lure of conspiracy and so called knowledge. It empowers them. They like to pit themselves against the government that they feel is the enemy or trying to control them.
They are rebels. We are sheep. They are free, we are weak and easily deceived. They, them, us, we. It’s incredibly divisive and damaging to society as a whole.
I get defensive and annoyed when attacked with so called truth, but so do the misinformed who would label me misinformed, and then we retreat to our separate camps and hurl rocks at each other. Worse is yet to come as “evidence” for all sorts of things can be faked and deep faked by AI and then passed around the internet and labelled truth.
We will become lost and drown if we don’t hold onto the one thing that can always be relied upon. Our shared humanity. People really are hard to hate up close. This is not something that will be solved by government. It is going to be solved by communities, conversations, inclusiveness.
Hate and conspiracy thrive in the dark and disconnected places. They thrive on being set apart and laughed at.
After the events of the week and the details that have emerged on just how alienated and weird the thinking of these murderers had become, I did briefly consider if citizens have a duty to report strange and radical thinking to someone in authority. But then I immediately realised that doing so was playing into the hands of hate.
I don’t like having awkward conversations. I don’t like arguing. And I have always subscribed to the “don’t argue with an idiot they will just drag you down and beat you with experience” point of view, but if I am in the circumstance where someone opens up the pandoras box of their “truth”, and I find it alarming, I have to treat it more seriously than I have in the past and have a conversation from my own version of truth.
“I don’t believe that” is more helpful than “you’re wrong” when faced with a person who is passionate about a differing point of view.
We are all entitled to our beliefs and it doesnt have to end in a frustrating debate or an argument to be of a contrasting opinion. I try not to isolate or ridicule anyone because I know that’s dangerous. But common sense has to be used in order for it to begin to prevail over some of the ridiculous falsehoods that are making the rounds of the web.
It’s so sad to think of the tragedy of young lives lost to other lives that were ruined and warped by falsehoods dressed as truth – who are also now lost but already were before they were snuffed out by a bullet.
What a waste. And now it’s Christmas, a time of year that celebrates the birth of another life that was cut short because a mob turned violently on the whim of “facts”.
Nothing much has changed.
My prayers and thoughts are with police and front line service men and women everywhere at this horrible juncture in time.