Back in 2012 I wrote a book (Life: A Player’s Guide – still lurking in the musty vaults of Amazon somewhere, I think). Near the beginning of it, I wrote these words:
My truth works very well for me, and it may well work for you, but please notice that I am not proclaiming it as THE truth. I am perfectly comfortable with people holding different beliefs to me. Once I start proclaiming that what I believe is ‘The Truth’, I move into the realms of fanaticism and religion; discrimination and wars. It makes me right and other people wrong, and that is not a space I want to be in.
So I say instead, “I have found A truth.”
You are free to follow it, or search for one that works better for you.
I stand by that. I think those were amongst the wisest words I ever wrote.
The world today seems more factionalised and divided than it was back when I wrote those words, as we are confronted by issues no one can ignore. This image and quote appeared on a social media post I saw this morning. Perhaps you can guess the context or viewpoint of the person who posted it.
So OK, let’s take the Covid issue as a case in point – although we could just as easily select global warming or a host of other current issues.
Side A takes a particular stance. Side B takes a very different stance. Both sides seek out and pay an impressive array of experts, statisticians and graphic artists to emphasise their point. There follows a stand-off with both sides spewing out endless media to support their ‘Truth’.
The problems come when the establishment espouses one of the two viewpoints, because once governments have decided which one they believe, they have (or borrow) vast amounts of money to hammer home their Truth as the only one. This instantly galvanises a counter-establishment which becomes increasingly vocal in proclaiming its alternative Truth.
Once the establishment begins to legislate, the anti-establishment groups begin to unite in acts of protest and defiance. The protestors and their attitudes vary from nation to nation, depending on their government’s policy. So in Brazil, for example, they protest in their thousands against President Jair Bolsonaro’s refusal to acknowledge the dangers of what he termed ‘little flu’. In much of Europe the protests are against vaccination and perceived infringements of liberties. In the UK, we recently had an interesting situation in which freedom activists went ahead with Saturday marches to protest about being forced to wear masks in indoor public spaces, despite this directive having been repealed a couple of days before! A shame to bin those carefully made placards, perhaps.
So yes, governments love legislating – it’s what they do. And protestors love protesting – it’s what they do.
Now, though, there is the vaccination issue. Here the truths on every side become ever more woolly and difficult to prove. Vaccination was a bone of contention long before Coronavirus reared its spiky little head.
The French government has decided to take a hard line – there the ‘health passport’ (proof of vaccination or negative covid test) is already in use in cinemas, tourist sites and nightclubs. From the beginning of August this will be extended to bars, restaurants, cafés, some shopping malls as well as long distance train or bus services. Other governments are watching with interest…
Meanwhile, on the other side, I was told yesterday of an elderly man who approached a friend of mine in great distress. He is on one side of the vaccination debate and his wife is on the other. He is double-jabbed. She is not. She has now told him he must stay away from her and her friends because of the danger he poses to them. Her argument is that since he has been vaccinated, his DNA has been changed and he has been polluted to the point that he presents a hazard to herself and other ‘unpolluted’ citizens.
It’s a pity St Anthony the Great (apparently there are quite a few St Anthonys. This one was a third century Egyptian.) did not choose to define either madness or indeed ‘men’. To either side, if a truth is held to be absolute, those who disagree must be mad.
That’s why I prefer to hold my own truth and not to attempt to foist it on to others.