Wow. These are really good questions. But they are deeply philosophical questions that I can’t really answer in a Medium response. What you are really asking me is whether there is anything such as objective truth. My response to that is yes, but…
Cause it’s not a simple thing at all. So are you trying to back me into a corner where I have to concede, what is true for me isn’t necessarily true for you or anyone else? If so, done. I will concede this.
And if I concede this then don’t I have to reconsider my own statements about being motivated to tell the truth as I see it? I suppose.
But I have always been deeply motivated to bring to light truth, hidden in the depths. Like for example: racism is real. This is an inconvenient truth for most American whites even though American racism isn’t even hidden. It’s like an iceberg. Everyone should be able to see the tip, but most American whites refuse to even acknowledge that. Then, though, there is all the rest under the surface. All that hidden stuff, 3/5ths of a person stuff. Nat Turner and birth of a Nation stuff.
Did you know that in the town where the Nat Turner rebellion took place, no one will talk about it? That subject is off limits.
I have always been the type of person who would say, “Hey! This Nat Turner rebellion, that’s a thing that happened in this town. We are going to acknowledge that and talk about it.” This sort of thing does not win me popularity points ever.
And yet, It just seems sane to me. But most people will not want to do this. Why? It’s painful and it’s also dangerous. But so is pretending that an extremely violent event never occurred. In fact, I would posit it’s hard to know which is more dangerous.
We are also playing the same idiotic game with climate change. Let’s pretend it’s not happening, because if we admit that it is and that we can do things to change it, well then that actually makes life extremely inconvenient for most Americans. This is why we all collectively ignore inconvenient truths.
These days there are tons of them. They just keep adding up. People are overwhelmed. Denial seems like a viable option. But is it really? See I’m the type to ask even this question, which you can’t even ask if you are in denial.
I have always believed pretending real threats don’t exist is definitely more dangerous than acknowledging that they do. Know your history. Learn from your history, or repeat it.
So back to objective truth. As far as I know, the Nat Turner rebellion is a factual truth. Historical records show it happened. Now, even this could be questioned. Did it really happen? How could I know for sure? Was I there? Did I observe it? Of course not. So is it really true? If you want to get into this level of reality questioning, them almost nothing is true and speaking to truth becomes entirely pointless.
But, if certain assumptions are taken as a foundation, the truth of that rebellion can be constructed. For example we assume that historians accurately record events; and this assumption is flawed. But we make it anyway; and in doing so we enter this deeply gray area where what is going to be true for whites who were involved in the rebellion is not going to be true for blacks involved in the rebellion and vice versus. And so…the entire town decides to never speak on it. Because there could be no objective truth on it, and this would only anger people.
And yet, just not speaking to it at all, this seems very, very, very wrong to me. So, I’m the type that questions, prods, insists, pushes, seeks the truth and then confronts others with it. They don’t like this. I am well aware. You’re not the first person to ask me, what makes you think your truth is the truth.
Some times the truth is impossible to know. I will grant you that. But ignoring it’s existence altogether doesn’t seem like a viable solution, either. At least I try. At least I don’t run from it because the exploration of truth is frightening and messy. I can admit that truth is not always objective. But sometimes it is.
A dead body is a dead body (objective) and yet so many different narratives will pop up around how the body got dead, when the body is a black or brown one and police are involved (subjective).
I think with some truths, there are all sorts of shades of gray. Racism is like that. Sexism is like that. Really any sort of Interpersonal conflict is like that. I think that residing in an entirely black or white space about any of it is to reside in a lie.
So, back to the original comment, which was something along the lines of identity politics being taught in school being worthless. Definitely a black or white space, in my humble opinion. My response, a shade of gray — prepare your child for a complex future, don’t isolate him or her.
We are living through times where people want to cling to black and white lies, because they feel familiar and safe. These lies maybe familiar, but they are no longer safe. People can continue lying to themselves, but they do so at their own peril.
And so, the truth compels me, because I believe denying it or hiding from it is dangerous- and not necessarily to the one who is in denial or hiding, but some innocent bystander like the child. So I feel compelled to speak the truth, for them.
But there is even a bigger philosophical question here. Can people make lies, their truth? If you truly believe there is no racism in America and “identity politics” is a waste of time is that someone else’s truth? Yes it is, but there is tremendous resistance to that truth. And so it’s a dangerous and unstable place to create a truth. Because isn’t a truth, only a truth because a majority of people agree it is? And if a majority of the people don’t agree, can a person really hold onto that self made truth? Maybe they can convince themselves of their “truth.” But their truth, is not an absolute truth, is it? I don’t know.
But then too, there are absolute truths, like this thing happened or that thing happened. Like I said, a dead body is a dead body. And…if your truth means lying about the state of that body, well your truth is deeply problematic. And yet, so many truths are problematic in that way.
Maybe a better way to or a more intellectually honest way for me to describe what I do is to say, I like to give voice to the voiceless or the less powerful. Because if I say, I speak the truth, that can take me down a deep philosophical wormhole. But if I say, I am speaking up for kids who can’t yet advocate for themselves, OR I am speaking up for dead bodies that are voiceless, now, that’s something different.
Still not without philosophical difficulties though.
Stop asking such hard questions!