'This above all - to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.'
I've always tried to live up to that, believing that only in understanding - and being true to - oneself, can one deal honestly, fairly - and truly - with others.
But, as the year 2017 began, I heard from the media that we're in a post-truth era. As Siam's monarch said in The King and I:
'There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know ...
In my head are many facts Of which I wish I was more certain, I was sure Is a puzzlement'
It's all a huge puzzlement. And, observing events unfold, it's pretty clear that many in power are lying to themselves as well as to the world. But, does that mean we all have to follow suit?
There's been a (sadly) hilarious cartoon circulating on Facebook of aliens on a spaceship looking at a report of intelligent life on our planet and shaking their heads - 'Fake news' they conclude. Sapience does require critical thinking, after all.
Personally, I have no desire to accept alternative facts and live in some sort of alternate reality. Yes, we have suffered (and continue to suffer) a fake news epidemic, initiated by paid Internet trolls and very possibly agents of foreign governments. But they only succeed if we succumb to the vice of accepting any nonsense that confirms our existing biases.
So please, please, please don't drink the Kool-Aid and get pulled into a new social media Jonestown. Don't believe anything spoken, tweeted (or circulated in any other way) without double and triple checking your facts. Speak up for the truth. Challenge lies when you hear them - and teach critical thinking to your kids and grand-kids.
George Orwell's 1984 was a depressing dystopian novel and I don't want to live in its reality ... or leave it to my children. George Orwell said 'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear.' But it also means that those same people (all of us) have to listen to what we don't want to hear when it's the truth.
The great Bengali writer and thinker Rabindranath Tagore wrote this a century ago in Gitanjali: Song Offerings (for which he won the Nobel prize in 1913):
'Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, Where knowledge is free. Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls. Where words come out from the depth of truth, where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit. Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action. Into that heaven of freedom, my father, LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE!'
It's high time for us all to awaken to what's happening in our world, and say a loud NO to post-truth and alternative facts, for (again quoting Shakespeare, Measure for Measure), 'Truth is truth / To the end of reckoning.'
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