Monday, October 27, 2014

"Truth is, after all, a moving target..."

All of my adult life, and through a good portion of my younger years, I have been tormented by statements and maxims about "doing the right thing." Sometimes, in simple times and circumstances, "the right thing" is clear to all; most often, it is not. At any rate, I often have wished I could be as sure about everything as everyone around me seems to be.

Maybe because of my instinct and (I hope) ability to look deeply into everything I see, I could never help but say, "Yeah, can one be sure of what the right thing is?" I always knew that often "the right thing" was more connected to group consensus than to morality or reason. (In some ways, morality is nothing but a group consensus, when you think about it.) Stand among an enthusiastic group for awhile, and what they agree upon will seem the "right thing." But what if you had stood, first, among their enemies? You might have been just as likely to side with that group -- not because of any flaw in yourself, but because people who truly believe they are right think so as a result of their available perspective and of the information they have at their disposal. The "wrong" side may be in possession of different information that, if known, might put a whole new spin on things. Sometimes, though, bigger pictures preclude the sharing of such information, for better or ill. Or, sometimes, things simply get misintrerpreted. But the worst of all possible scenarios is the presence of people who are more interested in "winning" than in finding the truth.

Neil Peart
It is nice to use statements like "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I agree. So long as evil is apparent. When Tolkien's heroes battled Orcs who fought for a disembodied incarnation of evil who wanted simply to blot out all light and happiness, the course was clear. But that's fantasy. When Hitler began his monstrous reign, the course was clear -- but not until after much argument and deliberation and maybe not until after bombs actually fell on US soil. But for a long time, despite ambassador Dodd's warnings, there was debate because Hitler's evils were hard to pin down; the true extent of his evil was only revealed after the war. Fortunately, the allies were vindicated.

Now, we have Islamic extremists doing clear evils, but we also have Bill Maher condemning Islam, in general, as a bad religion; one that lays the groundwork in its foundations (he claims), for such evils. Still, I have known Muslims and though Maher would condemn the religion for, for instance, treating women as "second class citizens," I have seen Muslim women who are dedicated to their faith and who are seemingly quite happy. Does Maher's being "right" mean that we have an obligation to rescue those women from their "misguided" view of what is right for them? That seems like egocentric reasoning to me.

The aforementioned are, of course, big issues, but the same principals apply to everyday disputes. Sadly, it often comes down to a need for action. Creon -- after Oedipus, enraged by his dispute with Tiresias, decides to come out swinging -- asks Oedipus, "What if you are wrong?" Oedipus responds, "Still, I must rule." Oedipus, of course, is reacting purely out of anger, but for more reasonable people, the world sometimes boxes them into corners that necessitate action.

Hopefully, one can be objective in one's conclusions when one finds him or herself forced into such a corner. But, no matter what happens, someone else is bound to decide those conclusions are wrong, no matter the care and no matter how good the intentions or how pure the motivations.

The lyricist, Neil Peart, once said "truth is, after all, a moving target." Most would have you believe it is a constant. The final word? No matter how right you are, you are bound to be wrong, to someone. No matter how pure your heart, you will seem nefarious to someone...

...unless you can disengage.

It does make introversion seem the wisest course, so long as one can build castle walls that the world cannot break. But watching the cracks run through the stone, over time, can be quite dishearetning, especially in light of the knowledge that no building stands forever.


  1. Well, what is one to do aside from what they need to do. ultimately action is required and theres always more then one way to skin a cat. Even when your in,a corner even with one, route of action present your still lsft the choice to choose to act or not. Once again anyone can deem your action right or wrong. But what does it matter. We are who we are who, and we do what we do. It it is past, and has been completed then its been done right, even if it could have been done better. It cant be changed thus reality. So this would appear to matter yes because in making a choice you will affect someone or something i. Someway. But eve. Though everything seems to matter nothing seems to matter just as well. All things even uncertaint ones you just gotta let be. Nature takes a course.

    1. Another Peart quote: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."