The Death of Truth
© 2016 Clifford C. Nichols, Esq.
Needless to say, our nation is in the throes of a cultural paradigm shift. Our notions of who we are, what our institutions stand for and even the meaning of our Constitution are in a state of disequilibrium, if not upheaval. The cause? I propose in large part it is because our society has made the unwitting choice to allow our reverence for God and, therefore, “truth” to erode.
The origins of this social trajectory probably could be traced back to the 60’s. That is when many among the youth of that day embraced Nietzsche’s proclamation that “God is dead,” and replaced God’s precepts by promoting feel-good philosophies like “do your own thing, man,” “make love, not war,” and “go with the flow.” But, before long, they found that the lifestyles these mantras unleashed quickly evolved into their acceptance of even bolder notions like the goodness of “free sex” and even “if you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
Cultural practices like these appealed to many because they gave them a newfound sense of what they termed “freedom.” And who could argue that freedom was not good? Actually, however, their liberation was from the traditions of their parents. And what they failed to appreciate at the time was the vital link between those traditions they were abandoning and the limits placed upon civil society that, in fact, had been set by the God their parents worshipped. In short, to achieve the freedom they thought their parents lacked, they in reality found themselves drifting further and further away from any belief in the immutable nature of the truths declared by their parents’ God.
Conveniently, their abandonment of God also allowed that generation to defend their new-found “freedoms” against the protests of their parents, without their having to do so in reference to His precepts. Instead, they declared the morality of their parents outdated, and in its place adopted a self-determined, and thus ever-shifting, man-made morality that was limited only by their circumstances and self-interests. This new morality allowed them to determine for themselves that any lifestyle they happened to want to champion at the moment was “good” (i.e. moral) simply because they had decided they wanted it to be found “good.”
Unfortunately for us, however, this “standard” was also applied by them to the lies they found themselves having to tell in the context of lifestyles that necessitated dishonesty. Consider, for example, the lies required to maintain the “goodness” of “free sex” while having to also deal with its consequences — fractured relationships caused by cheating or adultery, abortion, single parent homes, teen pregnancies and STD’s, but to name a few. The only way to maintain an appearance of the “goodness” of the lifestyles that produced such consequences was to devalue the notion of “truth,” which, in turn, resulted in a deadening of society to the inherent evil of lies. We see this phenomenon perhaps best evidenced by our culture’s spawning of perhaps the most insidious mantra to arise out of that era — “So, I lied.” These three words not only allowed that generation to de-fang the evil nature of the lies they found themselves having to tell, but also sadly became emblematic of the moral tone that came to prevail not only in that generation, but also in those that followed.
Can anyone disagree that today, we routinely find ourselves torturing both logic and reason to re-mold “truth” to fit our needs? We denigrate truths asserted by opponents by referring to them as nothing more or less than that person’s “perception,” and remove the evil of the lies accepted by this devaluation of truth by calling them “spin.” And by doing so, we as a society have now arrived to the point where we have allowed “truth” — no longer being tethered to any universally accepted truths, such as the inherent evil of lies — to become whatever we may want or need it to be at any given moment so long as it serves our purposes.
By way of what has now become a classic example of our culture’s manipulation of truth, consider President Clinton's painful explanation to a grand jury of why it was not a lie when in the course of his discussing Monica Lewinsky with his top aides, he had told them, “there’s nothing going on between us.” To the question, “Why is this not a lie?,” Clinton with a straight face told the grand jury the following:
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the--if he--if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement ... Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”
At first blush, this statement given by a sitting President of the United States is obviously a horrendously bad lie told to cover up a previous blatant lie. But on a deeper level both lies exemplify what is a much greater cause of injury to the fabric of our society. In essence, they are both a form of, “So, I lied.” Lies told with an utter disregard for any of the many people who are likely to be impacted, if not injured, as a result ... people who, for a variety of different reasons, very much needed for their own purposes to believe what he had told them was the truth. That is the truly pernicious consequence to a society that has come to accept devaluing truth by minimizing the evil of such lies — the convictions, expectations and well-being of those with whom such liars interact are relegated to irrelevance.
Collectively our failure to condemn such liars and their lies creates an environment in which a social virus is allowed to be cultivated that will produce an eventual systemic breakdown of a culture’s commonly held faith in the reliability of social promises, assurances and commitments.
Eventually, this will destroy the foundation on which a society operates with any order. People need to be able to rely upon information they receive before they will decide to make the effort to move forward toward achieving any social progress. On the other hand, where that is not possible, meaningful social communications, negotiations and compromises between individuals and groups with differing interests and goals will become inhibited and ultimately may even become unobtainable, largely because the parties no longer realistically share a common moral language. Eventually, even their attempts to form and obtain the commitments of others to try and promote any particular common good are rendered futile at the starting gate due to the unwillingness of the parties to engage in such activities because they have no confidence that they are being conducted on any commonly shared foundation of belief in the inherent value of “truth.” Each of the would-be participants fear that before getting to the end of the trail, they will see their efforts frustrated only to hear from those with whom they are dealing some form of, “So, I lied.” Ultimately, such a society can only find itself declining into a consequent fog of fear, distrust and corruption to which, if exposed to long enough, any nation must, and will, succumb -- a fatal moral fog that we have come to refer to as all that which is "politically correct".
Today, our nation is sharing an experience culturally that is not dissimilar to that of the proverbial frog in the pot of water coming to a boil. Many of us are bewildered, but can't identify it being a result of our decline, and ultimate demise as a once exceptional nation. We wonder if it possible that we are witnessing our nation’s fall from a state of global preeminence that, back in the day, we took for granted and were errantly raised to believe would last forever. Both internationally and within our borders we are likewise confounded as we watch protests become violent, and in some cases, even deadly, over differences of opinions on any number of the issues of the day that don’t warrant, much less justify, such extreme responses. Moreover, we all perceive some kind of adverse change must be in the air whereby some day soon we could even find ourselves doing what only a few years ago would have been considered unthinkable — electing to our nation’s highest office an incredibly unrepentant felon who is the absolute personification of the “So, I lied.” mentality of today. We should be asking, how far have we come in our moral misadventure that we would even consider electing such a pathological liar, in large part, because she happens to fortuitously possess this year’s fashionably correct genitalia, coupled with her promises to protect and advance all things LGBT, take away the peoples’ guns and preserve for this nation the rights of some to kill unborn children, while also insisting we freely import into this country others whose beliefs demand that they must kill the rest of us who have been born simply because we disagree with them ... positions that can’t possibly be consistently held by any one person who has any regard for the truth.
Dumbfounding? Only to those attempting to apply logic and reason to our present cultural reality in which “truths” are no longer determined by an immutable source that can not only remain independent of, but will transcend, whatever may be our transient personal whims of the moment... i.e. God. But, then again, as I am increasingly coming to be told, that is only my “spin” … or, rather, is it only my “perception”? Perhaps. But, then again, perhaps not.
I would invite you to decide for yourselves. However, before you do, I urge you in closing to carefully consider the full significance of the following statement made by an individual who had far more insight into the cause of another society’s decline than any of us would ever hope to possess with respect to our own:
“I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our [Russian] Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”
— Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, circa 1983
Undeniably, the times in which we are now living are signaling greater upheavals to come in the future unless we, as a nation, do not change our present course. Would it not be prudent for us as a nation to put what is politically correct aside, heed the warning offered by Solzhenitsyn, return to the God of our forefathers, and so restore to truth its inherent value only that source can provide? That is … given our absence … if He remains willing to hear our plea?
© 2016 Clifford C. Nichols. Cliff Nichols is an attorney licensed to practice law in both California and New Mexico. He may be contacted at cnicholslaw.com.