The Trouble with Truth: Fact or Fiction?

The trouble with truth, or so I learned at university, is that truth is always dependent on context. The question always to ask is, true for whom, and where, and at what point in time? Because the truth is that truth is always an invisible variable, so should not ever be synonymous with, or used interdependently with, fact.

For example, Jane Austen begins her novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with the well-known sentence: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’

Well, that may well have been true for Jane Austen and the rest of the landed gentry in the early 1800s in Regency England, but certainly not for the whole world at large across the entirety of time. It may well have been a truth, but not a fact – back in the day many rich men did indeed marry in order to produce a legitimate male heir to whom to pass on their estate. Good old patriarchy and primogeniture!

But it’s certainly not true now – does that make it a lie then? No, of course not – well, not necessarily – because what is true for one person or society or culture at one time in history may not be true for another person in a different era.

And what about these newsworthy things that happen to crowds of people all at the same time, but confusingly contradictory reports come out that seem to make liars of everyone involved. Are they lying? Probably not, because one person’s experience may be true to them in their internal situation, but the person physically standing right next to them may have an entirely different experience, equally as true to them.

A deeply religious person may experience a particular situation very differently from someone with a purely scientific or atheist or agnostic background. For example, Biblical explanations of the creation of the world based on the Christian faith (the only faith I know enough about to comment on) are regarded by some as the absolute God-given truth, therefore how these believers experience the world as individuals is necessarily predicated on that belief.

Alternatively, more earthly-based empirical explanations based on carbon dating and the existence of physical fossils etc. are considered by non-believers to show the truth of how the world began. And other religions may have their own belief systems to colour how they experience the world. But are any, either, or all of these explanations based on actual facts for all people and all time?

Hmmm… well even what counted as scientific fact in the past got things wrong sometimes, where the arrogant use of artistic licence or biased assumptions and interpretations in previous times often means that previously undisputed historical ‘facts’ are no longer always true in the modern scientific world. So does that mean they were always truths not facts? Surely facts require proof to back them up, but truths only really need enough belief in their veracity to be true. Surely facts are objective, truths are subjective…

Ideally it would be nice to think a fact is a fact is a fact, fixed and constant for all people and all time, and so there can be no such thing as alternative facts. Except… are even pure measurements absolute facts? Distances can change over time as roads change direction, weights can change as gravitational pull changes, but nevertheless there is a reasonable constancy there. We like to think that an inch is an inch is an inch (unless perhaps certain parts of a male anatomy are under discussion)…

And what about the accuracy of the political statistics bandied about by all and sundry when measured against facts and truths and experiences? It may well be true on one hand, for example, that a given high numerical figure of people find themselves suffering because of a particular swingeing cut in Government spending, but also true on the other that a set percentage rise in funding for what appears to be the same topic from a very different perspective has been achieved – both may well be technically factually accurate and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Very confusing…

So basically I’ve just blown my own argument out of the water here – it seems that I’ve just proved to myself that sometimes facts are not necessarily that much more factual then truths after all… So I suppose I just have to give up here and end my treatise with the well-known words of Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who wisely surmised that ‘the only constant is change’.

Now that this week’s Fandango’s Provocative Question has provoked me into a thought-confused stress-headache, I must admit that it’s perfectly true that I’m off for an indulgent lie down in the middle of the afternoon – and that’s a fact! πŸ™‚

Teflon Trump

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

‘Do you believe that Donald Trump is an effective American President who should remain in office despite having accepted aid from a foreign adversary (Russia) and having committed obstruction of justice into the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential elections? Do you believe that Trump should or should not be impeached for his actions? Why?’

Ooohhh, interesting question, and most definitely provocative… perhaps you should prepare for a bit of a rant… Being a Brit – and a proud Scot at that – I’m so excrutiatingly embarrassed to think that Donald Trump has any Scottish genes running through his blood. You could say I’m black-affronted by his behaviour, and fair scunnered by his sense of superciliousness…

Even taking only the very first opening phrase of Fandango’s question, personally I don’t think Trump is an effective American President at all, regardless of any alleged complicity in proven Russian interference in the last Presidential election process. The man’s a bloody nightmare of a President no matter what, psychologically insecure with an obvious inferiority complex as long as his ridiculous tie and then some. And to be honest at this point I couldn’t care less if he’s impeached or not – as long as he’s not re-elected to a second term.

He says whatever he likes, whenever he likes, however racist or misogynist his particular opinion of the moment may be, then either avoids answering, contradicts himself or flatly denies it when someone calls him out on it. His behaviour is curiously childish and churlish, he yearns for constant attention but can’t accept criticism of any kind. He pretends to be a ‘man of the people’ by bad-mouthing whatever is the standard American version of ‘the establishment’ but in reality he is also as far removed from your average American as any other spoiled-brat dad-made millionaire.

His narcissistic, nationalistic plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ seemingly at the expense of undermining America’s previously secure standing on an increasingly growing international stage is, to my mind, worryingly misjudged and myopic. Trump clearly admires autocratic rule rather than democratic leadership – he schmoozes sycophantically with Putin and Kim Jong Un, smugly salivating at what he seems to see as their singular success.

And as far as pulling the US out of both the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal with such pompous political posturing – well, that may well backfire spectacularly in the long-run, speaking more of braggadocio bully-boy big-mouthed bluster and badly-judged brinkmanship than deft diplomatic discussion and decision-making.

Meanwhile his public picking of a pathetic playground fight with China over trade tarrifs is unashamedly ramped-up with more of the same social media spewing he rallies round and relies on so consistently. I’ve heard of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, but to many of us across the globe this off-the-scale level of divide-and-rule deliberate world order disruption is tipping dangerously close into megalomania.

Running a country is a very different beast from running a company – not that he’s necessarily got a good track record on that front, either. After all Trump is not CEO of USA plc – so when he inevitably screws up this time he can’t just let the country file for bankruptcy, pass on the losses to the poverty-stricken bulk of the population and walk away without a second glance, Teflon-coated to ensure nothing looking remotely like failure (financial or otherwise) ever sticks to him personally.

OK, I’m done…

Photographing People: Picturing Portraits

I’m a keen amateur photographer, but really struggle with the reality of taking everyday pictures of people. I love the idea of taking up-front and honest environmental portraits of people in their own domain, or just capturing off-the-cuff candid shots of strangers while out and about. But sadly to be successful that really requires a level of personal interaction I feel truly uncomfortable with, so historically it’s not something I’ve ever done.

I’d love to have the faith to just go for it with a kind of spontaneous confidence that over-rides my natural hesitation and reserve. If only I didn’t feel so uncomfortable about making contact with people I’d like to photograph, feel so afraid if rejection and of failing, there are so many informal portraits I could take, capture a real snapshot of that person at that moment in time…

Of course, living in London necessarily there are often multiple people visibly present in my images, but usually taken en masse from a distance, like a crowd on the river cruiser or in the tube, or fewer individuals closer up but taken from behind so they are unaware of my presence, like in the above images from Borough Market. I’m always sadly disappointed in the results though, as my attempts at capturing people going about their daily lives are inevitably half-hearted and lack-lustre.

But yesterday I decided to be brave and take a chance on not being rudely rejected, so I finally approached a friendly, chatty stall-holder and asked with a smile to take his picture, and here is the result!

Ok, so it’s only one simple portrait of one person I’ve never met before, but for me it’s a bit of a breakthrough. Even if only temporarily, I overcame my fear, my caution, my overwhelming reticence, and I finally did it! πŸ™‚

Weekly Prompt: People

Fandango’s Provocative Question

A Mess of Stress

So, apparently this week Fandango is curious to know how I deal with stress? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… oh… well… um… maybe laughing maniacally at my on misfortune isn’t exactly the level of response required here.

Historically I’ve always dealt with stress by comfort eating. Currently though, due to recently diagnosed problems with my digestive health, I’m having to be VERY careful about what I eat – including eating minimal animal fats, salts and sugars, which I must admit pretty much make up the bulk of all my usual comfort foods… sigh 😦

So right now on top of the stress of everyday generic life stresses AND being menopausal I’m also trying to deal with the stress of NOT comfort eating by distracting myself wherever possible from my cravings for comfort food. Colouring in, listening to music, walking, crying and feeling sorry for myself… And when that doesn’t work I’m stressing myself out even more by beating myself up for not coping, creating an even bigger internal mess of stress.

But I’m determined I’m not giving up on it all, my ongoing internal health is important to me so I’ve decided to try to help reduce my external stress factors by giving up instead on all news of Donald Trump messing about playing chicken with China and Iran, Theresa May messing about playing chicken with both the European Union and her own parliament, oh, and America making itself even more not-great-yet-again by banning abortion…

My blood pressure just can’t handle it all any more, I feel like I need to ban all news coverage for a while. So I think I’ll take to sitting here with my fingers in my ears going la la la la la la la… a bit like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, but at least hopefully my digestive system will be happier πŸ™‚

Fandango’s Provocative Question: Is America Ready for an Openly Gay President?

Sadly, my immediate answer to this week’s Fandango’s Provocative Question of ‘Is America ready for an openly gay President?’ is a resounding ‘no’.

In my humble opinion, however many people I piss off with my no-doubt provocative and very British perspective, to my mind America’s main problem in most things is its relative youth in the nation stakes – I mean, what’s a couple of hundred years or so of history in the grander scheme of things? Pfft… America appears sometimes (and now is definitely one of those times) to be an obvious youngster on the world’s aging stage, puffed up with the know-it-all arrogance of your average swaggering teen, preening and parading for show, loud and proud, more volume than validity in what is being vocalised.

It seems to me that historically in many ways the USA has fought so hard (and so successfully) over the last couple of centuries or so to merge together as one almost wholly immigrant population settled across the huge expanse of the country, coast to coast. It has emerged generation after generation as a stitched-together patchwork of culturally diverse and independently governed states all determined to be as one voice to the extent where, in an attempt to manufacture one great ‘American’ identity, an imagined false, forced homogeneity amongst its citizens is prized and protected above all else. In many ways, in that aim America has become a victim of its own success.

Where I’m sure there used to be a certain pride in maintaining cultural bonds with the multiple old homelands of its people, passing down generational family stories of past experiences in faraway lands, there is now an over-blown, over-laid insistence on this relatively new-forged all-American identity where all things are expected without exception to be ‘as American as apple pie’ – as if nothing important existed ancestrally before that first migratory step onto American soil, therefore nothing there is worth remembering or referring to. It’s as if the depths of the soul has been expunged from American society in search of surface similarity.

In search of this bland, blended homogeneous culture, America seems to have lost the plot somewhere along the line in that diversity in all forms – which after all not that many years ago was a valuable foundation stone in the creation of the USA – is now denied, deemed not to be trusted, effectively neutralised. Yet ironically the more America forces diversity out, the more fragile its national identity actually becomes – that’s not strength talking, but fear. America often comes across as a holier-than-thou ex-smoker projecting out its own disgust at such a filthy habit. To quote Will Shakespeare, ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’.

Personally, I would love for America with all its splendid diversity to embrace proudly its itinerant reality rather than insist on glossing over its myriad melting-pot past in a hurry to appear to be something historically stable and solid and singular that at source it is not – ‘The Stepford Wives’ comes to mind. There is undoubtedly a lot to be proud of in the creation of the USA over the last couple of hundred years as a major force to be reckoned with, but in my mind its hyped-up national mistrust of difference to its self-styled restrictive norms – particularly in light of its own humble hotch-potch beginnings – leaves a lot to be desired.

So back to the original question – sadly, I honestly think America would completely freak out at an openly gay president right now, however competent he may prove to be in office, because someone living a life so blatantly obviously different to or outside of the standard acceptable societal norms would sadly be seen as a humungous threat to those who cling on so proudly to their imagined one-size-fits-all American identity above pretty much all else, even at times their moral compass of basic humanity and respect for all others.

If it were up to me to choose your next President for you, I’d take the reality of a happily married, down-to-earth, sensible young man who understands from experience what it is like to live on the margins of ‘acceptable’ society over an overbearing, arrogant, ignorant narcissistic orange baboon any day… πŸ™‚

PS Please note my intention is not to offend anyone with this post (well, maybe apart from the aforementioned orange baboon), I’m just sharing my own opinion – and after all it is supposed to be a provocative question I’m answering, the clue is in the title! Also the perfect post for today’s Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Compass πŸ™‚

Fandango’s Provocative Question: 13 March 2019

This week’s provocative question asks: β€œWhen you learn about highly regarded artists being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, especially with minors, can you separate the artists from their art, or would you refuse to listen to, watch, or read the artists’ works?”

Hmmm… Well, to be honest I’m not a huge Michael Jackson fan and there are many other artists with music similar enough to R Kelly, so I’m not likely to listen to their music any more or less than I have done so far.

But back in the day in the glam-rock seventies I absolutely loved Gary Glitter with his showy sparkly arrogance on stage, asking if I wanted to be in his gang… and I sang along at the top of my voice with all my young teenage peers, starry eyed and caught up in the moment. But now it just feels creepy, considering his predeliction for young vietnamese kids, and so it seems in hindsight I can’t separate the artist from the art and no, I don’t listen to him any more, not even for the sake of nostalgia.

And as well as musicians, another famous publicly-shamed sexually-abusive celebrity of my innocent youth was Jimmy Saville of ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ TV fame, where for years the ‘lucky’ kids for whom he fixed their particular dream come true were privileged to sit on his lap live on air… Again, just too creepy to think about these days…

But of course it’s not only money-laden celebrities who take advantage of the trusting dollar/pound-sign blinkers placed over the eyes of both parents and children, but also certain members of the Catholic Church. The sheer arrogance of power, whether financial or religious, creates a trust imbalance that seems to allow certain predatory types to behave atrociously and apparently expect to get away with it, whether through physical or sexual abuse of children in their charge.

So to take the question a step further from considering only musical artists or celebrities, does the dubious historical action of the Catholic Church relating to allegations of child abuse affect the way I consider the Catholic religion? Absolutely – my grandmother and her younger siblings were brought up between the two wars in several orphanages run by the Catholic Church, and were treated cruelly enough by the nuns that as adults they all refused to attend church, and this experiential distrust has been passed down the generations.

Additionally, my husband was also brought up in the Catholic faith, and during the 1980s attended a prestigious private fee-paying boarding school in the Highlands of Scotland run by Benedictine monks in an actual abbey setting. Yet only a few years ago we had two policemen at our door asking my husband for a statement about his time at that school, as his second-year house-master has been accused of the sexual abuse of one of my husband’s class-mates. Sadly this is not a unique allegation, and an entire TV documentary was made at that time relating to the school (and monks) in question.

So can I separate the church from the child abuse? Nope, not then, not now, and not ever. Had the church dealt with any and all accurations of abuse openly and justly, then fair enough. But instead offenders were simply protected in order to protect the good name of the church and quietly moved on elsewhere, ostensibly free to offend again, leaving their vulnerable victims disbelieved and traumatised for the rest of their lives.

But in the longterm it does seem that the abuse of power negates whatever artistic achievements have been made by the offender. Off the top of my head just look at Jimmy Saville here in the UK for example, where there were discussions about him being posthumously stripped of his knighthood (not possible, as the honour dies with him) or the spectacular falling-off-a-cliff careers of Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey in the US… what goes around, comes around, I guess…

Fandango’s Provocative Question: Struggling

This week’s provocative question from Fandango asks ‘What are you struggling with the most right now?’ and my immediate flippant answer is ‘Getting my head around this new post editor in WordPress’…

But seriously, things I’m having difficulty with right now include:

Having sliced quite deeply across the tip my right pinkie finger at work last weekend, I’ve had steri-strips and a padded sterile dressing in place all week, which is due to be checked and replaced at my GP surgery tomorrow morning. I mean, quite apart from the pain of the cut itself – and it hurts like hell – I also have to try to keep my finger dry and out of the way of getting hit or squashed, but still try to live my life as normally as possible…

Cutting down on my anti-depressants – I had my daily dose upped a few months ago, but have made the decision to start to cut that down again, with the aim of coming off them completely at some time over the summer…

Dealing with so much negative and stupendously stupid political decisions being made both here in the UK and across the ocean in the US – if anyone tried to use either the current Brexshit shenannigans or the Border Wall/ Government shutdown fiasco as an imaginary subject for a fictional drama they would be laughed out of the building… we have a dark destructive duo of simultaneous black comedies screwing us over, over and over again like some disastrous Groundhog Day nightmare, with no sign of anyone waking up any time soon… 😦