Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Truth or Consequences: Not Just A Town In New Mexico

'Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.' - Demosthenes

'Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.'
- Henri Frederic Amiel:

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.'
- John F. Kennedy:

Here we are the day before Halloween and one week before Election Day, and I have this feeling that people care more for the former than the later!

I really hope I'm wrong about that feeling, but I suspect we will see more people buying candy for kids than we will see voting.
The County Auditor's report from last Friday showed that only about 18 percent of elgible voters had cast their ballots as of that time.
That means over four out of five registered voters haven't made their voices heard in this election!

What is wrong with that picture?
Maybe folks are just fed up with politics?
Or, they don't believe who gets elected matters?
Possibly, they are content to just let 'others' do it?
Did those absentee ballots look so much like junk mail, they were summarily thrown out?

I guess my being an elected official has opened my eyes wider than they were before, but I do believe it makes a difference to vote and be engaged in politics.
After my experience in local government, I will never again be able to sit back and let others dictate who serves, or allow things to just 'happen'!
There are things that are important enough to care about!
And voting is a vital part of caring!

If enough of us don't care enough to vote, where will that lead us?
Does anybody know?
Hello, does anybody care?

Maybe we should have a public initiative to give tax breaks to those who vote?
Or, offer some other form of tangible bonus or incentive?
Like maybe a coupon for Halloween candy?

The truth is there will be consequences for not voting.
Trouble is, its hard to connect those dots, particularly if there are many others who also don't vote.

One thing that seems to immobilize people is knowing where candidates stand on issues.
There is so much doublespeak and deliberate fuzzing going on that people tend to give up and opt out.
But, that just benefits insidious groups who prefer low voter turnout, because it serves their interests!

The subject of voter motivation is one that in which the Karl Rove's of the world have a big interest!
George Orwell's book '1984' predicted what could happen if big government, big media and big business ever hooked up to control our society.
It could happen - particularly if we let it by not participating in elections.

I believe misinformation is at the very root of the problem that voters face.
And, it doesn't make any difference whether the issue is local, regional, national or international.
The complexity of issues is a big factor in what makes them susceptible to misinformation.

And, there is a lot of complexity out there, folks!
Simplicity has always been a relative term.

One thing that ought to be simple to understand is the concept of 'truth'.

The following may be of interest in seeing what methods are at work in fuzzing the line between truth and falsehood.

'On Bullshit' is an essay by philosopher Harry Frankfurt, who has appeared at least twice on 'The Daily Show' with Jon Stewart.

Originally published in 1986, this essay was republished as a book in 2005 and became a nonfiction bestseller.

In the essay, Professor Frankfurt sketches a theory of bullshit, defining the concept and analyzing its applications.

In particular, he contrasts bullshitting and lying; where the liar deliberately makes false claims, the bullshitter is simply uninterested in the truth.

It seems, bullshitters are mainly interested in impressing and persuading their audiences.

While liars need to know the truth the better to conceal it, bullshitters are more interested in advancing their own agendas, and have no use for the truth.

Therefore, Frankfurt claims, "bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

Frankfurt's follow-up book 'On Truth' was published in 2006.

In 'On Truth', he develops the argument that individuals should care about the truth, regardless of whether they intend to be truthful.

But, Frankfurt explicitly avoids defining 'truth' beyond the common-sense concept of truth that people commonly hold.

His strategy is to show that the truth -whether an individual is to be truthful or not- is integral to nearly every endeavor.

The final point of his argument was that truth is a requirement for self-knowledge and therefore all distinctions between ourselves and the world.

Frankfurt concludes that the importance of truth, and thus our need to care about it, is therefore necessarily true simply by virtue of being believed.

Or, in Descartes' words "cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am)

What about the 'consequences' of not voting, you might ask?

So-called 'unintended consequences' can be classed into roughly three types:

• a positive unexpected benefit, usually referred to as serendipity or a windfall

• a potential source of problems, according to Murphy's law used in Systems engineering

• a negative or a perverse effect, which is the opposite result of what is intended

Discussions of 'unintended consequences' usually refer to the third situation of perverse results.

Is that what non-voters want?

I hope not!

'All schools, all colleges, have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge. The theological knowledge which they conceal cannot justly be regarded as less valuable than that which they reveal. That is, when a man is buying a basket of strawberries it can profit him to know that the bottom half of it is rotten. - Mark Twain: 1908, notebook

'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.'
- Abraham Lincoln (attributed):