I was recently reading an internet list of biggest lies and hoaxes, and it occurred to me that what makes us so susceptible to these things isn’t that people are more stupid or that there is more opportunity to spread information. It’s not that there are powerful groups who can cover up the truth more easily. It’s not even that the state of the world makes these stories more believable.
It’s that we’ve come to judge a person’s actions by their perceived integrity, rather than judging a person’s integrity by their actions. We attach our allegiance to someone and base what’s true and false on how it aligns with that allegiance.
It’s completely backwards.
Whether a statement is true or not has never been determined by evaluating the person who says it. Liars tell the truth and truthful people lie. And nothing good ever comes from defending lies as truth or dismissing truths as lies.
But that is so often how we exist. We are first taught “truth”, and then taught to judge the world against that truth. We are rarely encouraged to judge the truth against the world. We are absolutely not taught that it is okay to doubt the word of the teacher who teaches “truth”.
And that is not okay.
We need more questions, more doubt, more skepticism, not less. Our allegiance should never be to one idea, one doctrine, one truth. We would do much better to live as if all ideas and beliefs and so-called facts, even the fact of our existence itself, have some possible margin for error. The illusion of absolute certainty has not served us well as a society.