“What is truth?” a jaded and cynical politician once asked.
Sounds current doesn’t it? A couple of weeks ago, broadcaster and television producer, Dorothy Byrne posed the question: “Is it time for us to start using the L word? I believe that we need to start calling politicians out as liars when they lie.”
Her question was prompted by the refusal of some politicians to face questioning, or to be held accountable for making stuff up. There is an increasing trend in making stuff up—making bold assertions that are demonstrably false, hoping that the sound bite of the moment will win the day. Or that the boldness with which you speak will be attractive no matter what nonsense you spout. Or that the power of whatever else you bring to the table will cause amnesia amongst voters.
That has afflicted us here in Ireland too, where some politicians seem to think that by simply speaking they can create a new reality. We have had politicians declaring that problems didn’t exist despite having been informed of the problem. We have had politicians caught stretching the truth or repurposing circumstances to make themselves look good—only for the truth to inconveniently surface (like the non-functioning electric car charge points which caught Irish Minister for Transport Shane Ross out as he posed beside them tweeting "Who says there is a shortage of chargers for electric vehicles?".)
Truthfulness is a rare commodity.
There has been a massive avoidance of the L word over the years. By all means, use all sorts of fancy synonyms—mendacious, dishonest, deceptive, duplicitous, equivocating—but don’t call someone a liar. All these other terms, with their fancy Latin roots, mask the ugly reality and lack the potent force of the blunt Anglo-Saxon term, ‘Liar’.
Of course, we would need to use it accurately. Someone may be convinced that what they are saying is true, only to have got their facts wrong or been misinformed. But there are many times and ways when the truth is known and the opposite thing is said. That’s a lie.
But we will never hold politicians accountable for truth until we hold ourselves and those around us accountable for speaking the truth. Parents need to stop lying to their children, as I heard one say yesterday, “Come now, or the man will come and get you.” Stop that. You are not only lying, but training up a liar. Business people need to fulfil their contracts and stop trying to find ways to wriggle out of them. Employees need to need stop phoning in sick when they just want a day off.
Dorothy Byrne went on to say, “I honestly never thought I would be campaigning here in the UK to establish the primacy of truth.”
That’s what we need—to re-establish the primacy of truth. But how?
The politician who said “What is truth?” was Pilate, the man who had Jesus crucified.
There is something parabolic about that—Western Europe has removed its Christian foundations, and now we are finding the very currency of discourse—Truth—is crumbling. When you get rid of Jesus, you get rid of truth; and you get rid of the only one who can change liars into truth tellers.
The change of society has to start from the bottom up, and from the inside out. And it starts with each one of us seeking forgiveness and change from the one who said “I am the Truth”—Jesus Christ.