"Truth"and Consequences

Maggie Smith, the Grande dame of the mega series "Downton Abbey", says regarding her view of the town hospital needing to continue to run as is, that basically the facts are important as long as it is recognized that "my facts are the true facts".
02/29/2016 01:22 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2017

Maggie Smith, the Grande dame of the mega series "Downton Abbey", says regarding her view of the town hospital needing to continue to run as is, that basically the facts are important as long as it is recognized that "my facts are the true facts". Whose truth is it anyway, has made information relative, distracting us from a climate of curiosity and motivation to learn, and to try to create ways of coping with information without denying it or demonizing it or its sources.

From the movie, "Truth" comes this quote: "Once we stop asking questions all of us pay the price". Along similar lines, another character suggests, "We're supposed to seek the truth and take what comes from it." In other words we are supposed to be longing for as much of the truth as is available and find ways of adapting to the facts of conditions both inside us and in our outside world.

"Truth" is more about how we disown and discredit information through degrading the sources and/or dirtying their motives and thereby "eliminating them". "Truth", a drama about truth and its killers, moves the subject to a chilling level.

It is chilling because through the vehicle of the journalist and commentator Dan Rather and the show Sixty Minutes, it shows how one major incident in the Presidential election of 2004, was so mired in political combat that it tumbled the show and Rather into enough of a scandal that it became part of changing the news media at large forever. It was already on its way to becoming entertainment that had to make money as opposed to programs of integrity that had to inform.. The film is chilling because it paints with clarity the often blunted lines of what is truth, why truth is important, as opposed to how one power structure can degrade another into a hole of disrepute, or a public into detachment that comes with boredom with all the fighting, or with disgust and resignation about there being anything we can be doing about any of it.


The young idealistic reporter in "Truth" asks Dan Rather why he went into journalism. "Curiosity", Rather responds. "That's all?" he is asked, to which he replies, "That's everything." Rather turns and asks him the same question, to which he responds, "You".
Wow, that really happened., and there was a point where much of the public, at least, recognized the value of facts as more important than Maggie Smith's or George W. Bush's versions of those facts.

If we think of film as provoking of interest and curiosity, one of this year's recommendations would be "The Big Short", about the 2008 financial crisis and the manipulation of mortgage rates that were geared to eventual destruction of the lives of so many. When the screenwriters won the BAFTA award (the British Academy and Television Arts) Adam McKay included a note emphasizing the need to be aware of issues of income inequality in general. I left the movie feeling pushed into a no-comfort zone, realizing if I am true to my principles and values, I may have to really vote for Bernie Sanders. I was on my way, but the movie tipped me because it reminded me of the insidious consequences of refusing to face the truths of a broken system, where we have become so scared of providing human services that we insult those in need and assume social programs only harm, when we do not know because we have assumed and fought without trying alternatives.

I am attached to the notion that part of a thriving human climate involves enough maturity to attempt, with help, to evaluate, how we are doing, and at whose expense. It is harder than many of us think, because one truth is connected to another, and knowing and seeing what bullying is going on in one place, can make us either feel propelled to act, or to feel helpless about how vast the power dynamics may be set in stone. How to change so that our opinions and judgments feel safer to own, brings in a whole new ball game. And there is the issue that seeing something, is to be affected by it, to be challenged by it, instead of falling into the habit of dismissing all that is distasteful to contemplate.

There is a field waiting for our attention and co-creation. It has to do with coping mechanisms for dealing with truth and information that runs counter to our assumptions, our habits and sometimes our addictions and religions. No kidding, there needs be a focus on coping with information we weren't prepared for--which happens all the time. It would involve cooperation, collaboration, structure, and the weighing of implications. If we neglect to invent ways to actualize a new field that could help here, we may well tend to stay in the quicksand of blame and fear and hatred for anyone who makes us question what we cling to.

So for now, here's to some curiosity about how this stuff can get better .The fact that it is hard to know and digest inconvenient truths not always obvious to us can't mean it's not worthwhile to pursue curiosity at a time when not pursuing it seems lethal. Curiosity, as Dan Rather said, may in fact be everything, because it insures leaving the mood and the door open to information that can open to solutions--as long as we get better at being able to handle it.