I have spent years believing in the absolute uniqueness of the individual. That all of our experiences are singular, subjective and altered via perspective. When a ball hits the ground is it falling, stationary or rising? The truth is often open to interpretation. It is why I didn’t have a wedding video because I didn’t want someone else’s point of view to become definitive, I want to remember the actual day, not the video of it. This inconsistency of observation and our susceptibility to misdirection are why we make such lousy witnesses, try getting any half a dozen people, when interviewed alone, to give the same account of a shared event. They don’t need to lie for their recollections to differ, they just differ. Finding the truth in anything is a torturous and inexact science which is why divining it is often left to independent experts. This also has the effect of lending the verdict authority, authority it sometimes does not deserve. Those who judge us are just as fallible as we are and just as capable of drawing the wrong conclusion. Truth will not necessarily out.
The truth is fragile and doesn’t become more substantial when determined by someone of more substance, it simply becomes more final. The law doesn’t make the truth it makes a decision and then upholds it. Rightly or wrongly. From the law’s point of view someone who is wrongly convicted of a crime and who maintains their innocence is no different to someone who is rightly convicted of a crime yet who also maintains their innocence. The truth is established by the law but ironically its veracity is often only known by those who are judged. If the guilty man is found innocent then he is innocent, if the innocent man is found guilty then he is guilty. The idea that the law is inviolable is the reason why appeals to higher courts are rarely permitted or successful outside of fiction. The truth should not be subject to change or challenge, a reversed decision or an acquittal on a technicality only demonstrates how removed the truth can be from justice. This makes it terribly hard for the wrongly convicted to reverse a judgement, they are up against the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. All they have is their word, the word of a criminal which means diddly, the truth will not set them free, they are guilty regardless of whether they are innocent or not.
The truth is not objective it is opinion, hopefully the correct one and arrived at through diligence and not whim. Truth should be based on verifiable certainties which is often the reason those with the greatest resources, whether it be time, expert lawyers and witnesses, votes or money think their truth is better than yours. This is not always a bad thing, someone has to have the final say, no matter how unreliable they are, we have to believe in the greater good. Fracking and leaving Europe are good for the nation because the politicians and the papers say so and they always tell the truth, except when they don’t. Of course the trick to not telling the truth is never admitting it, it helps that the truth is rarely obvious, if it was lying wouldn’t be so easy. How many times have you heard a politician say honest mistakes have been made and the valuable lessons learned will be applied moving forward? In other words the truth that you believed up until now is no longer true but this new truth is all clean and shiny and therefore you can trust it until you can’t when we will have to look at what went wrong and learn a valuable lesson, or to put it another way. We lied. Make a note of that in the Hansard would you.
My father used to tell me ‘The truth is what I say it is’ as a result I believed that man was the hairiest creature on Earth until quite recently when a know-it-all friend slapped my bald head and pointed out that sea otters have a million hairs per square inch and I have three. Hairs per square inch. I’d been telling people this little known fact my whole life, with such conviction that they felt no need to check it, God knows how many pub quizzes have been lost through my gullibility. Interestingly though my assertion does not make me a liar, I believed what I was saying and so for forty odd years humans really were the hairiest creature on Earth. Being wrong is not the same as being untrue and I should know because I make stuff up. My English teacher, the much revered Miss Lillis called me a fabulist, not because, as I thought, I was fab but because I was a weaver of fibble-fabble, of tall tales. I once convinced her that I had a pet shire horse called Stilts, that I had never eaten anything but corn, bread and milk and that Yul Brynner was actually a woman named Reg. Miss Lillis was very kind and put up with my nonsense and despite my Gran’s mahogany leg, Earwax my carnivorous rabbit and my inability to start a sentence with the letter M (see the beginning of this sentence) she believed in me, said I was straight and true. Which is why she let me cheat on my English O level. Long story. Ancient history now and I changed her name, history has a habit of doing that.
Does a past event even qualify as history if living people can still remember it? Or is it just rumour? Gossip? Or is history itself just rumour and gossip? History should be above reproach but if it teaches us anything it is that history is not to be trusted. Is rarely the truth. Which isn’t to say that it is deliberately dishonest, it’s just that very little of what we think happened actually happened the way we think it did. History is not written by historians, it’s written by victors and vested interest, people who are rarely qualified, like asking the winners of the premier league and their fans to pen an unbiased account of their success. It might still be considered a historical document though, by some, history is simply what the largest number of people believe and dependent on where you live. Besides if you don’t like it you can always rewrite it. Historians review and revise history all the time, paying great attention to the source material, cross referencing and researching but it’s never the whole truth, it can’t be. Chinese whispers don’t get more accurate because the last person in the line listens carefully. Historians can only ever interpret the historical record, based on their own prejudices and preconceptions, they hear what they want to hear. Send three and fourpence we’re going to a dance. As Henry Ford possibly said; History is bunk, but then he also said his cars can be painted any colour so long as it’s black and I just saw a fuchsia Focus so what does he know?
My mistrust of history is why I can believe in God. I don’t believe in religion but God seems a nice idea, one I choose to perpetuate but without any historical baggage. God is no more a delusion than love, or hate or any of the other things that co exist inside my head. But then plenty of brilliant minds will line up to tell me that love doesn’t exist either, it’s just chemicals and hormones. Which is a bit like saying cake doesn’t exist, that it’s just flour, sugar and eggs, and whatever else cakes are made of. Crikey, cakes have more ingredients than God who only has one. Truth. Which is also the ingredient that makes love rise. The truth in any loving relationship is faith, the faith not to doubt, to never fall prey to suspicion. You have to believe that your truth is reciprocated, requited, returned. You shouldn’t have to ask, faith should not require confirmation nor should it be blind, faith is not luck. Faith in love is the real truth, if it proves to be untrue then it wasn’t love, believing in something is not just a matter of saying you do. Without faith there can be no love, just as there can be no God. When you believe in something the truth really is what you say it is.
Lib tells me my cake needs butter.