Recently, particularly since the shocking results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and the scourge of fake news and other lies that supported those results, there has been much speculation as to whether we are in some sort of “Post-Truth” era.
This is sheer nonsense. “The truth” consists of mental, psychological, and presentational fidelity to reality, or what Jacques Lacan refers to as “the Real”. We have some influence on reality through our speech and actions, but otherwise reality is non-negotiable (including the reality of our own speech and actions). The idea that we are in a “Post-Truth” era, therefore, is equivalent to believing that we are in a “Post-Reality” one. Ultimately, as Lacan, along with so many others, point out, this reality will always trump whatever mental gymnastics we humans employ in the process of divorcing ourselves from it.
It is true, as Sigmund Freud and others have pointed out, that we are incapable of fully grasping reality, and therefore our truth, that is, our best and most accurate model of reality, is always an approximation. It is simply impossible to separate our ego, preferences, perspective, and senses in any sort of objective way from our perception of it, so in that sense, truth is subjective. However, it is possible to identify when truth, or fidelity to reality, is being distorted, either deliberately or not, through that egocentric medium.
In other words, people can lie, and those lies have the quality of being lies: fabrications, or constructions, that exist solely in the mental plane, with no other connection to reality. The truth is what is left when those artificial mental constructions are eliminated.
“The truth has not to be achieved. It cannot be achieved: it is already the case. Only the lie has to be dropped.”
Freud’s genius was to see that many, if not most, psychological problems, including a variety of neuroses, were the result of a disconnect between one’s situation and one’s perception of the situation. In other words, one deviates from the truth at the risk of their own mental health. From this perspective, at the core of “Post Truth” is nothing other than schizophrenia.
“Truth shall sprout out of the earth, and righteousness looks down from Heaven.”
I recently watched an instructional video on home improvement, and I was struck by how deeply into the presentation the language of business was embedded. For example, when deciding what kind of cabinets to buy for a kitchen, the host recommends that for luxury homes, one purchase the finest fixtures available, since lower quality fixtures could reduce the value of the home. On the other hand, for “normal” homes, one should purchase cheaper cabinets, since having the finest quality available would not necessarily increase the value of the home. The question of which fixtures the people living in the house would actually enjoy is never addressed. Even safety is discussed primarily in terms of financial liability: if someone is injured due to construction work on a home, is the contractor liable, or the homeowner?
In other words, the top priority of the instructor appears to be maximizing the financial value of the house while minimizing costs and liability. One of the disturbing assumptions underlying this perspective is that the home is seen as an inherently temporary product, intended more to be sold than lived in. In this view, the home is reduced from being the intergenerational nexus of a family’s life to being a commodified “vehicle” expected to provide a good “return on investment” (ROI).
Why would anyone plant a tree on such a property, given that the tree could take decades to mature (and only then serve its intended purpose, ROI), long after the house is expected to be sold, and even resold? In his “Last Lecture“, Randy Pausch implores parents to allow their children to color on the walls, as his did. What role could a child play in such a house, other than staying out of the way, for fear of doing something that would (heaven forbid) reduce the value of the property?
Thus what should be the primary focus of home improvement, building a beautiful, loving, warm, and safe long-term environment for family and friends is mutated into a heartless business venture that is crippled by the binary logic of the balance sheet. It is, of course, wise to keep a place for cost-consciousness in any large project, but let us not allow cost-consciousness to supersede the higher consciousness of building a true home.