Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why We Can't Handle The Truth

The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think. - Aristotle, philosopher (384-322 BCE)

It is said that truth is the first victim of war. It should also be common knowledge that truth is the last thing that many people want to convey to others.

Truth implies accuracy and verifiability. Very little in today's world can meet those criteria dependably.

We come to expect that others will not tell us the truth. When a man or a woman asks another "How do I look?" they expect an answer that falls within a given range, all of which are positive. They don't really want the opinion of the other person, but a compliment from them. Even their question is not truthful.

No one expects or should expect truth in advertising of any kind. Advertising is deceptive from the beginning. The first rule of advertising is to appeal to the need of the customer and if you can't think of any need the customer may have, invent one. So we have cosmetics industries, for example, that sell products that no one really needs, some of which may even be harmful, but customers believe they need to look "really good" to others.

The need to look good is the easiest target for an advertiser to appeal to. Vanity lives in almost every one of us, to some degree. Advertisers simply have to lie to us to have us believe that we will look better by using their products.

Feeling good is another popular hook for selling products. People will consume all manner of harmful and dangerous products if they believe they will feel good, even for a short time. When it comes to most kinds of illegal drugs, that "feel-good" period may be only minutes, while the horrible consequences of taking them might last for hours or even days. But that "sweet release" from worry and care attracts people today in unprecedented numbers.

It's almost as if we want to be lied to, as if we find the truth too harsh to bear. That's not really the case. The need to feel that life is good among adults begins in childhood. Many parents believe that childhood should be filled with nothing but wonderful experiences. They tell their children that life will be even better for them when they become adults. It isn't. It never is, of course.

Childhood is meant as the training ground for adulthood, as we see in every part of nature. In many families, childhood is treated as a period of life quite apart from the reailties of adulthood, instead of the training period during which mistakes may be made without deadly repercussions.
We also, in general, do not prepare our children for the harsh realities of adulthood. I don't mean that kids should be abused the way adults are abused--emotionally in many cases. I mean that we should teach children about the harsh realities of adulthood, without having them experience these. Words work for descriptions, as we teach many kinds of lessons in the form of stories that are read aloud.

We should also teach them coping skills so that they know what to do when they face a crisis in their lives. We can also teach them how to act in order to avoid having the kinds of problems that adults have today in abundance. When adults can't cope with the lives they lead, tragic scenarios develop.

We use schools to teach children how to hold jobs. Few teachers teach (or are allowed to teach) social skills which would allow their charges to function in a healthy manner in the other half of their waking hours as adults. Even on jobs social skills would help many people greatly. But they are not considered important enough to be taught.

Almost everyone in prison has a deficit in social skills. Many in psychiatric hospitals also have a problem with social skills. Among prescription drugs, by far the most popular are those that help people to function and cope in the hurly-burly rat-race world.

Something is dreadfully wrong when we don't teach people how to handle truth about themselves. That's real truth, not cruelty. Without the truth, people don't know what about themselves they can build on to become better people, more fulfilled, more confident, healthier and safer.

There is nothing wrong with teaching the 3Rs and job skills in school. We also need to teach the skills that will help people build lives, not just hold jobs.

That change will not happen by itself. It needs your help. And mine.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to uncover the truth in a confusing world.
Learn more at

No comments: