Popularity and Truth
The everlasting pursuit of truth, objectivity and certainty in a world of falsehoods, subjectivity and uncertainty.
Welcome back to QWAN, marvellous to be with you for the first time this year.
So, popularity and truth, why start with this topic? Well, a lot of people say a lot about it – particularly the latter – and as we’re in what some describe as a “post-truth” world, discerning between the two has become more difficult. However, just because something is unpopular doesn’t make it inherently truthful (and vice versa) which is why I used and in the title instead of vs. Although, taken the to the extremes (sometimes not even that far), the road does tend to diverge and separate paths are formed. As I have learned, a continued search for the truth will usually put you at odds with the greater population. The question is, “is it worth it?”
“What cost is the pursuit of truth worth? Are you prepared to die for it? Do you need to be?”
I ask myself these questions, not all the time, but frequently enough and truth be told I do not know the answer. This philosophical life I’ve put myself on – how much is truly my own free will and how much has been determined for me I’ll leave for another day – is a very lonely and isolating road, but I was never Mr Popular nor am I a fan of popularity, I don’t trust it. It’s clearly evident how fickle more and more people/media are; they’re supportive of you one minute and throwing you under the bus the next and I will not subject myself to that. If this means shutting myself off to more and more people, then I’ve practically resigned myself to this. However, I am only too aware of proclaiming to have “truth on my side” and spurning new potential knowledge or another perspective…I will say, though, my bullshit detector is pretty sensitive.
“The pursuit of truth is not easy, convenient and short, but as Thomas Gray once said, when ignorance is bliss tis folly to be wise"
When I’m feeling a tad defeatist and dejected about the state of things, it’s very easy for me to wonder what is the point of trying to be wise in a world of ignorance. The irony being is that I’m wise enough to realise the extent of my ignorance…and my ignorance is larger than the extent of my wisdom. I see what’s popular in society, and more out of sadness than jealously, I can’t help but feel that the world would be a better place if I had a greater popularity. However, in the true stoic sense, I will not sacrifice my moral obligations for it. I suffer in silence as most people don’t understand what I’m on about most of the time.
“Being right vs being liked; which is best? Is it possible for both?”
I view this statement akin to Machiavelli’s “would you rather be feared or loved?” in which if one cannot be both it is better to be feared (or in this case, right). So, you’d think that it’s better to be truthful than popular? It’s not so cut and dry for people to pursue truth over winning the crowd – socially or politically. Machiavelli may have been one of the greatest political minds the world has ever seen, but let’s see how long and how good a relationship is by claiming to be right all the time. Do people prefer being right or being liked? My knowledge and experience would suggest the latter, but the rise of “Righteous Minds” especially in the last decade or so has me second-guessing. It's become evident the lengths people will go in the pursuit of their righteousness, willing to destroy relationships even with loved ones.
Despite Plato’s (and others) quest for mathematical certainty, the modern day person is closer to the aesthetic life (in the Kierkegaardian sense) than the ethical life, with a preference for subjectivity and uncertainty than objectivity and certainty. I say preference, as this falls into line with the subjectivity and relativity in their thought processes, praising the gods of authenticity over arete (old Greek word for excellence or virtue). In a preferential world anything goes and popularity is king. Truth, and with it logic and reason, can be discarded if seen convenient, and no one cares how contradictory or hypocritical they are. The worst culprits are people without knowledge behaving like they have knowledge and claiming to be teaching you for your benefit when indeed they are doing it for their benefit.
I will be doing a lot more thought pieces this year, it will become more of a focus for me as I move away from the psych-help type pieces that I’ve predominantly done. I feel this will challenge me as I continue to grow both as a human being and a writer and ideally is where I feel I’m best suited – dissecting complex issues and understanding them. I joked to myself that I felt my writing wouldn’t take off until I starting offending people, but I’d rather poke people in their axioms of belief and see what we can learn about ourselves along the way. It may not be the most popular way of existing, but it will help us get to the truth without tearing a hole in the realms and destroying our loved ones in the process.