Post-Truth is not so new

Post-truth has been declared word of the year, by the Oxford Dictionary.

I have to confess, I can’t recall ever hearing of the word prior to the announcement, but rarely have I been confused with owning hip, cool, and trendy oratory. I have no doubt though, our cultural frontline linguists know what they are talking about!

The Dons of the Oxford Dictionary define post-truth as, ‘an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.’

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Oxford Dictionary website

There is a drop of irony here, post-truth’s rise to the top coincided with Donald Trump’s victory in the Presidential election. Apparently, the  Presidential campaigns were responsible for a spike in world-wide usage of post-truth, as was the Brexit campaign earlier in the year.

According to the official website, post-truth first appeared in 1992, in an essay written by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich. In 2016 there has been an observed 2000% increase in its usage, thus warranting the title of Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year.

The word may be new, but the concept has had a long run through history.

In the 4th Century BC Aristotle pre-empted post-truth when he spoke of the tripartite art of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos.

Jesus Christ spoke of post-truth. In the parable Lazarus and the Rich Man, Jesus makes the point, that should a man rise from dead, people will not believe the evidence if they are not also prepared to believe God at his word. In other words, empirical demonstration is important but it is not suffice to persuade a person of what is true and good.

Accordingly, the Bible adds a fourth category to Aristotle’s tripartite art of persuasion: pnevmatikós (or spiritual). Ardent rationalists may scoff at this notion, but perhaps it is the case that their post-truth commitment to naturalism denies them the reasonable conclusion of accepting the reality of Christ, including the overwhelming evidence of his resurrection from the dead.

Post-truth is a word that carries with it an air of elitism and superiority. It is used to denigrate those whom we deem are less rational and intelligent.

In a documentary series marking a trip across the United States, Stephen Fry visited Los Alamos, the place where the first hydrogen bomb was developed. While exploring this once secret location, Fry made this remark,

“some people would think this is a grizzly place, a place of death, but to me I see nothing but optimism, and that’s because I believe in science. Many people today don’t.”

Stephen Fry is an example of a generation who credit science and rationalism as being security for human progress. Indeed, in the recent election a wave political experts and pollsters proclaimed the moral high ground on the basis of their education and they decried the uneducated who followed Donald Trump.

Whether we believe ourselves intelligent or not, and whether we have letters running after our name or not, we have always been post-truth, at least part-time.

The reality is we all need facts and truth to live well, and we adhere to these when these thing conform to our likes and wants. But rarely, are our ethical positions and personal decisions determined solely or even primarily because of what is true.

Today I was reminded of a classic post-truth moment in Victoria this year. Roz Ward has found herself in the media’s eye once again, with a photograph capturing the Safe Schools architect bullying a bystander during an anti-Trump demonstration in Melbourne yesterday. As I saw the photograph I was reminded of Roz Ward’s now infamous declaration, that the Safe Schools program is not primarily about creating Safe Schools but is designed to teach children Marxist values. Despite the repeated admission by this key designer of the curriculum, many politicians and social commentators have glued blue tac to their ears, and pretended the truth had never been leaked. Why? Political and social ideology trumps a confession.

Post-truth is not a 2016 problem, it is a human problem. Our word of the year communicates something about the proclivity of the human heart. Searching for truth is a noble task; as Jesus himself said, ‘the truth will set you free’. But knowing what is true and listening to it requires more than simple assent to objective facts. It requires a posture of humility, whereby we allow truth, especially God’s truth, to penetrate and challenge and restore.

Christians supporting Roz Ward

I was thinking of writing a piece in relation to the growing saga over Roz Ward, Safe Schools, and the red flag, but David Ould has beaten me to it and written a great piece. I highly recommend – http://davidould.net/genderqueer-australian-flags-trump-pots-kettles/

“I find myself in the extraordinary position of wanting to defend Ward, and defend her vigorously.”

 

This is not education

In explaining the Victorian Education Department’s own position on secular education, they state,

“The legislation clearly states that the government school system is secular, and open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion, or faith.”

This is clearly no longer the case. As a supporter of secular education I am concerned to see these principles eroded by programs designed to reconfigure how children think and behave; Safe Schools is one such program.

When Corey Bernadi first suggested a connection between Safe Schools and Marxism, I laughed and thought his comment unhelpful. However, he appears closer to the mark than many first believed.

The Australian newspaper today published a piece where Roz Ward  links Safe Schools with a political and social agenda, namely that of Marxism and same-sex marriage  (Roz Ward oversees the Safe Schools program in Victoria, and she co-authored its content).

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courtesy of The Australian

In two speeches (one in May 2013 and another in 2015), Roz Ward has explained (quoting from The Australian),

“It is a total contradiction to say we want (the) Safe Schools ­Coalition but you can’t get married to the person that you love,” Ms Ward told a rally in Melbourne. “(Teachers) have to work in this context where we have this state-sponsored homophobia in this discriminatory law and still fight against homophobia.

“The question of equal marriage is important in every single school that I go to, because I talk to teachers and they say to me: ‘How can we continue to fight against homophobia when the students will say to us that same-sex couples or transgender people cannot get married to the people they love? The law says it’s not equal and then we need to turn around as teachers and say: well it should be but it’s not’.”

Railing against a “push to fit people into gender constructs that promote heterosexuality’’ at a Marxist conference in Melbourne last year, she alluded that Safe Schools was part of a broader strategy to change society.

“Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’re still a long way from liberation,’’ she said. “Marxism offers the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordin­arily new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.”

According to the chief author and organiser of Safe Schools in Victoria, this program has a political and social agenda. It does not exist simply to combat bullying in schools, but is designed to instruct and influence children according to a socialist ideology, which includes strengthening the case for same-sex marriage.

In his time, Karl Marx identified a societal problem with capitalism, but his solution was flawed, and those who have followed in his footsteps have too often faulted. Marxism may advertise equality, but achieving it requires others to be silenced and marginalised. Indeed, history reveals how open-minded and constructive Marxist led societies have been: amidst all the gulags, red-book education, blood-shed and oppression, all the love and acceptance simply radiates from Karl Marx’s legacy.

In the case of Safe Schools, singling out children who may not affirm the new ‘normal’ is not only a sure path to discrimination, but the material itself expressively calls these children by derogatory terms, including ‘sexist’. Labelling children who don’t subscribe to all the values of Safe Schools is somewhat ironic and hypocritical given how the course instructs children to avoid tags; even the use of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ is discouraged.

In contrast to this latest epiphany of Uncle Karl, Michael Jensen this week suggested a view to humanity that is far deeper and attractive. He writes,

“The Christian faith has bequeathed to our culture a great gift: the teaching that we are all made in the image of God. That concept permeates even apparently secular documents like the US Declaration of Independence. It coaches us to see humanity in the face of the other. It was this conviction that held good against the social Darwinians of the late nineteenth century, who would rather have placed people of different races on the lesser rungs of the human ladder.

Add to that the experience of Jesus Christ: rejected by his own, abandoned by his friends, convicted by a corrupt and lazy government, tortured, tormented, and killed. At the heart of the Christian faith is the sign of the cross, which calls us to remember what we human beings are capable of as well as to recall what God offers us.”

In other words, as Christians we are troubled by the fact children are bullied, including homophobic behaviour in schools. All parents drop their children at school each day hoping and expecting they won’t be mistreated. We want our schools to be safe for all children.

Can we not have in our schools a program that encourages respect and kindness, without all the add-ons that are so controversial and unnecessary?

The Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, has this week confirmed that the program will be compulsory in all Victorian Schools by the end of 2018. But why? This is not education. This is not anti-bullying. By her own admission, Roz Ward has explained how Safe Schools is part of a broader strategy to rail against heteronormacy and to slam-dunk same-sex marriage. Again, I understand that some people will have no issue with this, but many others are concerned and are asking for a more reasonable and less politically motivated alternative.