Who do we believe? Which expert is right? Who's forecast will prove most reliable? If your anything like me you find yourself asking these questions repeatedly during every major political moment. We search for truth, all of us. It's why we can be so easily swung with a catchphrase that resonates or a personality we trust. But what is truth, at least politically and how much weight should we put on its presence in democracy?
In a world of social media campaigning and insinuated truths the prospect of people making bad decisions based on incorrect information is ever more possible, right?
That is an argument put forward by many at the moment, that we now live in a world that contorts and distorts arguments and feeds it to us on mass in small sentences and impassioned pleas, leaving the masses with little understanding of the real truths in the debate. Which must mean people are making choices based on incorrect information and therefore those choices have less validity, that by proxy of the facts not being represented correctly those decisions, opinions and voices should not count.
That argument puts everyone down. It insinuates that only some of us are capable of making an informed choice and that those people are bound to be somehow more right than everyone else. It also infers that democracy is flawed simply because of the people allowed to take part in it.
We also need to understand this isn't really a new phenomenon it is not particular to our age it has been going on since the pamphleteers in the 1500's. Revolutions were based on pamphleteers papers distributed around the masses and the most famous pamphleteers have lived on through history like Thomas Paine. There is not a moment in history where we haven't mocked, ridiculed, lied, deceived, distorted and manipulated the supposed truth for our own agendas. This is not a guise of the left or the right, it is universal. We are a messy, contrite, egotistical species and the more passionate we are the more we are prepared to do anything to forward our causes and agendas. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, what religion you ascribe to or philosophy you admire you are as capable of misinforming or warping the truth as any political campaigner.
Which of us hasn't shared a meme or quote online without fact checking it first. Which of us hasn't repeated something we read or were told and bungled the remembering of it. Which of us hasn't taken a fact or a statistic and used it as evidence without understanding the full contextual placement of it.
Truth is fluid, all truth no exceptions. It is open to interpretation, unintentional misrepresentation and personal bias at best. We crowd behind our truths in groups operating on mass chanting slogans and advertising them on banners for the world to see as if we can somehow make something truth by mere fact of repetition. We all do this, we all fall at some point into the trappings of our nature. Nietzsche describing truth and society puts it best when he says:
'We still do not know where the urge for truth comes from; for as yet we have heard only of the obligation imposed by society that it should exist: to be truthful means using the customary metaphors - in moral terms, the obligation to lie according to fixed convention, to lie herd-like in a style obligatory for all...'
If all this, all I have said is in and of itself even partially representative of us as a political body of peoples then how can anyone ever be trusted to make the right choice?
Well, and here is where it gets beautiful. We can trust in two things firstly our democracy, our flawed, desperately uncompromising democracy that makes winners and losers of us all allows us all to be both right and to be wrong. There is no absolute argument in democracy it caters with it's very imperfections for the imperfections of all of us. The design of majority rule allows for all perspectives to be heard and for all perspectives to be right. It allows us all to believe in our position, to garner our point and to share that point with others in the hope of convincing them of our rightness over theirs. It caters for the fluidity of truth and all that comes with it. After hundreds of years our flawed, in desperate need of reform democracy is still managing to shine lights on us. It is still making us examine ourselves both individually and as a people. Democracy doesn't supply us answers or give us rules it simply helps us to find them ourselves. It is a tool of reflection as much as a tool of legislation. It is beautiful and flawed and purposeful all at the same time. It allows every voice no matter whether they be the most informed person or the least informed person to be valid.
Secondly, ourselves. Since the Magna Carta we have been on a path of slow moving democratic decisions and relaxing social attitudes towards devolution of power, human rights and liberal values. We the people have guided that change and it doesn't stop with any political decision we might switch to a different road to travel down but our destination doesn't change. Humanity at large wants to be better it is engrained in us at some level which is why we fight so hard to effect change. We have accomplished much as a mixed ability group voting on issues that we think differently on and there is no reason to think we won't do the same moving forward. Tough times, struggle, instability and change these things are part of life but they guide us, lead us and make us better.
Therefore in these times of difficult political turbulence as we struggle to find a path ahead it is worth remembering that we are all the same people, with all the same nonsense in our heads. That truth like beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. That we as a people can only endeavour to make the right choice and that choice is just our best analysis. That those who think differently are not wrong they are opportunities to engage in debate and further both minds. Finally that no matter how passionate we are like democracy we ultimately work best when we come together argue out our points and find a compromising way forward.