I was reminded the other day how easily one (or at least I) could be drawn into believing alternative (but unreal) versions of reality even apart from mental illness. It starts with things that look (and likely are) ‘off’ about the party line / official stories. From there one gets introduced into explanations that seem to be no less unreasonable than the official versions. And then step by step one gets further away from what is likely reality.
I do not think anyone can honestly argue that we (the public) always get the unbiased truth about everything, or even close approximation thereof. I think it is safe to say, that at the very least it is common to omit facts and views that contradict the ‘messaging’ that a group or organization is trying to send. I think it is also fairly obvious that there are times the public is told intentional untruths. This creates a breeding ground for lies, rumours, and innuendo that try to fill in the gaps (or, probably even more commonly are intentionally misleading paths from those with agendas of their own). In any event the lack of true transparency, and the frequency of trying to (at least) gloss over faults has lead to an erosion of public trust.
My most recent temptation to go ‘down the rabbit-hole’ was in a conversation about municipal politics. It went from the observation that what and how one can discuss matters in committee is very constrained, and that one’s choices as a committee member can be very limited, or very much subject to a biased presentation of the options, which makes voting other than a certain way very difficult, to the idea (almost) every municipal politician is ‘bought’ and intentionally part of ’the corrupt system’. (Obviously there was some intervening argumentation, but it was a pretty quick leap).
I, tending to be an ‘active listener’, didn’t voice my objections, but mostly tried to understand the other person’s point of view. Of course the committee thing also resonated with me, having been on the Midland Accessibility Advisory Committee last term of council and finding it a very frustrating experience. I think the hard reality is that it’s not about corruption, but there is a tendency of ‘staff’ to want decisions to be made the way they think is best, and rather than to merely provide information to committees (and council), to make it difficult for committees, or council, to decide on a course of action aside from their (staff’s) preference.
In reality, I don’t think this comes from ill-intentions, but from the fact that staff generally has more experience and information than committee members (especially councillors) in the operation of a municipality. There is, however, a problem when it becomes too controlling, and not enough listening to the concerns committee members and council bring (presumably from the public).
Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that our processes of governance (at any level) tend to be be highly regimented (for good reason) and not ’newbie’ friendly.
This is not without good reason however. While it can and does have downsides, it is important that there be checks on the tendency toward ‘mob rule’ that comes with democratic politics. Mobs can take some pretty terrifyingly horrific actions, particularly when it comes to emotionally-charged issues.
Mob rule often is not based on facts and realities but on the momentary whims of ill (or mis) informed people who have likely not been given the full truth, and nothing but the truth, on which to base their beliefs, feelings, and actions.
This is why I think it is important to have all of a strong ‘rule of law’, a maximally transparent governance, an decision making bodies which well represent the public whom they ought to serve.
In the meantime, if we wish to avoid repeating darker chapters of history (and it seems to me that the fear, anger, and hatred many people have these days is taking us down that path), we should remember that we are all human, and that we all make mistakes.
Rather than scapegoating or particular groups for ‘all our ills’, we need to recognize that positive change begins with our personal positive actions.
That is not say that we cannot feel angry, frustrated, even disgusted with genuine (vs imagined) harm to others, but we need to be very careful that when we feel those things we don’t make the cognitive error of assuming that because we feel a certain way that it is the truth.
Feelings can be real without being accurate. That doesn’t mean we are wrong to feel them, but that we need to be careful. We ought not to be led around by emotions that do not reflect the actual facts, or which will not result in the best outcome. Instead we need to use our emotions to help inform us (and those making decisions) about what matters to us, and why, but to act on genuine facts and verifiable truths.
And that is how I have been able to keep it real when the conspiracies keep on calling me; by recognizing my feelings of upset about untruths and wrongs, but acting in good faith on those things that can be shown to be true, and the recognition good (or at least neutral) intentions of most people in any given situation.