Empowering Honesty

Lies, damn lies and YouTube

I awoke in Tuesday morning last week to see a long rant about face masks on Twitter. Not someone not wanting to wear one, but someone complaining that his mother, a former nurse who had had to wear masks at work was telling him of the dangers of masks and was ignoring her training because she had seen something on YouTube. This is an indictment on my generation that many of us are willing to ignore experts and listen to anonymous people on social media. In my youth we were called juvenile delinquants, we have grown up to be senile delinquants.

Also this last week the British Government said they were going to remove rhe Chinese company Huawai from the new 5G network. Shortly after this President Trump claimed responsibility for countries not going with Huawei on security grounds: “I did this myself for the most part.” Said Trump, but it only took a quick google to show that the CIA had been warning about spyware in Huawei’s hardware since 2010, and British Conservative MPs since 2009. Quite an empty boast by Trump.

Also this week I was looking for a cute, strange bird for my daily cute animal of the day (Formally cute animal of the week before lockdown) on Facebook and came upon the teal owl. That the very same picture was also called the Philippine blue owl raised my suspicions, although it is common for an animal to go by two names. Snopes.com showed it to be fake. Someone had photoshopped a brown coloured owl. Still it is a good photoshop, and is certainly cute. Here it is, it’s just a shame it isn’t real.

Sorry, it’s fake

So here’s a blog about Empowering Honesty. I got the title from a blog back in January by Beauty Beyond Bones, where she talks about being honest with herself. I have been thinking about how do we deal with all the misinformation on social media to sort it out from all the good information on social media. We need a way to empower the honest.

Like many with autism I have a very strong dislike of telling untruths, possibly stronger than that of the Bible, it took me a long time to get my head around that white lies are acceptable. Just to get this straight white lies are the ones which help people such as when in the 1930s and ’40s when the Nazis asked people if they had any Jews in their houses they would say “No,” knowing full well there were some hidden in the attic and that they were part of a network smuggling Jews to safety. Was it wrong to lie in those circumstances? No. Even the ten commandments say that you shall not bear false witness — with the caveat “against your neighbour.” Helping people escape oppression is allowed. However when someone is fibbing in order to make themselves look better than they are or to be more popular, these are not white lies, more like big fibs.

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” That was later quoted by Mark Twain. Here in the UK just over four years ago Vote Leave were telling people that you cannot trust the experts. Very Disraeli of them. The problem now is that the leaders of that campaign who destabilized trust in experts, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now The Prime Minister and Minister for the Cabinet office, and in a pandemic they are trying to get the public to trust in experts. The very thing they were responsible for eroding. That irony would be funny if it were not involving people’s lives.

There is no justice in the world because there is no truth in the world. If there were truth and justice there would be peace. My family first attended the Christian conference Spring Harvest in 1987. The program there was called “Where truth and justice meet.” The phrase has been with me ever since but I find something fuller in Jewish rabbinic writings.

Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel used to say: By three things does the world endure: justice truth and peace. R, Muna said: The three are one, because if justice is done, truth has bee affected and peace brought about.

These three are also in scripture: These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace. Zechariah 8:16 ESV.

We need to find a way to empower people who are honest. All people, male or female, white of BAME, straight, cisgender, trensgender or non-binary all deserve the same good treatment. We should be lifting people up, not putting them down even if that brings us into conflict with those who would put them down. Pouring scorn on people or politicians who are less than truthful seems to be having a negative effect. We need to find people who are doing good honestly and openly and give them the credit they deserve. I shall finish with a quote from Twitter:

Doing theology, daring to speak of God, is always a vulnerable process of self-revealing and becoming, trusting in God’s love and justice. (No wonder those with way too much power and big voices are prone to get a little defensive when new voices dare to speak their truth……!)

Revd Dr Ayla Lepine on Twitter   14/7/20 

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