Believe It Or Not
By Bart Vogelzang

Much of what we take as truth is based on belief. Pretty much from birth onwards, we are expected to believe what we are told, and the discovery of lying is a major revelation. One of our problems though, is that, while we discover lying can work to fool others if done well, we fail to see that we ourselves may be fooled by the lies of others, at least for some time; sadly, we may come to fool ourselves, and with that commitment, are even less likely to discover our own deception. Sooner or later, we will detect a lie from someone else, probably a sibling trying to protect itself from parental retribution for some infraction.

Once we discover that we have been betrayed by lies, we lose a lot of our trust, and probably respect. We certainly seek to avoid being further victimized by lying, often by shunning those who have been found lying to us. Generally though, we only apply that to people of a similar type. If we detect a lie from a brother, we may revile that brother and have continual fights with him. If we detect a lie from a popular kid at school, we will be less likely to trust popular kids at school, but we might still trust a popular kid in scouts, 4H, or our softball club. We may well still trust unpopular kids, or ones belonging to a minority, at least until that ‘group type’ of kids also gets caught in a lie.

Sadly, lies from authority figures really take a toll on us, since the extent of our subsequent distrust may well hamstring us socially, morally, and economically. A lying teacher might cause distrust of other teachers, but not likely, say, of police officers. A lie from the police might cause distrust of all police, but extend to encompass the whole legal system. Lies detected from clergy could easily encompass distrust and abhorrence of anyone filling a position of “moral superiority.”

Lies that are not deliberate, but misunderstandings, or someone else's lies being passed on unwittingly, have the same consequences when discovered to be falsehoods. Intent is not the issue, only the lack of truth. In truth we trust. Anything else…not so much.

The point here is that once there is distrust and suspicion about someone's truthfulness it is nearly impossible to change that back to a position of trust. It is the BELIEF in the person(s) that holds sway, not the actual veracity of the discussion item. A person will believe something that is not truth, often because it is told to them by someone not in the ‘group type’ that has been caught in a lie. Conversely, a person will usually not believe anything coming from someone in a ‘group type’ that has been caught lying. Simply protecting oneself from further betrayal insists on this behavior.

One danger to watch out for if you are cynical about another: your own beliefs will be at play, and you might believe something blindly that has less than 100% truth behind it, or disbelieve something just because of your belief that the other ‘group type’ is untrustworthy.

Generally we have experienced lying early in childhood, and discovered them early too, so we start to become more cynical about what we hear. Those little 'white lies' are no different to many of us than 'black lies', at that young age. Later on, we will almost certainly still trust anyone in a ‘group type’ which hasn't been caught lying, and that can easily lead us into dangerous waters. We will be just as adamant about supporting those who haven't been detected to be lying, as we will at condemning those who have. Neither position is really logical.

Just because we haven't spotted a lie doesn't mean there isn't one, and we shouldn't be prompted to give 100% support. Then again, just because we have spotted a lie doesn't mean that all things from those people are going to be lies, so 100% opposition is wrong as well. What we need, all of us, is open-minded willingness to investigate. If nothing else, in any discussion aimed at others and not necessarily the ones who are holding their beliefs close to their hearts, we need to include the recommendation that they do their own research, and refer them to reading material, videos, and links to properly documented online articles on the subject.

Beliefs are not easily changed, and haranguing never does the trick. Evidence, slowly consumed while in a calm state, is most likely to offer a chance for change, so, while confrontation may have its place in creating a focal point for drawing recruits or support, the final ‘battle’ will be won by logical thinking, clear speaking, and simply showing that what has been believed has actually been falsehood.

Beliefs pervade humanity, our society, our cultures, and some of them are much more dangerous than others. Any belief that insists that it is one group’s right to enforce its beliefs on others is bound to cause much distress and pain. Regardless of the truth or falsehood of a basic belief, believing in the right to inflict it on others is simply the most intolerable belief of all; it denies other the right to their own beliefs. And that is the curse inflicted by so many religions.

Religious beliefs are not usually fact based, but that is a belief of mine. However, they are nearly universal in their insistence that other beliefs are wrong and must be overcome, destroyed, removed from existence. The multiplicity of religious beliefs in the world today, many co-existing to some degree or another, is more an indication of the general decline of religious beliefs than an acceptance of belief diversity. The more intolerant religious nations are, the more anchored the belief system. It will take years, if not decades, of evidence to show the lies to enough people to affect changes. Electronic message exchange, and most particularly the internet with its social media, is doing more to show the lies for what they are, and the liars for whom they are, than anything else in recent memory.

Control of those outlets is of prime importance to those who wish to curtail truths, who wish to foster belief, and that is why it is so important to fight for the right to free access to information. Lies must be revealed and stifled media cannot do so.

Each time someone states something as a fact, particularly when it comes to morality and behaviors, be suspicious if it cannot be proven by unrelated (unbiased) sources. If someone states something and can be shown to have lied, that needs to be seen over and over again by as many people as possible. When a publicly active homophobe proves to be morally corrupt, let everyone know; spread it far and wide. When a famous entrepreneur proves to have been deceitful, we all need to know about it. When a judge proves to have been involved in crime, scream it to all who will listen. If a politician enacts laws that will benefit no-one else, but hurts others, protest, protest, protest.

What Occupy Wall Street is showing is a collapse of at least one belief system. The lies, the underhanded actions, the attempts to prop up beliefs in order to protect the privileged, have started to come to light, and our trust is failing. The danger is if we form a new belief; that everyone well-to-do is part of a conspiracy. We must not allow ourselves to create the next repression from the ashes of the previous.

“The pendulum swings to the right, then the left” and we need to make it stop somewhere near the middle, where the vast majority of humanity prefers to live.

©2011 Bart Vogelzang. All Rights Reserved