post truth


there was a guy on the radio this morn­ing — in the god slot fea­ture which some­how per­sists on the BBC R4 news flag­ship today known as ’thought for the day’ talk­ing about how the OED now fea­tures the term ‘post-truth’ hav­ing gained cur­ren­cy as the most impor­tant new word of the year. this guy some­how seemed to iden­ti­fy or by means of some rapid seman­tic gym­nas­tics trans­late the term into st paul’s tri­umvi­rate of virtue: ‘faith, hope, and love’. these rep­re­sent, this speak­er had it, three facets, not of virtue, but of truth. for him, truth and virtue seem to be inter­change­able. i would ask, as pon­tius pilate we are told, asked of jesus; ‘what is truth?’ imply­ing, as he did, that truth is con­tin­gent upon one’s point of view, a rel­a­tive con­cept, post-ein­stein or post-mod­ern. i’m tempt­ed to, no i will, quote bob dylan here; ’you are right from your side, i am right from mine’ (he is now a nobel prize win­ner after all).

but to come back to the tri­umvi­rate of virtue ‘faith, hope, and love’; when we speak of faith we talk of the past. it’s that which has been, of hope, that which we wish for the future, which leaves ‘love’ for the present. there was a short video i saw a few years back (this was a time when the cre­ative review gave away small CD roms with each month’s issue. how long ago all that seems now. print media was still king and peo­ple still used to say ‘i can’t imag­ine why i would ever want or need a mobile phone). ‘exper­i­men­tal video’ it used to be called then. this was short; actu­al­ly about ten sec­onds. it was a guy in his car dri­ving down a straight road. just like in a hol­ly­wood road movie. it could have been the ari­zona desert, or new mex­i­co. speak­ing to the cam­era: ‘this is a time machine’. ges­tur­ing to the rear view mir­ror, he declared ‘the past’, look­ing at his steer­ing wheel, ‘this is the present’, then look­ing at the road ahead, the cam­era fol­low­ing his gaze, ‘that, that is the future’. end of video.

so, ‘love’ is the present. when i was a kid it was­n’t ‘faith, hope and love, at some time in my post school days love was intro­duced, by pros­e­lytis­ing evan­ge­lists. my sus­pi­cion is that it’s a hap­py-clap­py born again thing. when i hear the word ‘love’ i imme­di­ate­ly reach for my kaftan.

no. when i was a kid it was ‘char­i­ty’. my teach­ers would­n’t have had any truck with any­thing so neb­u­lous, as wool­ly as ‘love’. char­i­ty, now there’s a slip­pery word. ‘as cold as char­i­ty’. some­thing root­ed in ‘good works’, pub­lic ser­vice, vic­to­ri­an val­ues. but isn’t ‘char­i­ty’ a much bet­ter word when framed with ‘faith’ and ‘hope’? for me it implies some­thing more con­crete, more sub­stan­tial than ‘love’. some­thing altruistic.

in this new world of trumpian bom­bast and big­otry, where alt.right misog­y­ny, racism and lying are the new nor­mal, char­i­ty seems to me some­thing which is in pre­cious short supply.

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