‘Best of post-truth’ is an oxymoron. Post-truth isn’t good in the first place. So how do you get ‘best’?
Post-truth refers to a system (socio-political, usually) in which objective facts are not given as much weightage in shaping public opinion as appeals to emotion and prejudices. Emotions, prejudices, personal beliefs and aspirations determine the evolution of public opinion. Too many countries, including my own India, are traversing the path of post-truth now. Lies are shouted loud, propagated through various media channels, and accepted gladly as truths by a sizable majority of people.
Imagine millions of people believing that climate change is not real because their Prime Minister said, Sardi zada hai, unki sehne ki kshamta kam ho gayi hai. Nehru’s ghost is still haunting India’s economy, according to these same people. The Mughals who died centuries ago dominate the nation’s collective psyche. Cows in India fart oxygen. Cow urine can cure cancer. Thus goes the list of post-truths in contemporary India.
Post-truth is not the opposite of truth. It is a queer mix of truths and lies, facts and feelings, fire and water. Reality and fantasy blend so well that you don’t know which is which. Mythology and buffoonery go hand in hand merrily. Secularism becomes the deadliest pandemic (sickularism) and liberalism is a kind of mental retardation (libtards). A deity transmogrifies into a war cry (Jai Sri Ram).
I take examples from India. But this is happening in many countries. Too many, in fact. Bluff and bluster have been globalized. That helps to conceal unpleasant truths from people. When the rich grow super-rich at the expense of the poor, it is convenient to give bluff and bluster to the poor. Give them slogans. Better still, give them Jai Sri Ram. There is no greater illusion and intoxication than religion. Make Hindu Rashtra the dream for the majority. Let them dream while we stash away wealth in tax-free havens. Or pit them against Geetanjali Shree for making God Shiva embrace Goddess Parvati.
Democracy is dying in the meanwhile inside its very temple whose threshold was kissed in ostensible humility by the greatest post-truth leader once upon a time. Bills are passed without debates. Members of legislative assemblies are innocent lambs taken to some green resorts and fed with a few crore rupees. The Party is growing. Genuine patriots should be happy. Those who are not happy are traitors. Throw them in prisons.
Throw them in prisons and use the electronic media to fabricate stories about their betrayals. If any channel refuses to cooperate, raid their offices and homes. Plant post-truths in their systems. And throw them in jails.
Remember the times when people were thrown into dungeons for speaking inconvenient truths? Those were days when the rulers were religious people. The priests were the custodians of all truths. Post-truth world is no different. Only the priests have been replaced by traders. And they are trading away the country. After giving us a moving slogan: Jai Sri Ram.
In other words, truth is not the remedy for post-truth. Truth is as good as post-truth. Truth could have got Galileo killed. Just an example to show that what is true on this side of the Himalayas could be false on the other side.
So what is the remedy? Poetry. Yup. We say things like ‘The sun rises in the east’ when we know too well that the sun doesn’t rise or set anywhere. But we have no problem with such statements. Because it is poetry. Sunrise and sunset are poetry. Truths and meanings lie between the lines in poetry. Learning to read between the lines is what is required in post-truth world.
PS. I started writing this as a response to the latest Indispire prompt: The best thing that happened to you in the post-truth world. #PostTruthBest Obviously, it went out of my control.