I know that I had earlier proposed to do a series on the culture of untruthfulness and the nature of falsehood, as it pertains to our current membership in the culture of Late Modernity. By extension, this would have necessitated also an examination of the prospects for a culture of truthfulness.
But the significant and traumatic events of the last week have intruded on that, and I have to put that purpose aside for the time being. We need to address the indications and omens of deep transformation and historical change as they arise in our experience in the present and at “the end of history”.
The UK newspaper The Telegraph has paid tribute to the victims of the Oslo and Utøya Island terror attacks by posting their photographs on its website. A great lump formed in my throat — a dam set up against a possible overwhelming flood of sorrow and tears — as I viewed the images in succession, and read off the names and ages of those who were gunned down.
One photograph, however, transfixed me. The lump in my throat gave way and the dam burst. I was overwhelmed by all the back-pressure of my sorrow and sadness. I broke down. I cried. And I cried for a very long time. (Mr. Breivik and his minions will, I’m sure, feel immense satisfaction in that “success”, gloating in the suffering that has been wrought, and the human pain and tears that have been shed).
New Right Conservatives and right-wing Christians are now falling and stumbling all over themselves and their rhetoric, and embarrassing themselves, in a vain attempt to achieve some political and moral distance from nativist, right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.
They are not being all too successful at that.
When one goes to fight monsters, Nietzsche once wrote, one had best take care not to become the monster oneself.
Nothing illustrates this truth better than the case of the Oslo killer, Anders Breivik. In one horrific act, he annihilated and destroyed all the values he ostensibly held dear, values rooted in love of country and Christianity. This is the irrational psychology of the reactionary, which has been rightly called “the revolution of nihilism” with good reason.
Some time ago, I picked up a discounted book by Evelin Sullivan entitled The Concise Book of Lying. By coincidence, there was also a discounted book in the same bin by Eduardo Giannetti called Lies We Live By: The Art of Self-Deception, so I picked up that one also. (But more on Giannetti’s book later, perhaps).
Probably these books would still remain packed up and unread by me were it not for recent social advances (as it were) in the art and science of lying and falsification (or disinformation) that have started to attract attention (as we mentioned in the previous post on the culture of lying).