Reality Sucks

Reality can sometimes be quite dull. In films, TV programmes, or even the news, reality gets changed and made more dramatic and exciting. It seems that we want the altered, edited and “sexed up” version of reality more than reality itself.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many people get caught up (or caught out) by fake news stories; something that is more sensational than reality is far more exciting.

When a Supreme Court case relating to Britain’s exit from the European Union was televised many people commented on how dull it was. Although this was a momentous and historic case, many on social media complained that it wasn’t as dramatic as fictionalised courtroom dramas they had seen on TV.

The film “Sully” based on the true events of the Hudson River plane crash invented tension and conflict around the subsequent investigation that, according to the real Captain Sullenberger’s accounts, never occurred. The real story wasn’t deemed dramatic enough for Hollywood and had to be embellished.

Are we turning our backs on truth?

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Slogans and Labels

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We are more inclined to read slogans than labels. We like sound-bites rather than information. We’re drawn to quick wins rather than long-term solutions.

During the US Election campaign, some Trump supporters bought hats bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again”.  Reports suggested that some of the hats available online had labels stating they were made in China. These may have not been official Trump merchandise, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with hats made in China. But, if you believe buying domestic products is an important aspect of making your nation great again, it’s important to check the label, as well as read the slogan.

Politics has always favoured slogans. And all too often, the electorate vote for the soundbite, not caring about the truth behind it. It seems that, as long as it fits on a cap, t-shirt, or can be plastered in massive letters on the side of a bus, many people don’t care about the truth behind the slogan. In fact some commentators have gone so far as to say that we are living in a “post-truth era”. (Another “sound-bite”, I guess).

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Are We Losing Trust in Trust?

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Our trust has been broken so many times that we no longer trust “trust”. What do I mean by that? Well, if someone says “trust me”, we’re becoming more inclined to respond sceptically or defensively.

The tele-sales rep tells us “I’m not trying to sell you anything!” because if they said they were trying to sell us something then we would not trust a word they said. Even though we don’t trust that they are not trying to sell us something… because we know that they are!

Politicians have broken our trust so many times that we no longer trust them. As a result there’s a surge in popularity for “rookie” candidates – the person who’s new to politics, the person without political experience. One reason, perhaps, that so many are finding Donald Trump an appealing candidate for the US Presidency.

Businesses have broken our trust. They’ve lied to us too many times. Banks have fixed rates, sold us products and services we didn’t want, weren’t eligible for, or didn’t even know we were buying.

Newspaper companies hacked phones… TV shows rigged telephone votes… the list of examples goes on and on…

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Painful Truths

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The truth can be painful sometimes, it’s why some people avoid it. If you’re unhappy with your weight, the painful truth is that your weight is a direct result of your actions. If you’re unhappy with your job, the painful truth is that you are choosing to be there; your work place doesn’t hold you prisoner. If you’re unhappy with your lifestyle, the painful truth is that you can make better choices.

If you want to change something about your life, the painful truth is that you can, but you have to choose to do it. Yet, all too often, we would rather accept a lie than the truth and this permeates so many aspects of our society.

Car emissions were not as low as advertised. TV energy ratings were not as efficient as stated. The painful truth is that the manufacturers lied to us.

Only 2% of the tuna caught around the world is ‘Dolphin Friendly’; the demand for tuna far outweighs the amounts that can be caught using pole and line. Regardless of what the labels say, the painful truth is that the tuna industry still kills dolphins.

Confronting painful truths is not easy. It might force us to stop, to assess, and to become mindful of our impact on our bodies, our lives, and the world around us. Most of us want to ‘make a difference’. We want to feel like we care. It’s why we want energy ratings on TVs, labels that state ‘Dolphin friendly’ tuna, cars that are branded ‘eco-friendly’. But the reality requires us to get more involved than we have been in the past. Reading a label isn’t enough. We all have to become more active, in our lives and in working on making the world around us a better place.

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What Do You Know?

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“For this discovery of yours [writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember for themselves”

– Plato

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato lived about 2,400 years ago. The above quote expresses his concern that when something is written down, people may take it – whatever it is – to be a fact;  they won’t think on the issue, they won’t ponder or pontificate. They won’t expand their understanding through those “lightbulb” moments we all experience from time to time.

How amazing that Plato’s simple question is more relevant today than it was then. Today we don’t need to think, we don’t need to discover our knowledge; we don’t need to learn.

We can just “Google” it.

We now “own” knowledge – practically all of human knowledge can be accessed from our devices in our hands or pockets. Everything is just a click away. The sheer volume of information is mind-boggling, all available at the touch of a few buttons. But have we sacrificed quality, truth and fact, for volume?

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