How Do You Know What is Truth?

A commentary on critical thinking

Lately, I (#blogger #blog #somseason #YA #authors) have been involved in several discussions with people regarding truth. It typically begins with a question like: How do you know what to believe on social media and in the news? It’s not easy.

One of the definitions in the Cambridge English Dictionary is: “Truth is the real facts about a situation, event, or person.”   That same dictionary defines a fact as “something that is known to have happened or to exist, especially something for which proof is given.” What people are really wanting to know is: How do we determine what are the real facts of a situation, event, or person, and what’s the proof?  I am going to attempt to answer that question.

I have come to realize that we humans are programmed, manipulated, brainwashed (you pick the word) to believe what we are told. Most people believe what the Mainstream Media (MM) is telling them. Most believe what our leaders and governments tell them. I have even heard people proclaim, “Our leaders/governments would never lie to us.” We believe if “doctor” is in front of a name, or a person has a doctorate degree, then they are telling us the truth. We think, “They’re a doctor, it must be true.” We believe everything our spiritual leaders tell us. I once heard a person say (paraphrased): “Tell me what I need to do to obtain my salvation, and I will do it.”  Organized religions have indoctrinated us to think a certain way and believe what they tell us without questioning, often using fear to do so.  Comedian, George Carlin, once said: “I have as much authority as the Pope. I just don’t have as many people who believe it.” He’s right. MM is constantly proclaiming “Experts say” (see Experts say).  As soon as it is labelled “expert” we think: “It must the true if experts say it.” Rarely are we told who these experts are. When statistics are given from some study, we think the stats make it true.

Debate.org deliberates on the question: Are we being brainwashed as a society? Here is an excerpt.

…in my society, the United States, I think we’ve been being brainwashed for a long time, and still are. We’ve just never been encouraged to think critically about things. We’re always told/taught what to think, rather than how to think, which I consider tantamount to brainwashing.

We’re encouraged in schools to stand in reverence and pledge allegiance to the flag before we’re even taught why we owe our allegiance to it in the first place… We’re taught early on in our schooling that certain drugs are bad (marijuana, LSD, psylosybin, etc.) but are not told why they are bad, and nary a word is said of the harms of socially acceptable drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, oxycotin, or even pharmaceutical drugs that are often used in excess for recreational purposes, like children’s cough syrup. Even in the media, we’re often presented with a biased view of events, and they are often put through an ideological filter, and rather than presenting only facts; the opinions of the reporter are reported along with it.

The debater said, “We’ve just never been encouraged to think critically about things.” He or she is absolutely correct. I always tried to teach my students to think critically, but it was a difficult battle. Students typically resist thinking critically. Sadly, their only concern is what is on the test. Over my teaching career, I’ve heard many a student say: “Just tell me what I need to know for the test.” People, like my students, are programmed NOT to think for themselves. Instead, they are told what to think and tested on it.

The Buddha 

The Buddha—also known as Siddhartha Gautama—(circa 450 BCE) an individual whose teachings form the basis of Buddhism allegedly said:

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Now that is good, sound advice. Just because someone—even if they have credentials—said it, doesn’t make it true. We must think for ourselves and come to our own truth. If we believe everything we’re told, then we are being unknowingly bullied (#bullying #antibullying). If ever there was a time in human history to think critically, it is now! There is much misinformation being told.

We are robots. We are programmed, manipulated, or mind-controlled to just believe whatever someone tells us; especially if they are seen as an authority figure. I experienced that as a teacher. My students, for the most part, would believe anything I told them. A colleague of mine once told his students that packaged wieners were dug out of a landfill site after being in there for 100 years, and the wieners were still edible. This teacher was “pulling their leg,” of course, but the students completely believed the teacher. The reality is, we humans tend to believe what we are told, even if we think we don’t.

So how does a person think critically? When you are critically thinking, you are asking: What is my truth? You are tapping into what is yours, what feels right to you, and deciphering what is somebody else’s. Whenever we are told something—whether it be the news, a YouTube video, another person—you can digest the information by thinking critically. That can be done using these three steps.

  1. Recognize that you are hearing or seeing a message.
  2. Understand the message.  This message means…  This doesn’t mean the message is true.
  3. Observe and start asking questions about the information you’ve received. Dive deeper and peel back the layers of the message. Ask yourself: Does this feel right to me? Does this make sense? Could this be true, or could this be false? Is there more to this message or information? Where did this information come from? What is the source of this message?

Ask yourself: Does the source have an agenda or goal? All media messages have goals, which can affect the information presented. For example, Coca-Cola claimed its Vitaminwater brand could promote healthy joints and reduce the risk of eye disease, among other health benefits. Such claims are aimed at selling a product and are likely partially true or maybe not true at all. Some publications aim to rally readers around a particular issue, like climate change, and so may present a skewed view of the science.

Instead, feel the message; feel the resonance of the message; feel the message’s energy. Does the energy of the message resonate with you? As Albert Einstein once said:

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

Thinking critically means stepping out of right or wrong, good or bad, or true and false and using your intuition to feel the energy of the information you are receiving. Cambridge English Dictionary defines intuition as: “(knowledge from) an ability to understand or know something immediately based on your feelings rather than facts.”  Have you ever gotten a “vibe” from someone or something? Have you had a feeling that I’m unsafe,  I’m in danger, or felt that something was a bad idea? I have. That is your intuition. Now use those same intuitive feelings to determine if a message you’re receiving is your truth. If it feels right, then it is your truth. If it feels incorrect, then it is someone else’s.

Start critically thinking for yourself. That is what I am doing. Not everyone likes it, as they want to debate me and prove me wrong. I will no longer allow bullies to manipulate me to think a certain way. I am stepping into my sovereignty and thinking for myself. I encourage you to do the same. That doesn’t mean I’ll disrespect their truth.

Selective Pandemic Attention

Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, and later as Osho, was an Indian mystic, and founder of the Rajneesh movement. He was asked about 40 years ago during AIDS: How do I avoid an epidemic [pandemic]? “You’re asking the wrong question,” Osho replied, “the right question should be: How to avoid the fear of dying caused by the epidemic [pandemic]? Because it is very easy to avoid the virus, it is very difficult to avoid the fear in you and in the world. People will die more from this fear than from the epidemic (pandemic). There is NO virus in this world more dangerous than FEAR. Understand this fear, otherwise you will become a dead body before your body dies. It has nothing to do with the virus. The scary atmosphere you feel in these moments is collective madness…It has happened a thousand times and will continue to happen. And it will continue if you don’t understand the psychology of crowds and fear. You usually keep your fear at bay, but in the moment of collective madness, your consciousness can be completely lost. You won’t even know when you lost control of your fear. Then fear can make you do anything. In such a situation you can also take your own life or the lives of others. So much will happen in the coming times: Many people will kill themselves and many people will kill more. Attention, be mindful. Don’t watch news that triggers fear. Stop talking about the epidemic [pandemic], repeating the same thing over and over again is like self-hypnosis. Fear is a kind of self-hypnosis. This idea will cause chemical changes in the body. If you repeat the same idea over and over again, a chemical change is triggered that can sometimes be so toxic that it can kill you. During an epidemic [pandemic], energy around the world becomes irrational. This way you can fall into a black hole anytime. Meditation then becomes a protective aura into which no negative energy can penetrate.” (Source: Journalist Eye)

Osho’s answer to the questions makes a lot of sense. Are we being ruled and controlled by fear of this pandemic? I wrote about this in my last post The Real Pandemic. The mainstream news media is solely focused on the pandemic, instilling fear into the masses. As Osho said, “Don’t watch news that triggers fear.” My question is: Is this intentional? Are there people who want to keep us in fear? That is the question that needs answering.

It reminds me of something I (#blogger #blog #somseason #authors  #YA) used to do with my students when teaching about the brain. Watch the video below and follow its directions.

The first time I saw this video, I failed to see the gorilla, and the majority of my students did as well. When we focus exclusively on one thing, we fail to see what is really happening. Could people be so focused on Covid; so caught up in the fear of dying from Covid, that they miss things? When we’re solely focused on Covid, we fail to notice that more people are dying of suicide and drug overdoses than Covid deaths. Isn’t this what Osho said, “Many people will kill themselves…” I mentioned in my last post, the US director for the Center for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, says,

“We’re seeing far greater suicides’ and ‘deaths from drug overdose’ than deaths from COVID, and prolonged school closures may be more dangerous than coronavirus.”

Interestingly, the mainstream media is relatively silent on this topic. Why is that? Do they want us fearful? I’m merely asking the question.

When we exclusively focus on the pandemic, we fail to notice that our rights and freedoms are slowly being taken away from us. We no longer have the freedom to gather in large groups. We no longer have the freedom to enter many places without having to wear a face mask. We no longer are able to run our businesses and schools as usual. Numerous countries have suspended fundamental democratic rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and protections against warrantless searches and warrantless arrests (source Forbes).

When we’re solely focused on Covid, we fail to notice that our democracies are threatened. In my province (Alberta) the government passed Bill 32 which reduces picketing rights, limits arbitrators’ discretion, lowers the legal age of work to 13 years old, and provided employers with opportunities to evade paying overtime premiums. According to research from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, at least 56 countries have delayed national or regional elections due to the coronavirus pandemic (source Infogaphic). Here in Canada, the House of Commons voted to suspend full parliamentary sitting until September. The argument is the virus is too dangerous for elections and for parliament to sit. Is this pandemic so dangerous that democracy has to be suspended, or even removed?

When we exclusively focus on the pandemic, we fail to notice that humanity is more divided than ever; pro-maskers verses anti-maskers, pro opening the economy verses keeping it closed, those who believe the media verses those who are accused of being conspiracy theorists, and pro police verses those who advocate defunding the police. TMZ reports that the pro-police group, Back the Blue, and some Black Lives Matter protesters brawled in Fort Collins, Colorado. It reports the Back the Blue crowd went after the BLM protesters. If ever there was a time for humanity to be united and working together, it is now.

There is something else we’re missing when we solely focus on Covid; something that I have been reading a lot about recently, and once again the mainstream media is silent about it. What I’m referring to is human trafficking and missing children. According to The National Crime Information Center (NCIC), 448 090 people under 21 and 161 108 over 21 went missing in 2019 in the US.  In Canada, with a much smaller population of 37 million (2019) 40, 425 reports of missing children in Canada was reported by the RCMP using numbers provided by the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) in 2019. (source the Missing Children Society of Canada). One child missing is too many as far as I am concerned.

Fact Retriever’s article, 56 Little-Known Human Trafficking Facts, says:

  • According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 30 years, over 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking.
  • Nearly 80% of human trafficking is for sex, and 19% is for labor exploitation.
  • Human trafficking around the globe is estimated to generate a profit of anywhere from $9 billion to $31.6 billion. Half of these profits are made in industrialized countries.
  • Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. Criminal organizations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.
  • Human trafficking is estimated to surpass the drug trade in less than five years.

Now I can only speak for myself, but these statistics are alarming! This is bullying (#bullying #antibullying) on a grand scale. What I don’t understand is why this is not being reported by mainstream media. I do not understand why there is not a huge outcry on this planet, like the one we saw with ‘black lives matter,’ over missing children and human trafficking. Black lives matter! Indigenous lives matter! Don’t Children’s lives matter? (#ChildrensLivesMatter #SaveOurChildren #ChildTrafficing)