Truth is Neither Universal Nor Absolute; It’s Cultural

August 1, 2014

Some things just outrage me. Yesterday, on NPR, I heard a 12 year old talk about why she thought “illegals” should be turned away from the US borders. She spoke about how these bad people were bringing drugs and disease into our country.

What blew my mind is that she said she thought the children should be sent home, or “better yet, put in jail.” And what’s particularly disturbing is that, many of the children coming to the US seeking asylum, are her age or younger.

A 12 year old, espousing the conservative company line, is particularly uncomfortable because it gets to the heart of why 12 year olds, living in war torn countries, are given guns and told to go “kill the bad people” to begin with. A 12 year old brain lacks the ability to think critically, so they get guns because they unquestioningly do what they're told.

The reason I bring this up is because the reality is that we are taught to be afraid of “the other.” Once that’s established, then it’s easy to teach us to be afraid of sex, gay marriage, abortion, birth control - or worse yet - our own impulses. We learn to feel shame and fear regarding pleasure, to take pleasure in hate.

With the company line, we are told that our deepest personal values come from inside, a pristine place of absolute truth or insight, but the reality is that truth is a cultural idea. We are each trained to be a perfectly functioning citizen of our religious group, our town, our state our culture and our society. But that is arbitrary training - not absolute reality.

We have a responsibility to become more vocal about the reality that truth is neither universal or absolute; it’s cultural. And when we hear a 12 year old tell us that children from other countries should be jailed instead of loved, nurtured and protected, it makes me wonder where it stops. Abuse begets abuse and some kind of outrage needs to be expressed.

Perhaps that expression of outrage is simply to ourselves. To take our own misguided 12 year old living inside - with equally strong ignorant beliefs handed down to us from our parents - and offer our inner child instead, unconditional love, boundary and rational guidance.

We don’t need to believe whatever nonsense our parents believe about life to be loved by them. We deserve love regardless - simply because we are - not because we hate the same people that mommy and daddy taught us to hate.

There has been more than enough hate and fear of “the other” expressed in the last two centuries to go around. If hate, fear and xenophobia worked, it would have worked already.

But it ain’t working.

It’s time to upgrade our beliefs into the 21st century of critical thinking. “The other” is not dangerous. “The other” is us.

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