The world remains polarised. Regional and religious clashes characterise its polarity. Ethnicity, gender, class and caste continue to deepen the human-created divide between our communities. The poor continue to fight the rich. The privileged feel increasingly threatened by the (slow and steady) rise of the unprivileged. East defiantly pushes back the west in order to regain its ascendancy and the lost glory. The black people strive for redemption and justice. The lower caste desperately seeks its rightful place in the Indian socio-economic hierarchy. Who is right and who is wrong? The world continues to seek equilibrium. And that will happen till the humans exist.
Our thoughts define us. The ever-changing times and several existential challenges lurking ahead will undoubtedly force us to change our thoughts and behaviours for the better. All we need to do is to remain patient, vigilant (not vigilantes) and cognisant of a dire need to trigger many a positive change within us, in our very DNA. Inevitably, changes will occur in us, in our perceptions, thought processes and behaviours. Humans will keep improving as one race and merge eventually as one large global family.
But changes can’t be forced, changes take time to surface after they are initiated deep inside us, in our DNA, through our keen observations and sincere reflections. Slowly, through deep contemplations, changes will seep into our psyche and consciousness. Note that it took billions of years for life to appear after the Earth was born about 4.6 billion years ago. Our past human history, of just about 200,000 years, bears a strong testimony to our progress, at all levels of our not-very-long existence, and how quickly we moved away from the lifestyle of our distant (hunter and gatherer) ancestors to a much more civilised race at the current point of time, despite our geo-political tussles.
We humans are all different. We are an intelligent and opinionated species. We have the capability to observe, think, analyze and plan our activities. Individually, we all come with our own unique sets of beliefs, prejudices and value systems – some inherent, as part of our basic nature, and some encultured and inculcated by our families, communities and the education system. Our perceptions, intelligences, emotions, beliefs, biases, wants and needs differ from one another. Despite dealing with the same facts and figures, our created realities and truths differ. The reality and truth of a deaf and blind person, standing in front of a falling tree, will be entirely different than a person with all faculties intact.
There are Climate Change activists who believe Climate Change is real, happening here and now, caused, driven or contributed by reckless human activities – actively and passively – and, of course, inactions and denial. And there are people who are in complete denial of anything happening at all. And, yes, there are also people who believe Climate Change happens every day, naturally, regardless of anything that we do or don’t. All sides project their own sets of scientific arguments for or against the Climate Change. But now, who can then judge which side is wrong and which side is right?
Christians (~2.4 Bn), Muslims (~ 2 Bn) and) and Hindus (~1.2 Bn) comprise about 30%, 24% and 15% of the world population, respectively. Staunch followers of all religions claim and highlight the trueness, validity and purity of their own religion and try to achieve ascendancy over one another and the rest of the religions. But who can really judge which religion is the truest?
Globally, Asians and Africans together comprise about 76% of the world population but do they rule the planet? In India, more than 66% people did not vote for the ruling BJP in India’s 2014 national election and more than 62% people did not vote for it in the next (2019) national elections, but BJP still rules. In Australia, the Liberal Party received more votes than the Australian Labor Party in the 2022 federal election, but did it form the government?
In the US, Democrats and Republicans remain embroiled in trying to prove each other wrong and wrest from each other. Similar is the case with the British Labour and the Conservative parties, as between the Australian Labor and the Liberal parties, In India too, the BJP and the Congress party engage in a similar political battle, digging up the issues of the past?
Power rules. Our political strength, material wealth and resources define our power. Power defines the terms ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, as well as ‘good’ and bad’. Power also sets the rules for the definitions of ‘noble’ and ‘evil’, moral and immoral. However, as power is whimsical in nature and keeps shifting, there are permanently no ‘good or bad’ people or ‘right or wrong’ people. We all become both bad and good at different times, in different circumstances. Similarly, either we all are ‘right, or we all are ‘wrong’, depending upon when and how we are judged and by whom.
On a global scale, leftists and rightists fight each other, as do democracy and socialism, in trying to achieve ascendancy by proving each other wrong. Who is right and who is wrong? All or none, who can tell? Similar questions can be asked about the Sun and the Moon, day and night, summer and winter, hot Venus and cold Mars etc.
It is okay to be on any sides of any of those human-created divides and hold any views about anything – as leftists or as rightists, as democrats or as socialists, as liberals or as autocrats – so long as our intentions are altruistically noble and honest towards our fellow humans and the planet on the whole.
It is okay to hold on to any religious or political ideologies as long as you value and cherish upholding the intrinsic human dignity of all humans – of any shape, size, colour and gender, from anywhere – as your first and foremost sacred duty and prime responsibility towards all present and future generations of humans.
Facts versus realities and truths
Reality is generally realised through evidential facts and figures and depends essentially, both qualitatively and quantitatively, upon the data available. However, individual truths tend to become victims to fallacies, imperfections and general characteristics of individual humans – one’s interpretive skills and logic, intrinsic bias, core beliefs, and perception. For example, for a same event, such as a fallen tree in a jungle or a road accident, our individual truths can differ because of possible variances in our individual perceptions, logic, intellect, beliefs, bias, emotional intelligence and, above all, our ability to analyse the facts and figures presented or available to us.
Our likes and dislikes, inherent biases and prejudices, knowledge and ignorance shape and structure our perceptions and, thus, our realities and created truths. For example, take the case of ICC T20 World Cup 2022 tournament. Pakistan miraculously came from behind and made to the semi-final, as the second-best team in Group B. On the other hand, thanks to a couple of lucky wins – one against Pakistan and the other against Bangladesh – India also reached the semi-final, as the top team in Group B. Pakistan’s amazing run continued when they convincingly beat New Zealand, the top team from Zone A and reached the final. On the other hand, India’s lucky run stopped abruptly when they were thrashed by England, the second-best team from Group A, in the second semi-final. So, against all probability, England and Pakistan, the two second-best teams from Groups A and B – reached the final.
Before the final at the MCG, the big question was: ‘Which team would the diehard Indian fans support in the final?’ Most Indian cricket fans favoured England, some supported Pakistan – albeit for two different reasons – and some supported none at all. All four broad groups had their own arguments in support of their decisions.
(1) The first group will support any team that plays against Pakistan. They perceive Pakistan as India’s enemy, an archrival in everything. Their decisions are driven by their core belief that Pakistan must always lose, which shapes their perception, thus, their reality and created truth. It has nothing got to do with cricket.
(2) The second group accepted Pakistan as an essential part of the subcontinent, one that shared culture and history with India. They do not see Pakistan essentially as an enemy and, thus, wanted the Cup to come home to the subcontinent.
(3) The third group saw Pakistan as an underdog that had been rather unlucky in losing their very first match of the tournament to India. Their support for Pakistan is shaped by cricket.
(4) The fourth and the last group saw both England and Pakistan as India’s adversaries, one from its colonial past and another in the present post-partition era. Their realities and truths differ from the first three groups for reasons other than cricket or culture.
Of the four groups above, who can say which one is right and which one is wrong?
Our individual realties and truths are limited to the bounds of our individual little worlds, as illustrated by Plato (427 – 347 BCE) in Republic, as the Allegory of the Cave. Although, these little truths can be seen to be valid to limited extents, they can’t be taken to define the whole truth (the truth), which no human can claim to know. The bounds of knowledge keep growing with each single day, what we know today is much more than what we knew yesterday.
In an ideal world, with ‘perfect’ humans, discrepancies between our individual realities and little truths will not occur; facts and figures will possibly align with our individual and collective realities and created truths, and, possibly, logic will converge with our beliefs.
In an imperfect world of humans, where humans will continue to be a work in progress till their existence and keep developing until they mirror robots with mechanistic precision, individual realities and truths tend to become victims to our core beliefs, inherent biases, intelligence, knowledge and perception. The result is that we tend to make our own individual truths and even create our own realities, howsoever, absurd or ridiculous that may appear to others. And that is very much human. To err is very much human.
We humans are not perfect, neither is our Mother Nature. We must accept that. On a positive note, our inherent imperfections render us our humanness and separate us from being perfect robots. The world is interesting because humans, particularly with an above-average intelligence, can think and express uninhibited, and discuss and argue freely. Imagine a world where we all perceived things and thought in the same way. Undoubtedly, that world would be rather bland and boring and not as colourful as it is now.
Currently, in our imperfect world, we live with hope, and hope sustains life. In a hypothetical perfect world of the future, what will the ‘perfect’ humans look forward to without having to feel the need to have any hope for further improvements? They may just live like zombies!
Despite the facts remaining constant, realities and truths vary with differing beliefs and contrasting perceptions. The truth remains person-specific. Our individual experiences differ. Proverbially. beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. No two humans see or think alike. Each human is unique in character. We may like to think or wish that our realties and truths match and merge with facts, however, that does not necessarily happen. As a consequence, there will be no one truth but many truths.
Fortunately, or unfortunately both, therefore, facts and realities and truths are not always congruent but differentiated by individual human characteristics. In time, as we evolve further, our individual realities and truth will align with facts and figures. Discrepancies in our judgement will fade away. We’ll become better humans, less apprehensive or fearful or distrustful of one another. The world will become a much better place. We have bettered ourselves since our evolution and we’ll continue to do so. Our DNA will trigger that change.
In the meantime, let us desist from using force to change one another. Our patience and perseverance will bring about a much-needed congruence in our perceptions, and not the use of force. One day we will cohere and fight together against our common enemies – poverty, disease, hunger, Climate Change, Artificial Intelligence and, of course, aliens from the outer space.
© Bill K Koul [14 Nov 2022, Perth, Western Australia]
Copyright © Bill K Koul