More than ten years ago while in the United States, I went on what I believe was called an “experiential learning trip” with a group of college students through famous areas of the civil rights area. This included places like the birth place of Martin Luther King Jr., the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and the Bus Stop where Rosa Parks got on the bus she famously refused to sit at the back of.
While at the time I was still nominally on board with most of the standard stories of history, I was aware that the latter event wasn’t a random act of civil disobedience but calculated political activism. As I’ve written, whether or not the cause was just, is not my concern. The issue is with how it is portrayed and the way this story is generally communicated is not the way it really happened.
On this trip I also happened to get into a conversation about Michael Moore (he was still somewhat relevant at the time), and the manipulative way he made his films. The person I spoke to, while acknowledging this, thought it was acceptable because of the message he was trying to spread. This person was I believe an academic too.
Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that most of what I saw and learned on that trip was a lie. I already know at the very least that there is a lot more to it than the public generally knows. I was often disgusted with the monuments I saw which seemed to me to be obscenely overdone; even assuming it was all true.
That same year a film called ‘Flags of our Fathers’ was released which is about the very famous image of soldiers planting a flag on Iwo Jima. This was of course, not just a great photo taken by an observant cameraman but a staged photo that was used for propaganda purposes. Again, I’m not quibbling about the cause – just the methods. Finding out that this photograph was completely staged annoyed me and if the film is at all accurate, it bothered the soldiers who participated even more.
Moving forward to 2008 and down under to a moment that I was able to witness at the time. The Prime Minister of Australia at the time – Kevin Rudd with pomp and ceremony publicly apologised to Australian Aborigines for something that never happened. This being the so-called “Stolen Generations” which did not happen despite what our official history now claims. And I have a lengthy, well-sourced book on the subject that I have read and have yet to see intelligently rebutted if you’d argue with me about this.
Leaving aside the political motivations of preserving these manufactured mythologies, there are plenty of people who well-understand the smoke and mirrors but insist on these theatrics anyway. In other words, people BELIEVE things they know to be lies.
The supernatural is quickly and not unfairly dismissed as being untrue because it is beyond natural. It conflicts with the physical world as we understand it and therefore it is assumed, there must be an explanation that matches the laws and nature of the world as is observed. This is often born out in reality too. Unexplained phenomena is often explained when somebody with more understanding is brought in to do so. This is true of everything from strange lights in the sky to claims of miraculous healing and visions by various kooks. Most or many of the people who consciously believe political falsehoods would no doubt agree with what I have written. The Catholic Church from what I understand, traditionally investigates miraculous claims much as an atheist would despite their interest to the contrary.
I don’t write any of this to claim that miracles and the supernatural are true though I do believe this. If it isn’t clear, I write this more to point out that people will dismiss the supernatural out of hand but are willing to believe things they know are not true at all. As with the person I mentioned above on Michael Moore, I find people get quite uncomfortable when you make them conscious of this. The responses I have seen to the book I reviewed in my last post indicate the same. I’m not talking about people who argue back and point out that I am wrong with reasons why, but people that do not deny it but persist in it anyway. For me truth will always be truth. If the method is dishonest than the message almost certainly is. Truth doesn’t need to hide, deceive or trick and it doesn’t need state sanction or an advertising budget.
This does not mean I’m against ceremony or good rhetoric. I understand such things are important for people and indeed I enjoy both in my religious life. I am merely stating that the truth can and should stand without any of this.