By Dr. Carroy (Cuf) Ferguson, Ph.D.
As human beings on this tiny planet in the cosmos we call Earth, we live as “citizens” in a variety of people-determined land demarcations that we call countries, each with its own unique version of politics. Citizens in the United States and people in the world, therefore, are engaged in a variety of political dramas. It is fair to say that in the United States and globally, the current political climate is very divisive.
We, as an educational Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP), therefore, call for a new kind of politics—a “politics of Truth.” As President of AHP, I suggest that such a framework would help to correct the dehumanizing effects of the current divisive political state of affairs on the planet.
In the game of divisive politics, the phenomenon of “gaslighting”—deliberately repeating misinformation to the extent that the public starts doubting verifiable facts and believing the politician’s self-serving talking points—often become the norm when citizens are not vigilant in regard to determining what is the Truth. Given this phenomenon, many independent fact-checkers, for example, are needed and many have found ample evidence that “gaslighting” by the U. S. Administration is quite common. It happens almost daily via a constant bombardment of misinformation in Tweets, social media, and other mass media sources.
Political leaders set a tone for political discourses and political actions and counteractions in a country. Political leaders that use “gaslighting” tend to be autocratic or authoritarian, ego-oriented, and power-driven. Such politicians also use various Truth-distractive tactics like persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, lying, delegitimizing people’s beliefs, objectification of human beings, name-calling, appeals to people’s underlying fears and insecurities, distorted appeals for an idealized past that never existed, we-they polarized talk, the use of rationalization to justify fear of “the other,” bullying disguised as tough political and national security talk, calling any opposing or challenging position fake news, the use of simple slogans that distort verifiable facts, the use of broad categorical thinking and catastrophic characterizations in service to their own alternative political narratives and political dramas, and the use of stereotypes for groups of people based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual-orientation, or nationality.
The net effect of such tactics is that Truth (information based on verifiable facts) gets distorted, some people may feel confused, question their own memory, perception, and sanity, and many people began to feel mentally and emotionally exhausted. Sometimes people become numb to the political chatter and simply tune out. The daily “gaslighting” narratives and discourses, therefore, cry out for a new kind of politics—a “politics of Truth.”
Politics, as currently enacted, tends to be a game of illusion, deception, and delusion. However, former California legislator for 38-years and former AHP President, John Vasconcellos (now deceased, 2014) called for and practiced what he called a “politics of Trust,” an approach to governance that he described as “a powerful antidote to the self-defeating and debilitating practices of traditional politics” (John Vasconcellos Politics of Trust). Here, I seek to build on his legacy by now calling for a “politics of Truth.”
A “politics of Truth” is an approach to governance whereby politicians “authentically” practice transparency, based on verifiable facts, not so-called “alternative facts,” and tell the Truth as a norm. Politicians that practice a “politics of Truth” would authentically and truly view themselves as “servants to people” and the planet, not just with what they say, but more with what they do. They would “authentically” champion laws, policies, and institutional practices that truly honor and respect the dignity of all human beings and the growth-promotion aspects of all cultures, based on verifiable facts; they would truly understand how human beings are globally interdependent on planet Earth and foster this perspective in their politics (i.e., they think globally and act locally with Truth, based on verifiable facts, as a guide); and they would authentically, eagerly, and openly invite accountability based on verifiable facts.
In anticipation of times such as these, for the past several years I have attempted to use the educational platform of AHP to try to plant seeds in my writings to stimulate a climate for a “politics of Truth,” and I now invite each reader to also use your platforms, whatever they may be, to likewise plant and nurture seeds for a “politics of Truth.” Some of my previous “seed writings” include: “The Power of Gratitude” (Nov. 2017); “AHP’s Call To Action: Take A Stand To Consciously Deal With Racism (Aug. 2017); “Regarding The 2016 U. S. Presidential Election” (Nov. 2016); “Part II: Clues For Knowing If You Are Being A Conscious Creator/Co-Creator During Unsettling Times” (Aug. 2016); “Part I: Clues For Knowing If You Are Being A Conscious Creator/Co-Creator During Unsettling Times” (Aug. 2016); “Eight Perspectives For Staying Grounded When The World ‘Seems’ Insane” (Feb. 2016); “Healing Our Race-Linked Wounds” (May 2015); “Path of the Bridger: A Path For Relating Authentically and Co-Creating A ‘New Reality’ For Human Togetherness and the Evolution of Consciousness” (Oct. 2014); and “The Power of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’: The Relationship To Consciousness, Probable Realities, and ‘E-motions’” (May 2014).
I also authored an award-winning book for times such as these, titled Evolving The Human Race Game: A Spiritual and Soul-Centered Perspective (2014; re-published 2017). It was and is my hope that this book can be helpful in providing a perspective for how to view and deal with one another more humanely and more harmoniously on the planet, individually and collectively, politically and otherwise.
A “politics of Truth” is grounded in an age-old, fundamental belief that “The Truth shall set you free”—free from self-generated fears about other human beings, for whatever unfounded reason(s) not grounded in verifiable facts. Beliefs structure reality, and societal institutions and practices are held in place by what people believe to be true and value. Beliefs can be defined simply as thoughts reinforced by emotion and imagination. Beliefs are held in the mind and focus our consciousness individually and collectively. As such, they can be self-limiting or self-empowering in regard to personal and societal Well-Being. I suggest, therefore, that a “politics of Truth” nurtures self-empowering beliefs for personal and societal Well-Being, and that divisive political climates only serve to reinforce self-limiting beliefs that erode personal and societal Well-Being. If “what is so” (Truth) is not determined and acknowledged, no authentic healing can take place (e.g., denial of verifiable scientific facts about climate change; the effects of many “isms” like racism, sexism, ageism).
Individually and collectively, for many people, a promising fundamental belief about the United States is that it is a country based on the rule of law, with a fundamental value that no one is above the law. On the world stage, therefore, the United States has been framed for many people in their individual and collective imaginations as a “Beacon of Hope” for all human beings. Yet, the “Truth” is that historically and currently some U. S, laws, policies, and institutional/cultural practices have been and are self-limiting, and some have been and are self-empowering. Growing up in the segregated South as an African American, I know all too well the effects of self-limiting laws, policies, and institutional/cultural practices (e.g., having to sit in the back of the bus; not being allowed to go in the front door of theaters; having to use water fountains and bathrooms labeled “Colored”; not being allowed to eat at certain restaurants; living in a very nurturing all-black community a block away from an all-white high school, but having to be bussed all the way across town to attend an all-black high school). And, currently, for example, we are witnessing the effects of the U. S. “zero tolerance” immigration policy on immigrant and refugee families (e.g., children being separated from their parents).
It should be noted that while the U. S. Supreme Court is viewed as the ultimate arbitrator and interpreter of the constitutionality of laws, policies, and institutional/cultural practices, as a highly “politicized” entity of the judiciary branch of government, unfortunately it is not the ultimate arbitrator and interpreter of “Truth.” With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the stage is set for a soul-searching examination of the Truth (information based on verifiable facts) about America’s “political and national values” and what the United States truly stands for at its core. The outcome of such soul-searching will set the tone for generations. Therefore, it is now even more imperative that a political climate is fostered for a “politics of Truth.”
It is incumbent on all citizens in the United States and across the globe to become and to be “vigilant, verifiable fact checkers” for Truth. And, while there have been laudable calls for more civility, unfortunately civil political discourses, devoid of verifiable facts (Truth), will ultimately lead only to a retreat to sides, perhaps agreeing to disagree, with a lack of authentic understanding about “what is so.”
Basic obstacles to a “politics of Truth” are the mechanistic tendency to reduce people to objects and to engage fear—fear of differences (otherness), of intimacy (closeness), of the unknown (unfamiliar or new things), and of vulnerability (death or annihilation). That is, in the United States and on the global stage, those in political leadership roles at the highest levels are currently using mechanistic thinking to “objectify” human beings, flaming a political climate of divide and conquer, mistrust, and misinformation, fueled by fear, to nurture their illusion of power. The Truth, however, is that no one person actually has power over another except that which is given to them out of fear (e.g., fear of loss, retribution, or being unable to fulfill a desire). A person may have institutional authority via a societal role, but not necessarily power. Authority is something that is delegated; power is something that is demonstrated. That is why in the game of politics, a citizen’s right to vote and the exercise of that right by each person is extremely important. This voting right should never be taken for granted, and must be vigilantly nurtured and protected. A citizen should never allow fear to erode or undermine that right.
Former President Barack Obama recently said (June 2018): “Fear is powerful. Telling people that somebody’s out to get you, or somebody took your job, or somebody has it out for you, or is going to change you, or your community, or your way of life—that’s an old story and it has shown itself to be powerful in societies all around the world. It is a deliberate, systematic effort to tap into that part of our brain that carries fear in it.” I agree. I am suggesting, therefore, that a political antidote for fear is a “politics of Truth.” In such a context, no politicians can take you for granted and must earn your vote with verifiable facts (Truth).