Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


A television channel is advertising a programme about Fake News. I wonder how they will define it along the spectrum that runs from Deliberate Lies through Selection to Honest Error and Ignorance.

And what, if anything, can be believed? This I-thing that I own offers stories “Chosen by the Apple news editors”. So I am getting what they have decided on and missing out on all the other possible items. Who are they? Right-wing bigots or wet lefties? Either way, they are going to limit my world-view.

It all makes me wonder how daft we all are when we claim to know the truth about anything.  Even the evidence of our senses is suspect. Before Copernicus arrived, I would have believed the obvious fact that the sun revolved round the earth. Many years ago I took part in a Christian mission and found myself talking to an old woman in a basement flat who pointed up at the sun and said “That’s what you should be worshipping. Everything comes  from him; heat, light, life, everything.” I liked her and thought how nice it is to be quite certain about something. It is a comfortable state.

Do I believe anything? On the whole I believe an up-to-date railway timetable, Why? Because I have several times waited for the train and it has actually arrived more or less on time. I believe there is a bus route along our narrow country lane because I nearly collided with the bus on a blind corner. But believing what somebody said or wrote? That’s harder.

Another television programme was dedicated to cases where popular belief is different from the true story. We all know that the winners of a battle write the history, but it does not stop at battles. This programme referred to the poem by Longfellow called “Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”  The event was real (a part of US history) but what Longfellow wrote (and we all believe) is different. So was anything I learnt at school really true? Did we really win at Agincourt and did we really lose at Austerlitz?

Some clever fellow (was it Neitzsche?) invented a sage called Zarathusta who said “This is my truth, now tell me yours.” It is a nice way of pointing out that absolute truth is many-sided and almost incapable of complete analysis.

So I am going to take comfort in what has come to be accepted in my society (middle-class SE England) and stick with “England expects” and “Heart and stomach of a King, and a King of England, too” and “Their finest hour” and “The lady’s not for turning” and “No ‘ifs’. No ‘buts’,”


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