Saturday, April 22, 2006


Wretchard at The Belmont Club has an excellent round-up of reaction to the CIA firing of Mary McCarthy for leaking classified information to the press. He comments:
Here's the problem as I see it. The leaky and politicized intelligence system has made it difficult to judge the truth value of any proposition. Did the Plame affair damage national security? Did Ms. McCarthy's actions damage national security? Is there someone lying dead in a gutter because somebody talked? The answer to those questions about the intelligence agencies is going to be answered by the intelligence agencies themselves. And so we come full circle to the modern version of the Cretan Paradox: which asserts that when a Cretan says 'all Cretans are liars' all logical roads lead to a contradiction. How then to know the truth about the lies? When intelligence agencies -- and I use that word broadly to encompass the press, which is the civilian intelligence system -- are politicized, then even our knowledge about our knowledge becomes uncertain.

This statement circumspectly approaches what I think is one of the fundamental issues of our time. When our knowledge about what we know becomes corrupted; when reason and logic appear to be inapplicable; when all we are seemingly left with is our emotions or feelings to guide us to "truth"; then "truth" becomes whatever each person or group happens to believe--and thus is not "truth" at all.

Human nature being what it is, there is always a powerful temptation to block out the implications of logic and reason when those implications force you to confront something unpleasant about your own beliefs. Any evidence that threatens those beliefs will simply be erased from one's knowledge base in favor of continuing to cling to the belief system. Dostoevsky wrote once in a letter that, "If anyone had written to me that the truth was outside of Christ, I would rather remain with Christ than with the truth."

And he basically summarizes the fundamental position of many people committed to secular, as well as traditional belief systems. As more and more sophisticated epistemological strategies for attacking reason, logic, truth and reality, are developed on the political left; we all find ourselves in a never-ending spiral of distortions, lies, betrayals, and escalating emotions.

Gagdad Bob wrote something the other day that I think relates to this issue:
I remember studying the psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg in graduate school, who is an extraordinarily lucid and deep thinker. A woman in class commented that he seemed rather cold, harsh and judgmental in discussing psychopathology. The brilliant Dr. Panajian was somewhat taken aback. How can truth be anything but compassionate? Truth precedes the good. Compassion is "doing the truth."

No, this does not mean that you clobber the patient over the head with it, with “sadistic interpretations.” Nevertheless, one of the enduring lessons I learned from Dr. Panajian is that in therapy you must always ally yourself with the epistemophilic part of the patient that deeply wishes to know the truth. For we have a healthy and uncorrupted part of our soul that yearns for truth, but other nocturnal parts that wish to deny it because they live by night.

A "good" (not in the moral sense) patient is someone who is so hungry for truth that they are able to tolerate its catastrophic impact without taking it out on the messenger. For others, it may take years of spadework to allow the truth to seep in. For them, unvarnished truth is not compassionate. But neither is allowing the Lie to stand, so it's a delicate balance.

As a therapist, I often conceptualize what I do in exactly this way. I see myself as allied with the truth in general; and with the truth-seeking part of each patient in particular. Patients may indeed need validation of their feelings; but even more than that, they need to be able to objectively evaluate reality and see the truth--no matter what they may be feeling. In other words, showing empathy for a patient's plight and acknowledging their feelings about their situation may provide them with transient validation and be helpful in establishing a good short-term relatinship with them; but if you are not also "doing the truth",then you are not going to help their lives improve in the long-run.

Compassion is not sitting around, crying and hugging them as they avoid the truth; it is bringing them to that truth, and standing with them in all their pain as they confront it.

Sometimes all you can do is ally yourself with the truth, and make a committment to uncover it, no matter what unpleasantness it leads to.

There are some serious betrayals of all that this country stands for going on right now. The body politic is confused and hurt and does not know where to turn or who to believe. They are being manipulated by those they trusted to bring them the truth; and instead have brought them postmodern rhetoric and a never ending circle of paradoxical accusations and hysteria.

In order to return to psychological health, the lies and distortions that support and encourage these betrayals need to be confronted and exposed and a committment to reality and the truth reaffirmed.

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