Thomas Tarurongo Wynne: Repeating social media or thinking things through?

Saturday July 20, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
Workers dig up the roads to lay pipelines for the new disinfected water supply. 18103118 Workers dig up the roads to lay pipelines for the new disinfected water supply. 18103118

If you tell a lie long enough, people will believe it. That’s why we must take time to form informed positions on debates like chlorine.

COMMENT: So, Eve, beguiled by the wily serpent, reached up and grabbed the apple, ate from it and then gave it to Adam. Right, because that’s what the Bible says, that Eve ate an apple.

Or maybe we can take a look at the story of Noah’s Ark, because there it clearly says that two of every creature entered the Ark the rain came down, and off they sailed.

Or maybe we can look at the birth of Jesus when the three wise men came to him with gifts, because again that’s what the good book says. An apple, two of every creature and three wise men.

Nope, it doesn’t. In fact, the Bible only ever describes the enticement picked by Eve as “fruit”, and says that at least two of every animal but seven in some cases, such as birds, went into the ark. And nowhere does it say there were three wise men that came to Jesus, all it says was there were wise men, or astrologers.

You see it is so easy, and just taking the Bible as a simple example, to tell a story long enough that it slips into our daily language and becomes fact when in fact it was not even close to what was written or described.

Lord Sumption of the House of Lords, when speaking on the subject of the difference between what we think and actuality, said: “The Magna Carta is one of those documents which is important not so much because of what it says as because of what people wrongly think it says.”

Do we wrongly think something because we haven’t taken the time to check it ourselves or do our own research and come to a conclusion based on fact and research? Or do we think the way we do because others do also on social media, and we are drawn emotively into an argument and a position without exploring the facts first?

How often do we walk around espousing things when all we are doing is telling a tale of apples? When in fact it was only ever just fruit? How often do we allow ourselves to be caught up in polarising arguments, not because we know the facts but simply because we were sure it was only two animals that went into the Ark and because of our position we missed the seven?

George Pitt is clear when he writes that if you tell a lie long enough then in the end people will believe it and as preposterous as this may seem, how often do you and I get caught in that same trap of misinformation, emotive discussion and without the balance of research and academic rigour.

I have just spent two days with my academic supervisor here in Auckland going through the reading material I have and still have to get through as I approach my Masters project and this exercise has reinforced my position that we should not speak as a fact until we have taken our time to research the facts – even if we have a position to start with.

In a time when there is so much information available the difficulty is not the access to information, but more information that is reliable and can be trusted. That has also gone through the rigors of academic appraisal and found to be sound, even if it takes a differing opinion to my own.

I would rather deal with the facts then with hysteria, then with rhetoric and misinformation and balanced with our access to more information is the plethora of fake news, fake information and posts and literature that are fake or just unreliable.

In our own ability to instantly post our position on whatever the issue, we have maybe not then taken the time to test it first.

Even the Bible calls on us to test all things and hold fast to that which is true. We are responsible for our words, we are responsible for what we post in the public domain though based on some of what we all have seen and been exposed to overtime, we are all left wondering whether anyone checked it first.

We are responsible for our comments and our words and I am continually mindful of that, and rest assured when I don’t, there are plenty out there, who remind of when I get it wrong or just when they think I have done. And that is fair because when one puts their words into the public domain then the must also be ready for the public scrutiny that comes with that.

So is it too much to ask that before we put our words and comments into the public domain that we check our facts first?

That we consider our words as expressed with a measure of responsibility, a measure of research, of academic rigour and testing?

That we have considered both sides of our position and want to push that information and let that speak for itself and not just our position or our preference?

Be it chlorine, or other disinfections, changing Kuki Airani to a Maori name that complements our current English title Cook Islands, or our position on climate change, seabed mining or simply the state of our economy or our democracy let us join the conversation with robust engagement.

But engagement that will stand the test of critique because we have taken the time to look at our position, checked our prejudices and want to add value and not hurl insults, to build understanding and not walls and to engage for understanding and not just so we can be heard and our position understood.

As it is the week set aside by the United Nations to celebrate Nelson Mandela, it is only fitting we finish with some of his immortal words. He said one of our greatest weapons is dialogue, and he said also that it always seems impossible, until it is done.

And let us not be tempted to look upon what we thought was an apple when in fact all the time it was just a piece of fruit.

Leave a comment