“Relativism,” defined by Merriam-Webster:
the belief that different things are true, right, etc., for different people or at different times
has long been debated. It is certainly a pervasive viewpoint in today’s age. There is little doubt that changes in perspective can change what one knows and thinks about something. But we used to think that somewhere there was a perspective that allowed one to take it all in, not just an aspect, and it was that perspective that defined the “truth” about the thing.
There are, of course, many things where we cannot achieve that ultimate perspective. Information is not available for any number of reasons and so the ultimate perspective eludes us. This should engender humility in anyone taking a stance about a thing. But in today’s primarily godless and narcissistic world, everybody assumes their perspective on a thing is the ultimate perspective and this creates a battle not just between views, but seemingly between realities.
The more powerful an individual, the more information they have at their disposal, the more they need to exercise caution to make sure they do not confuse their perspective with ultimate perspective. A powerful leader cannot afford to think that their perspective defines reality, for rarely in world affairs does anyone have access to all the information.
Barack Obama’s news conference yesterday convinces me that he really does think his perspective, which as POTUS is broader than most but still incomplete, defines reality.
Two examples were most glaring to me. The first:
And so really the only argument you can make against the verification and inspection mechanism that we’ve put forward is that Iran is so intent on obtaining a nuclear weapon that no inspection regime and no verification mechanism would be sufficient because they’d find some way to get around it because they’re untrustworthy.
Well no freakin’ duh!?!?!?! They ARE untrustworthy. Just because, Mr. President, your perspective does not allow for the fact that some people are just lying weasels it does not mean there are not lying weasels in the world.
That means, presumably, that you can’t negotiate. And what you’re really saying is, is that you’ve got to apply military force to guarantee that they don’t have a nuclear program.
No, Mr. President military force is the diplomatic leverage you claim elsewhere in the news conference that we lack. Just because your perspective is binary and holds that that military force and diplomacy are mutually exclusive, it does not mean that such is reality.
The real problem is that by dealing with things in this manner – defining his perspective as reality – the President attempts to cut off debate. Of course, the amount of commentary and discussion that has and that will occur is debate of a sort, but the President has completely insulated himself from it with this approach. He does not have to listen to it because it does not comport with the reality he has defined.
Most of us experience this sort of “clash of realities” at some point in our personal lives. So many divorces and other forms of family strife are born of it. In that setting it is tragic and sometimes shameful.
But in a discussion of matters this consequential on the world stage, “tragic” and “shameful” just do not begin to cover it.