Perception Is Not Necessarily Reality
Chances are you have heard the popular aphorism, “Perception is reality.” The pithy saying is true in a very limited way. “Reality” for you and for me is tied directly to our perception of it. Thus, whatever my perception of it is, whatever your perception of it is, that is the breadth of our grasp of reality. Reality, however, has no obligation to conform to our perception of it. Reality is reality! Be there any difference between reality and our perception of it, the change must be in us.
Whether conscious of it or not, many influencers in our modern world exploit the truth of this adage to create advantageous impressions upon others. Marketers do it. Politicians do it. Preachers do it. The media in our world are absolute masters at this. In these four arenas, each with explicit or implicit commitments to truth, truths are often presented with an agenda. Let’s think about just two of these areas, politics and media.
As a young man, I remember thinking that we could sit and listen to the nightly news and trust what we were told. I no longer believe that. I hope you are not naïve enough to still believe that. Many news stories cannot serve anyone wanting to spin them; much of the news we are fed is legitimate and would be covered much the same regardless of the source. Some news stories, however, can serve agendas; thus, it becomes a broadcaster’s challenge to include some bits of truth and exclude other bits, to emphasize certain points and downplay other points – the end result is to have made a desired impression upon the audience. The explosion of divergent news outlets, which can be fairly easily identified as “left-leaning” or “right-leaning”, should provide adequate proof of this.
Let’s look at politics and politicians to see how the “perception is reality” maxim is employed with regularity and with deceptive intent. Think about the millions of dollars that are spent on advertising for candidates, state questions, bond initiatives, etc. All of these efforts have an obvious agenda, to influence your choice at the polls. These are typically short, low-information presentations, craftily designed to make a desired impression upon the impressionable. You do know that the category of “impressionables” is limited. In politics, these would be the body of “undecideds” or people prone to move across party lines or ideological lines.
A recent quotation of one career politician who happens to be our current President illustrates how devotion to impressions is far more important than truth for many in the political scene. The quotation comes from a transcript of President Biden’s July phone call with the leader of Afghanistan. In their conversation, just prior to our military exit from that country, Biden spoke to President Ghani about the “perception around the world” regarding his country. Here is what our President said, “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.” What a telling statement! “Whether it is true or not” is clearly unimportant compared to the desired “picture presented” to the world.
This is not a hit piece on Joe Biden. What he said in that phone call only reveals a mental disposition that I think should be alarming to any thinking citizen. No one should think Biden is the only one who thinks like this, operates like this. Neither should anyone think this is unique to Democrats. I believe this is the dominant philosophical stance of most politicians. They want to form and/or reinforce the perceptions we have of them in order to keep their jobs.
As I have already said, this is not a problem restricted to the political realm. It can potentially be seen everywhere there are influencers. The value of full objective truth has been greatly eroded. In its place we find these subjective substitutes: “my truth” and “your truth.” These realities, rooted in personal perceptions, are now the dominant concern. “Whether it is true or not” is pretty much irrelevant. We’ve traded truth for pictures that are pretty or useful.
This disregard for full, objective truth in favor of pretty or useful truths, and in some cases outright lies, has become a veritable pandemic. One can easily hear in our day admonitions to “follow the science” which most people have come to believe is the sole source of trustworthy truth. But then, we have not “followed the science” as it regards abortion for nearly 50 years. Thus, it should not be surprising to see that our society has legitimized “marriage” between two men or two women. Add to this piece of evidence the cultural embrace of transgenderism, even allowing people who perceive themselves a gender other than the scientifically verifiable one, to have access to bathrooms of their warped perception, to compete athletically according to “how they identify.” You will hear too few cries to “follow the science” in this issue. Science be damned when it does not fit one’s agenda.
I did not write this piece with some grand idea that I would change the world. My hope is that I might change the minds of a few readers. I would hope my serious readers would listen more intently to messages and think more critically about information we take in. I hope to encourage a few more people to ask, “is this the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” more than “do I like this picture?”.