On Truth, The Tyranny of Illusion
From a short-term, merely practical standpoint, you really do not want to read this book. This book will mess up your life, as you know it. This book will change every single one of your relationships – most importantly, your relationship with yourself. This book will change your life even if you never implement a single one of the proposals it contains. This book will change you even if you disagree with every single idea it puts forward. Even if you put it down right now, this book will have changed your life, because now you know that you are afraid of change.
This book is radioactive and painful – it is only incidentally the kind of radiation and pain that will cure you.
Fiction as Facts (Paragraph excerpt)
When you were a child, you did not have the ability to objectively validate the commandments of those who had power over you. Your susceptibility was a great temptation to those who would rather be believed than be right. All power tends to corrupt, and the power that parents have over their children is the greatest power in the world.
A child is biologically predisposed to trust and obey his parents – this has great utility, insofar as parents will often tell their children not to eat poisonous berries, pull hot frying pans off the stove, or run around all day outside without sunscreen on. The requirements of survival tend to discourage endless “trial and error.”
When parents instruct their children, they can either present that instruction as conditional, or absolute. Conditional instructions – do not hit your brother except in self-defence – tend to lead to endless additional questions, and quickly reveal the parents’ lack of knowledge. As the child continues to ask what exactly defines self-defence, whether pre-emptive strikes are allowable, whether teasing can be considered aggression and so on, the fuzzy areas innate to all systems of ethics quickly come into view.
As these fuzzy areas become clearer, parents fear once more the loss of moral authority. However, the fact that certain areas of ethics are harder to define than others does not mean that ethics as a whole is a purely subjective discipline. In biology, the classification of very similar species tends to be fuzzy as well – at least before the discovery of DNA – but that does not mean that biology is a purely subjective science. Water can never be perfectly pure, but that does not mean that bottled water is indistinguishable from seawater.
Due to their desire for simple and absolute moral commandments, parents spend enormous amounts of energy continually herding their children away from the “cliff edges” of ethical complexities. They deploy a wide variety of distractive and abusive tactics to achieve this end – and all these tactics are designed to convince the child that his parents possess absolute knowledge of ethical matters.
However, as children grow – particularly into the teenage years – a certain danger begins to arise. The children, formerly compliant (at least from the “terrible twos” through the latency period) begin to suspect that their parents’ “knowledge” is little more than a form of hypocritical bullying. They begin to see the true conformity of their parents with regards to culture, and really begin to understand that what was presented to them as objective fact was in reality subjective opinion.
This causes great confusion and resentment, because teenagers instinctually grasp the true corruption of their parents.
A counterfeiter necessarily respects the value of real money, since he does not spend his time and energies creating exact replicas of Monopoly banknotes. The counterfeiter wishes to accurately reproduce real money because he knows that real money has value – he wishes his reproduction to be as accurate as possible because he knows that his fake money does not have value.
Similarly, parents present their opinions as facts because they know that objective facts have more power and validity than mere opinion. A “doctor” who fakes his own credentials does so because he knows credentials have the power to create credibility.
Recognizing the power of truth – and using that power to reinforce lies – is abominably corrupt. A man who presents his opinions as facts does so because he recognizes the value of facts. Using the credibility of “truth” to make falsehoods more plausible simultaneously affirms and denies the value of honesty and integrity. It is a fundamental logical contradiction in theory, and almost unbearably hypocritical in practice.
Thus it always happens that when grown children begin to examine their elders, they rapidly discover that those elders do not in fact know what they claimed to know – but knew enough about the value of the truth to present their subjective opinions as objective knowledge. This hypocritical crime far outstrips the abuses of mere counterfeiting, or the faking of credentials, because adults can protect themselves against false currency and fake diplomas.
Children have no such defences.”
There are some great ideas for parents to think about in this short “book”, which you can read in about one hour. Or, there is the option of downloading an audio recording. The books available at the site are free, but a donation is appreciated.