This is a guest post by Charles McCallum, a good friend of mine and a person with excellent critical-thinking skills. I lean more to the Left than he does, and I do not agree with everything he says here. Nonetheless, he presents a cogent and thoughtful argument, which is why I am pleased to share it with you.
* * *
Big ‘White’ Lies, by Charles McCallum
When I was in college (some 40 years ago) I had a part time job as a pool hall attendant. It was the only pool hall on a campus of ten thousand students so my observations of pool players left me with no illusions of being anything better than a mediocre player at best. One day during a work break I was trying to improve my game when I became very frustrated that on virtually every shot I was pulling to the left. No matter how much I tried to do it differently my shot was off by about the same amount and in the same direction.
Sometimes I talk like I have multiple personalities and I will indulge that tendency now when I say that in response to this frustration ‘one part of me’ thought “Hey, why don’t you just compensate for your pull to the left by aiming at a point to the right of your target.” At this point the memorable event occurred – a different part of my mind suddenly came forward with an extremely strong visceral objection to that suggestion. I was shocked to find that ‘the offended one’ was charging me with not just giving bad gaming advice but bad ethics and shamefully low integrity for even considering such a thing.
I don’t know what most people think about the origins of the old saying that someone is or is not a “straight shooter” but at that moment ‘the offended one’ laid down the law that a straight shooter (i.e. the person of integrity) must always be true by always aiming straight at the target they are shooting for. They should never pretend to be aiming at one target when really they are aiming at a different target. The ‘offended one’ was not satisfied to stick to pool or even sports in general but made it an all-encompassing moral imperative. For example with regard to politics or public policy, if you avoid admitting something you believe is technically true only because you believe it will be effectively used against you in your pursuit of a just public policy, then that lacks integrity. This is an example of what I call the “Big ‘white’ Lie”. A regular small white lie is a minor untruth told to avoid unnecessary pain to the individual being lied to – the assumption is that the lie is justified by love. A Big white Lie is an untruth about some aspect of our world that you believe will cause unnecessary injustice in the world if it becomes broadly accepted as the truth.
Plato was the master of the Big white Lie. In the Republic Plato has Socrates advance the idea that in order to have a just society that people cannot be allowed to raise their own children and that, because biology is so strong, that the people must be taught to believe myths about their origins. Education is the key – and education is about anything but the whole and complete truth. For education in Plato’s Republic is about teaching things, without regard to their truth, that contribute to the formation and maintenance of a just society.
It is my proposition that in general (clarification: a generalization is something that is understood to be a characteristic of a specific class without meaning to claim that every member of the set has the characteristic or that any specific member of the set has any degree of the characteristic) those who tend to self-identify as liberals or progressives tend to be more comfortable with Big white lies with regard to public policy and education than conservatives are.
A conservative might say that men statistically have 30% more muscle mass than women but that it is illegitimate to conclude that men are, therefore, ‘superior’ to women. A feminist might refuse to acknowledge that there are any specific differences between men and women and may even outright deny it (i.e. a Big white Lie). The feminist is motivated by the belief that if conservative men actually believe that men have more muscle mass than women that they will twist this truth into an unjust male dominance over women – and so they decide that the Big white Lie is the best option.
A Black Lives Matter proponent might claim that it is hateful racism to hypothesize that black athletes are over represented on professional football and basketball teams because of real differences between whites and blacks on a genetic level (i.e. a Big white Lie). A conservative might think that nothing is more natural and morally neutral than considering such a hypothesis and that trying to explain these differences solely by reference to white privilege and constrained opportunities of ghetto life is unconvincing. The Black Lives Matter proponent is apparently concerned that if white people believe that there are any genetic differences between whites and blacks that this will cause whites to view blacks as ‘the other’ and then use that to justify all manner of racial injustice. And so they adopt the Big white Lie.
A gay rights proponent might insist that homosexuality is a normal human trait (i.e. a Big white Lie). A conservative might think that homosexuality is an aberration but then so are a lot of things (e.g. cancer, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.) that do not necessarily carry the extreme negative implications that admittedly have haunted the gay community. The gay rights proponent is convinced that if homosexuals are viewed as anything other than normal that only hatred and bigotry can be their experience at the hands of those conservatives who hold that belief – and so they decide that the Big white Lie is the best option.
Everyone tells the regular everyday small white lie from time to time. Are Big white Lies justifiable? If so then when and where is it okay to discuss the real truth in these matters? Who decides what lies a society will agree to tell? How are such lies adopted by various groups in our society? How many people who adopt and repeat these Big white Lies actually believe them and how many have the knowledge?
Am I right that in these matters there is a difference between the political left and the political right? If so then as a person who self-identifies as ‘right-leaning’ what does that say about me? Am I tone deaf to a cultural need to tell these Big Lies in order to be just and loving? Must I muzzle myself and refrain from speaking what I believe to be the truth for the sake of playing along with the Big white Lie? Or am I justified in rejecting the Big white Lie and pursuing the ‘straight shooter’ truth of these matters in the hope and belief that only the path of truth can lead to the promised land of justice?
One of the most fundamental reasons why I tend to understand myself as leaning to the right politically is because it seems to me that the political left is marked by a very common tendency to adopt Big white Lies and I have a very strong and visceral emotional reaction against adopting those positions.
I can’t stay entirely silent. I can’t let the Big white Lie rule my life completely. I must have a venue to discuss truth as I see it. So – what do you think?
* * *
So there you have it, an essay on ideological straight-shooting and the Big ‘White’ Lie. What do you think?
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my blog.