Recently someone sent me a chart on wealth distribution in the United States. It shows that wealth distribution in the US is as seriously skewed as it is in my own country. I read with interest some of the suggestions for changing the balance. Some are workable other suggestions were unrealistic. However, the first step is to know the truth. It is going to take some critical thinking, self-discipline and healthy skepticism to sort through the opinions and information that bombards us each day to get to the truth.
My job as a prosecutor of many years has been finding the truth. There are several questions I ask myself when listening to a witness. How does this witness know what he is telling me? Did he see it? Did someone else tell him? Did he just know? There are several common fallacies that creep into our dialog that are excellent clues that the speaker is lacking in veracity.
Clairvoyance is the most common sign the speaker is not telling the truth. Nobody can know the wants and thoughts of another person or a whole class of people. Often however someone says, “Those people want only one thing.” or “He thinks he can get away with anything.” These are very revealing statements when you have a witness, or a celebrity or politician who snarls that The Other thinks this or that. The speaker has no way of knowing what happens inside the mind of another so the only statement he can give you is a statement of his own inner workings. As the speaker claims others are doing, so run his own thought processes.
The redefinition of words. The word entitlement is another curious word I hear often. In the world of contract law an entitlement is something that you have paid for under contract and the other party is obligated to provide the goods or services you contracted for. Yet, I hear the word used again and again to excuse the power elite from meeting obligations under a contract. They speak of entitlement as if it is a desire for something unearned. Listen to what the power elite say The Other thinks and wants and you will hear what the speaker himself thinks and wants. In this case, those who use the word entitlement as a slur to avoid honoring a contract, are telling you a great deal about themselves. They may well feel entitled to abscond with money that is not theirs to keep.
Fortune telling may be another indication that the speaker is out of touch with reality. The witness who says, “I just new he was going to do something bad,” is no help to the prosecution. One of my greatest sources of mirth has always been the predictions the news media have made about my behavior. They assume that I will behave in a manner that is greedy and unjust. That tells me that at least the owner of the paper is greedy and unjust. Nobody knows the future. Those who predict the future are really saying, “This is how I would behave if I were the president, or the prosecutor, or someone in a position of power.”
Diversions are so much fun. This is the person who in a conference on corruption in politics, makes a passionate speech about the horrors of prostitution. Some people can never focus on the economic needs of the nation because they are constantly distracted by the sex lives of everything under the sun. Any discussion of greed will be met with a discussion on the need for a strong defense budget. We really need to have the discussion on greed, not as a function of the poor, but as an obsession of those who have wealth beyond the limits of our imagination. This may be the most important conversation we can have, but it always gets diverted to another topic.
The fifth indication a speaker has departed from the realm of reality is the use of coincidence as causality. My favorite, “You’ve got trouble right here in River City. That’s trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with P, which stands for pool.” Despite Meredith Willson’s satirical depiction of how easy it is to mislead people with this simple form of falsehood, we see this happening daily especially among the media commentaries.
There are other tricks people use to mislead. Think about what they might be. Become a detective looking for the truth by learning to spot falsehood. Your well being, and the future you leave for your children and grandchildren depends on your ability to find the truth. I will discuss later how to use the truth to change your world, but for now, just seeking the truth is enough.