The Truth?

What is truth?

Truth is subjective. You can never find the end of the rainbow, because where it appears to be depends on where the observer is. And, what my friend thinks of me is important to me, but something she said might have assumed great importance to me, something else might have gone over my head, and what she thinks might vary according to her mood.

And Truth is objective. There is a real world where things happen whether or not someone observes them. (My philosopher friend only once tried to talk of philosophy with me, ascertained I knew nothing of Hegel, and gave up.) We perceive nothing exactly as it objectively is, but care and respect may bring us closer to objective truth, and prejudice or carelessness drive us away.

On Radio 4, Charmaine Yoest of “American Values” said Evangelicals should not have “voted for Hillary Clinton, a woman who stood on the stage during the debate and very aggressively defended something as barbaric as partial birth abortion. Donald Trump was very unusual on the Republican side on being willing to dig in and very forcefully come back and say that it would be not okay with him for you to be able to abort a baby up to the very last moment of birth.” Here’s the link: the time is 36.50.

That was not my recollection of the debate, so I went back to it. Here is a transcript, here a video. On the Supreme Court, Mrs Clinton said it was important “that we not reverse Roe v Wade”. Mr Trump responded aggressively that “the second amendment is under absolute siege”. On abortion, he would put pro-life justices on the court who would overturn Roe v Wade.

Mr Wallace, the moderator: You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial birth abortions. Why?

Mrs Clinton: there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account.

Mr Trump: Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby…based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

The segment starts at 11.40. I considered it again. Mrs Clinton is measured, and defends late abortions. Mr Trump’s phrase “rip the baby out of the womb” is an appalling way of describing the abortion of a foetus whose birth defect prevents it from living outside the womb, or where the mother’s life is in danger.

Mmm. Truth. For Charmaine Yoest, the health of the mother is not a consideration when considering late, perhaps any, abortions; and “rip the baby out of the womb” is merely telling it as it is, though to me “baby” is not an accurate description of a foetus with anencephaly, or other extreme defects.

My memory was of Mr Trump being aggressive, Mrs Clinton reasonable, and so when I heard Charmaine Yoest say Mrs Clinton was “aggressive” I was angry. How dare she so misrepresent reality? Your subjectivity may be closer to or further from the truth. Getting closer matters. So I went to consider the evidence, and still find her inaccurate- though not much more inaccurate than my recollection.

I find Mrs Clinton far more persuasive. While a woman might choose to save her baby even at the cost of her own life, it seems monstrous to me to force her to do so. And, for Ms Yoest, all abortion is wrong, so she might still find most Republicans backsliders on this issue. When I heard her, I was angry with her lying; I still find her biased, yet not properly characterised as “inaccurate”. Oh dear.

Next example. We were discussing men’s refuges for male victims of domestic violence, and a woman was holding forth on how necessary these were and how there was far too little funding. Now, whether that is true or not does not depend on whether or not there is enough funding for female victims, any more than for, say, adoption services; yet I felt some reservations. It seemed to me that the woman holding forth wanted to convince us, or to be articulating a common understanding- it is so reassuring to be with people who think just as we do; and that the other woman listening had reservations, but was not stating them. And these are my impressions, which may simply be false.

OK, next go. The Daily Express front page today. EU EXIT: THE PATH IS CLEAR. Massive boost as Labour say they won’t stand in the way. I saw this in the coffee shop, and felt ill. I don’t know whether Labour would whip MPs to vote for Brexit, or just not whip them to vote against; but I think Brexit is a calamity, and the Express disagrees.

I was surprised to find my friend has no opinion on climate change. She has not looked into it, there are views on both sides. I lamented denialists in power in America, and she was unfazed. I feel my understanding of the scientific consensus is accurate enough, and that carbon emissions are changing the climate, potentially disastrously; and it matters what politicians do. She says Mr Trump is not that much worse than what has gone before- how can you trust any politicians after they invaded Iraq?

Based on these recent experiences, perhaps I can never be sure of what is truth. I still believe in objective truth, just I am not certain of its knowability. You may think I give in too easily. There will be more on this tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “The Truth?

  1. Abortion in the US is a chestnut that causes dissension and bitterness and vastly inflated rhetoric that obscures the facts. Most pregnancies abort harmlessly early on; (so abortion is perfectly natural, and to say that a foetus is protected from conception onwards is simply nonsense); most jurisdictions have fairly strict rules about late term abortions. in England, the terms of the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929 still protect neonates who are capable of living outside the womb or in the process of being born.

    I think part of the reasonable person’s problem – if we assume that here Hillary Clinton was reasonable – is that they don’t sound loud and stentorian enough. Their careful, considered lines of argument are taken as weak. Abortion is an essential human right, exercised properly, and to fail to provide it is only to drive desperate women into the arms of backstreet providers. Salving the consciences of those who harp on about the sanctity of life (but not of women’s lives, for some peculiar reason) and causing pain and premature death / sterility to countless women.

    So men can fuck as much as they like, and women have to accept the consequences. Welcome to the dark ages. (Sorry: I majored in Abortion Rights for my university honours thesis…and it still gets my goat.)

    Looks like you’ll have lots of material for your blog posts, Clare! 😀 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree on abortion, absolutely. I heard the phrase “rip the baby” and was immediately revolted. It was a strong emotional reaction. Unfortunately, the moderator used the term “partial birth abortion” and that had a similar effect on Ms Yoest, and others- stop thinking, emote, only accept your own side.

      How anyone can imagine people would do this lightly amazes me, quite as much as they seem to be amazed that I condone what they think of as the murder of babies. I wonder if they would consider a hydatidiform mole to be a “baby”. I felt the TV debate did a disservice in concentrating on late term abortions- most abortions are much earlier.

      I think “major” means discipline over there- you “majored” in law.

      I dare to hope I am recalibrating, emotionally. My attitude to “truth” is swathed in myth and emotional significance, even emotional shutdown- I would have said “lies make me feel ill” but alternative views of important issues, like the Express on the Brexit catastrophe, can disorient me. I want to avoid that disorientation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, dear Clare, it is again a pleasure to read your thoughts. I hesitate greatly to wade into this abortion morass, but for one issue. In Boulder, we have one of about half a dozen third trimester abortion clinics in the country. To imply that third trimester abortion is performed on fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb is simply not accurate. About one percent of all abortions are in the third trimester, and Dr. Warren Hern of the Boulder Woman’s Health Clinic, makes no bones about the fact that he will perform a third trimester abortion at any request, for any reason. Anencephaly and other traumatic conditions are easily identifiable FAR earlier than the third trimester, so there is a large contingent of healthy babies that are dying. ‘Ripping the baby out’ is grotesque to say, but unfortunately is not that far from the truth.
    It wears me out, Clare. In the US, we have FAR more permissive laws about abortion than the UK, and prolifers like me are weary. In fact, I would venture to say, that we realize that abortion cannot be outlawed, we would simply be happy with not allowing our tax dollars to pay for such an objectionable ‘procedure’. Defunding Planned Parenthood, who makes most of it’s money from abortions, is indeed high on our list because I have no choice in preventing my tax dollars from subsidizing these elective abortions.
    At any rate, your musings about truth are interesting. I would also like to draw your attention to an interesting thing that is emerging-my late husband was involved with a wonderful organization called Wings Foundation ( that set up marvelous services for adult MALE survivors of sexual abuse. It’s been a long time coming. Until later, dear Clare. -Victoria

    Liked by 1 person

    • The clinic says, All women of reproductive age are faced with decisions regarding whether or when to bear a child. We trust each woman to make the choice that is best for her and her unique situation. Our role is to be supportive, respectful and caring.

      I am afraid I agree. I believe no woman will have a late abortion lightly, and if the provider judges or states requirements, many will imagine wrongly that they do not fit those requirements. Sometimes the late abortion is right. I disapprove of late abortions of healthy babies much as I disapprove of certain extremist legislative proposals: however much I disapprove, I want them to go through the democratic process, because preventing them by some other means is worse.

      From Wikipedia, A study in 2013 showed that most women seeking late term abortion “fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.” The study data did not include woman who were having abortions “on grounds of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

      I only realised afterwards, about my emotional shutdown while watching that debate. I want to avoid the emotional shutdown.


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