Sunday, 8 July 2012


                                                          TRUTH OR FRICTION

The more information we have access to, the less we know.

Common wisdom says that there are two absolutes in the universe. They are Death and Taxes. What else do we really know?


Recently, the print edition of Encyclopedia Britannica was laid to rest. Long live Britannica! Since information is now free via Wikipedia, we no longer need to deal with those pesky door to door salesmen. We no longer have to commit to purchasing expensive, update volumes despite their gilded leather binding and hefty substance.

Burn those books! They make great kindling. Is that how they came up with the name "Kindle"?

Want to know the Capital of Suriname? Google will supply that information within seconds. Here's the rub. We still pay. Google is not free. Wikipedia is not consistently accurate and also, our searches are surreptitiously monitored and recorded.

The question that I ask at this point is; "What is the real value of my access to these questionable information sources"?

Britannica was sourced, edited, verified and written by academic experts who were paid for their time and their expertise. Wikipedia is a free, 'democratic' encyclopedia; un-sourced, un-edited, un-verified and mostly, badly written by amateurs or those with vested interests. 

Where does the truth lie? In Paramaribo.


Can we quantify information as to its degree of quality? How can we do that?

Perhaps the answer lies in the degree to which a particular piece of information is true or not. Wikipedia has duly informed me that the Capital City of Suriname is, in fact, Paramaribo. That is true. Perhaps I will go there some day. Beyond that truth, however, lies mostly an endless, bottomless, infinite litany of dubious opinion, blog and prejudice.

Where would I stay when I visit Paramaribo? Simply consult, expedia or any number of travel sites that will readily and speedily supply me with a multitude of options. Most of those options must fit a form and structure not of my choosing. They must fit the algorithmic template.

I used to have a travel agent. My travel agent was someone I could chastise and yell at if he pointed me in the wrong direction. I could change travel agents or recommend them to a friend if they were good. I shouldn't yell at Expedia although I do, frequently.  I can't remember my fucking password for a start. Leave the page to answer the call of nature, your time expires and you must start over.

Paramaribo will have to wait.


There are trivial truths and there are truths that affect life and death. The internet does not indicate the scale. The name of a capital city of an obscure country is a truth and fact that rarely affects our fate. In a game of Trivial Pursuit, it is, of course, life changing.

However, when we consult Dr. Google regarding a choice of medical intervention for disease, we enter dangerous territory. When we look at trending topics on Twitter, or top rating videos on YouTube, we similarly engage with a form of information that is not qualified.

Unverified testimonials regarding the success of spinal decompression contain a quality of truthiness that aligns itself with a half a billion YouTube hits of the song, "Friday". The millions of women tweating that they would willingly allow Chris Brown to rape them is also a statistical truth.

Numbers do not speak volumes. In fact in most cases they reflect a lack of volume and a surfeit of vacuum. These statistical 'facts" can form dangerous concepts. They are dangerous to our health, to our well being, to society and to culture.


As we burn the books, demolish the album, wipe out the TV networks, bankrupt Kodak, eliminate the Times Picayune and lose the storefront, we lose much more. As we embrace the shorthand of 140 characters; the postcard of Instagram; the recorded, single song; the compressed mp3; and the kindled book, we lose an experience.

We also lose a truth. The truth is complicated. It is not to be found in 140 characters. The truth is not illustrated in an Instagram postcard or in an mp3.

Perhaps the entire body of work by Bill Shakespeare might scrape the surface of some truths. Perhaps J.S. Bach reveals a semblance of truth in his solo cello pieces. Maybe a perfect ride down a freshly groomed piste on Mammoth Mountain in early spring might reveal the outer hints of some truths.


When it comes to the concept of "truth", we are compelled to question the basis of education. The most fundamental structural basis of a civilized society tells us to teach our children. What truths should we teach them? The answer to this enormous question may perhaps have the potential of solving some of the most important dilemmas that face humankind.

The successful outcome of an educated society could potentially solve the most important issues that challenge us. They are hunger, disease, sanitation, shelter, violence and societal equity.

What is the statistical proportion of university graduates who are in jail, who are starving, who are homeless, who are unemployed and who are on welfare? I suggest it is proportionately minimal.

The fundamentals of education are unquestioned. In primitive times, we taught our children to hunt and to gather. Then, as we stopped wandering, we taught our children to fear the Old Man in the sky and his representatives on earth, be they animate or potentate.

Today we teach the tools of communication, commerce and day to day survival. These tools are language, expression, reading and writing; basic arithmetic, human interaction within a structure and personal hygiene.

The fact that the teaching of these most basic tools is called into question within religious, racial and economic parameters is destructive on a multitude of levels. When we do not effectively educate the poor and disadvantaged, we create more poor and disadvantaged. The cost to society is astronomical. The economic equation does not add up.

The greatest and most productive investment that a society can make is the investment in educating our children. Arithmetic is arithmetic in Beverly Hills, in the Catholic church, in Harlem and in the Ozarks.

When we choose a book of misogynist fairy tales transmitted by God or his agent, be it 5,000, 2,000 or 1,000 years old, to dictate dogmatic, universal 'truths', we fail at arithmetic. More than that, we fail at biology, we fail at women's rights and we fail at human compassion. The argument over whose 'truth' predominates has superceded all other considerations throughout human history. My god is bigger than your god. I win.


Beyond the most basic fundamentals relating to survival, what then is it that we should teach our children? What are the truths that they should know? Why are we so divided as to how to impart information to young minds?

Here is one:
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

When we teach our children that "truth" is an infinite concept, then and only then can we begin to scrape the surface of a real education. All the rest is a bunch of skills.

Therefore, if we argue with each other on political, racial, economic and religious grounds as to how we are going to impart a bunch of basic skills to our youth, we are wasting our time and energy. Arithmetic is arithmetic and grammar is grammar. Read, write, add subtract and there you have the fundamentals. Next.


"Next" then forms the bigger quandary. When we study history, we must question truth. There is no single, fact-based history. One can only get a glimpse of history through multiple sources. Try figuring out the basis for World War One. The myth says that Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated and then about 20 million people died in the aftermath. It would be neat and simple to presume that the assassination of one aristocrat was the cause of this holocaust, but that concept is nonsense. The reality is multi-layered, incredibly complex and mired in a generation or more of historical precedent that led to that event.

Is there any value then in teaching history as a compulsory subject? If so, how do we compress this voluminous body of information into a form that is useful and that can be absorbed? Can we prevent future holocausts if we convey a better understanding of the multi-layered truths that lead mankind to engage in his own self-destruction?

There is the rub. Perhaps that is one of the greatest possibilities of real education. Real education asks questions.


Innovation, quality and culture are misunderstood, mis-used terms.

We innovate when we move forward in a positive fashion. Culture involves growth. The derivation comes from the context of agriculture. When we teach our children, the basic objective needs to be re-examined.

If we have any interest in moving forward, in improving our lot in life, in making the world a better place for our children, then the ingredients of forward movement should perhaps be the chief ingredient of education. These ingredients are innovation and culture. But, innovation cannot exist without quality. The very term implies forward positive movement.

How do we teach innovation? How do we impart culture?

These amorphous qualities are not to be found in fundamental arithmetic or in the conjugation of verbs. Memorizing the table of elements or singing the multiplication tables is rudimentary, fundamental skill-based learning. There is no culture or innovation involved.

The problem is that our objective in imparting these most basic skills is mired in racial, economic and political turmoil. Schools fail because families fail because societies fail because government fails. One cannot teach the most rudimentary necessities to a child who has not had sufficient food or sleep to function in a receptive manner. You cannot teach the most fundamental necessities to a child who has a broken home, who is subjected to violence, and who is disconnected from any social model of behaviour.

America is number 25 in the world for math scores. This is not the fault of the teachers or of the schools. This is a dark and foreboding indication of a social breakdown where we as a society have given up on our children, on our future, on growth on innovation and on culture.


We flail around blaming "the system". It's the scoring system; it's the teachers unions; it's the school boards;  it's government interference and any number of systemic issues.

These things that we blame do not even scratch the surface of the problem or even begin to address the multi-layered truths that exist.

Over 34% of Nashville TN children under the age of five live below the poverty line.

If this is an acceptable circumstance, then we willingly engage ourselves in the prison industrial complex, in the imposition of higher taxes to support the welfare system, in the food stamp marketplace and in any and every expensive support system that deals with this issue.

Forget the human cost. Consider the economic cost.


Georgetown University is now charging about $55,000 a year per student in their undergraduate program. Charter schools are draining government funds to run for-profit businesses, regardless of academic outcome.

Economically strapped government schools have dropped art, music, P.E. and other humanities to save money. They survive on conjugating verbs and singing multiplication tables imparted to hungry un-engaged children who have no chance of ever innovating or growing.

We are feeding the status quo and starving the future.

Feed the kid, give her an after school activity, give her a keyboard or a paint brush, and make physical education compulsory. Involve parents, abandon the charter school industry and stop subsidizing the church.....any church.

I propose a new mythology. That is an acceptance of the mystery of the unknown.  Celebrate that. Then the concept of new discovery unfolds and reveals itself to us as we uncover layer upon layer of multiple truths. Then we may have the hint of a new beginning. Higgs Boson is just another layer.

Intelligent design, my ass.

Etched on my Stone tablet

Editing : Batsheva