Crossing the line: the subjectivity of truth.

2 Dec

Just how sorry are we for the Germans? The truth of the Japanese winner against Spain was a ‘now you see it; no – you don’t! ‘ moment. Over a decade earlier a Lampard goal for England v Germany – a metre over the line – had been ruled out by hapless officials, so not much sympathy in our household. Twitter was alive with Cleese shouting ‘Don’t mention the VAR!’ – all good clean fun. But the controversies of VAR symbolise our very real struggles with truth. Your truth is not my truth. And you can’t argue with my interpretation of my ‘lived’ experience. VAR can cancel what an expert and experienced referee sees and feels.

So far I have enjoyed the World Cup – the footie, not the punditry. Endless vacuous verbal diarrhoea from inarticulate pundits (well not all but most) with the shame of some foreign experts using the English language better than our own. Hey ho. Players fall to the floor, poleaxed, writhing but leap to their feet when a yellow card is confirmed on their assailant. Girls’ blouses. Shouldn’t say that.

Lady Susan Hussey, the abusive octogenarian, has been consigned to the bin of Empire. No doubt she is all 1950s clipped vowels and condescension. Ngozi Fulani of Sistah Space has done for her. Lady Susan was silly, even stupid but she crossed a line that has been drawn in thick red ink. The problem is not the red line, it is that certain red lines are much thicker than others – and are non-negotiable, not even to be discussed, talked through, understood. Perhaps there should be little compassion or excuse for Lady Susan. Perhaps she is a courtly anachronism. But I wonder if she deserved the vilification via twitter and the media. Sistah Space carried the day at the expense of an old lady. The old lady apologised but apologies no longer rate. Outrage wins. My truth beats your excuses.

JK Rowling has felt the cold wind of disapproval. Gender v sex. Two truths are told but only one interpretation is acceptable. If you disagree, cancellation not consideration is the inevitable result. It’s a sad state of affairs because conversation and honest debate is closed down. The excellent first Reith Lecture by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on Freedom of Speech, was wide-ranging and wholly supportive of the cliched but important notion of the right to express opinions of any sort (not untruths, nor inciting violence) without fear. This is no longer the case.

Of course the ubiquity of social media amplifies and distorts. I notice that friends lower their voices when discussing certain topics in a public space. Fear. Some topics are taboo, no go; who will disagree, who will be outraged? Rail strikes, all strikes for that matter, Trans rights, Just Stop Oil, ‘Invasion’ of migrants. Better keep quiet, stick to the football. That’s a minefield, though. Qatar. Dead labourers, backhanders to get the tournament in the first place, FIFA not allowing rainbow armbands; Gary Neville on Have I Got News For You.

And then there’s Matt Hancock. There was something apocalyptic about that awful programme. It demeans us. There’s a truth about giant mistakes made during the pandemic (and, we should recognise, a few significant achievements) – but when people have died, Mr Hancock should have stayed quietly doing his constituency work.

As the brilliant Christine McVie slipped off her mortal coil, Sir Elton, defying his years, is headlining Glastonbury 2023. Music seems to soothe and save us all. Last night’s tribute to Christine McVie and Fleetwood Mac, elicited the observation that ‘Many of those songs wouldn’t get released today’. Which ones, I wondered? I started listing in my head. It didn’t take me long for the blue pencil to score out much of the canon of the last 70 years.

Music is full of truths wrapped up melodically in a fiction. I learn more, quite often, from reading fiction than being presented with the truth according to others. My 2022 booklist is soon to be published. It’s funny how fiction can morph into fact.


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