In Vasa Veritas

“It is strange about lies – any lies, all lies. They are muscularly stronger than truths. They come more readily to human tongues. They fit more easily into the games of this life. And in me they seem needful to my Artist mind.”

Mary Maclane, I, Mary MacLane: A Diary of Human Days (1917) p.51

It is an odd quirk of the human condition that Mary Maclane describes here: the ability to deceive would have enhanced the survival abilities of our ancestors. For millennia our forebears sat around fires telling stories of what were once real events; it is a part and parcel of human nature that events such as the battle of Troy were elaborated upon by a succession of poets and come down to us as the Odyssey and the Illiad.

But truth was not their foremost consideration, hence the resentment expressed against some poets by certain philosophers, some of whom themselves commanded great poetic gifts, such as Plato and Nietzsche. Of course some poets, Keats and Shelley spring readily to mind, cared deeply for, and greatly extolled the virtues of truth.

So it is that certain aspects of a story in the media are focused upon, the old adage, ‘why let the truth get in the way of a good story‘ has never been truer. Which brings us on to the subject of this blog, the vases, supposedly widely resorted to as drinking vessels at Mid Staffs but which had long been withdrawn from wards for hygiene reasons.

This story has no basis in substantiated verifiable evidence, but arose myth-like from half-truth. Even our Prime Minister repeated this story over the summer; despite an avalanche of letters and emails of complaint, and FoI requests raised upon the Prime Minister’s Office by people who contested this version of events, not a jot of the ‘well-documented eyewitness accounts’ which were hinted at to initial respondents, have been forthcoming.

Conservative's letter

The vase issue may seem peripheral to the whole affair of Mid Staffs but the central, crucial aspect is one of integrity; or lack of it. To hold any position in public life integrity is a condicio sine qua non, for a Prime Minister to repeat these unfounded stories must put their integrity seriously into question.

Nietzsche wrote:

“How could anything originate out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or the generous deed out of selfishness?”

Beyond Good And Evil; Chapter One, Prejudices Of Philosophers, Aphorism 2

I might suggest that there is a dialectical movement evident in the path of human knowledge where things are born from their opposite: humankind shares a will to truth which is seemingly at odds with an equal will to deception.

By means of a conclusion and summation; the newspapers will continue to print sensationalist stories because that is what sells newspapers – it is down to the us to challenge the mass media wherever possible.


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