Could the Truth Be Self-Evident?

Julie Ann Kessler

March 1, 1990

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Declaration of Independence, 1776

The nation: The United States of America. The purpose: unknown. Unknown, that is, to the majority of those citizens "educated" within its borders during the years following the 1960’s. Why is this? Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence, one of the most fundamental, if not the fundamental, document of our history define that purpose for us? And doesn’t the Constitution give it an even greater definition? However, in order to pay these documents their due respect it is necessary for the person reading them to have some basic trust in his ability to discern truth. Needless to say, in order to have that trust, it is necessary to believe that there is such a thing as truth to be found.

I come from that generation "educated" in the period following the 1960’s. We grew up believing that truth is relative. Basing their arguments on this assumption, our teachers saw to it that we students understood one thing in life; to pass judgment on anything or anyone was the principal thing to avoid. To judge is a thing as good or evil was, at best, a meaningless occupation. Our judgments were not to be trusted since they were based solely on our time in history, our socio-economic condition, our ethnic background, and of course our ever present "values"; (which by the way, were meaningless as well). To assert anything to the contrary was to declare yourself a fool. You were obviously ignorant of the only absolute truth; that being that all truth is relative. Never mind that this is an oxymoron.

More problematic than the fact that we distrusted our own judgment, was the fact that true to our indoctrination in relativity, we naturally began to distrust the judgment of those whose ideas had long shaped our very existence as a nation. Our understanding of "equality" became something very different from that which the founders of this country rightly understood it to be. Equality among men came to mean that all men were equal in the sense that there were no men or groups of men who were better than others. All were worthy of equal merit and praise. Believing this, and seeing the world around us racked by turmoil, all seemed to be hopeless. There seemed to be no reason to pay attention to these sorts of matters. Why? Because we simply did not know who the bad guys were, or if we did, we refrained from saying so because we distrusted our own "relative" and "biased" judgment.

How can a citizenry so "educated" ever come to terms with justice? In order to maintain justice it is necessary to judge. A deeper question that needs to be addressed, and one which we were left incapable of tackling is: How can a nation that believes in this relativity of truth justify its own existence? To attempt to answer this would be to pass judgment. Instead we were told to accept the idea that all things have equal merit and virtue. After all, who is to say that self-government is the best form of government? That depends, not upon whether you are a human being or a dog, but upon these conditions in society that will naturally bias your judgment. In a democracy such as ours, this belief can serve no other purpose but the destruction of it. Our democracy demands a certain type of nobility from its citizens that can only come with an understanding of those truths that are responsible for its making. Alas, we are citizens incapable of that kind of reason. We are citizens who, ignorant of the powers of reason, allow our actions to be governed by the only part of the soul that we can now identify, our passions.

The passionate part of the soul is, by its nature, also the most self-interested part. It follows then, that actions governed by the passions will also be self-interested, and not necessarily good for the actor or those whom he acts upon. Face it, if all things are equally good and virtuous, why would anybody be fool enough to do anything that required thought and calculation, if not for self-interested ends? We have failed to recognize those truths that we supposedly hold to be self-evident and celebrate every Fourth of July. We have turned a cold shoulder to true equality, the kind that asserts the natural rights of human beings, and opted for a type of equality that assumes us to be nothing better than animals. We have destroyed our faith in the one faculty that makes us better than the lesser creatures of the earth, we have destroyed our faith in reason.

However, there is an irony in all of this. This very idea of relativity that was supposed to free man from all judgments and create a type of freedom heretofore unknown, has in actuality rendered him silent, passive and accepting. Yet, instead of accepting the natural freedoms found in truth, we have created an artificial and more than imperfect replica of freedom in the minds of our populace. We no longer accept our natural inherent ability to find the true, the good, and the beautiful. It is no longer a question of what is right, it is a question of how many people can be mustered to see some agenda as being in their interest. Truth has become slave to power, as man is now the slave to passion. Is there no hope? Will we all die in this unenlightened mediocrity fearing the truth more than we once feared God? This would seem to be the natural turn of events. However, there is a light, dim though it may be a the end of this black and heartless tunnel.

The source of this light is another irony in the chronicles of freedom. Today we are witness to a massive revolution in the Communist world. The people of those countries that once treated all humanity as nothing better than dogs have now decided that this way of life is no longer appealing. They have found that by renouncing the system which has treated them as such, and relying on the self-evident truth that all men are created equal in their rights, they can improve their unfortunate situation. Perhaps then, it is time once again for a revolution within our own borders; one that reasserts the truths we once showed to be self-evident. Perhaps we as citizens of a country whose founding principles are now the receptor of all the worlds respectful attention, should wake up from our misguided dreams and recognize the truth that has been slapping us in the face.