There is a word for it – weltschmerz. I’ve heard the Germans call it “world sorrow.” It hits me occasionally, and the last few months have been a slow trek through seeing our wonderful world fall apart. Perhaps it will survive but unless the spate of profound lying and acceptance of the lies by the public is brought to a clear and decisive end there isn’t much hope. At least not much for me. Epictetus saw this two thousand years ago when he wrote this textbook on how to live a good life. The penultimate chapter is on not lying:
“You must never lie!” That is a core principle of philosophy based on theorems. We derive this from demonstrations of the theorems that one ought not to lie. But “What are the origins of the principle we ought not to lie?” “What are the origins of that theorem?” and “What are the origins of a need for demonstrations?” These questions devolve endlessly into variations of “What is demonstration, consequence, contradiction, truth, and falsehood?” Each of these topics is linked to the others and can never be wholly separated, but the quest is worthless if we do not obey the first one, and lie. Therefore, “I must never lie!” We may spend our time and energy arguing the myriad of other topics, and even analyze lying itself; and truth may ultimately be impossible to define precisely, but “We must never lie” or everything becomes meaningless.
My weltschmerz springs from our current politicians, those people who by public support of their votes are now leading our country and world, blatantly lying. They are lying so fast that there is no opportunity to confront that falsehood before they perpetrate another one. The word “perpetrate” usually refers to crimes, especially felonious ones, but these public lies are even worse than theft or even murder because they undermine and eventually destroy our whole society. We must have trust in our fellow man and belief that what he says is what he will do.
We are now being led by people who clearly do not believe in the value of truth but only in the value of conning people out of their valuables. And I maintain the most valuable thing any person can have is trust in their fellow human beings to be honest in their relationships.
Without trust in our fellow man, society will wither and die.