The Post-Truth Era

Everyone’s saying it, so it must be true. We live in a post-truth era, in which unsubstantiated statements are swallowed whole. The less palatable they are, the more easily they slip down.

Post-truth was made word of the year – the Oxford Dictionaries’ International Word of the Year, no less. Post-truth is of course instead of truth, not after it as in, say, post mortem or post-Apocalyptic.

As you see, even the term post-truth is lying through its teeth. But what does it matter?

old-books1

Post-truth got some massive boosts this year with Brexit and the US Presidential Election. While Michael Gove didn’t actually start it, he did famously say that people in this country had “had enough of experts”.

Experts are now superfluous and fact-checkers obsolete. These days momentous decisions are made without anyone bothering with evidence.

That doesn’t just make me worried. It makes me deeply suspicious not just of politicians but of pretty much everything, cute animal videos included. What if I’m not watching an Alsatian licking a kitten clean, but just a cleverly doctored video of a dog preparing his lunch?

posed by model. photo by Roger Heykoop

I can see how we got to post-truth. Everyone has an opinion, and now it has just as much value as anyone else’s. Social media provide an echo chamber where anyone can have their say, as well as share hatred and intolerance.

Twitter wasn’t big in Lao Tzu’s day, but I think he nailed it with “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” 

As a doctor, I’ve lived with post-truth beliefs for some time. One patient with appendicitis, who, on being advised surgery was needed, declared that it wasn’t for him. An operation might be our way of doing things, but not his. Thus he belted out of Accident & Emergency into the night. FreeImages.com/Antonio JImenez AlonsoSaddest of all in my view is the mother who, after lengthy discussions, still refused immunizations for her baby. “I’m doing what I think is right,” she told me. “After all, that’s the most important thing.”

The most important thing? God help her child.

It’s clear how we got to the age of unreason, but it’s less clear how we’ll climb out of it. Trump’s inauguration is scheduled for next Friday, and we are where we are.  Though there is a well-known story about a tourist in Ireland. Lost, he asks one of the locals for directions to Balbriggan. The Irishman replies “Well, sor. If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

FreeImages.com/Mira Pavlakovic

 

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Seven Reasons Why August Sucks

While the name ‘August’ comes from the Latin for dignity or grandeur, the reality is somewhat different.  Yes, it’s still high summer, but when you compare it to its neighbours June and July, I don’t think the month of August makes the grade. Here’s why:

1 The days are already noticeably shorter. As if that’s not bad enough, the weather thinks it’s October.

Rain by Valentina Degiorgis

2 You can’t move for tourists in London. Have you been to Marble Arch lately? It’s heaving. Luckily I know just enough Arabic to move dawdling visitors out of the way.

And in Cambridge, there are even bigger queues to get into the colleges. As here.

Clare College gardens

And here. 

queue at Kings College Chapel

Even more competitive than it is for prospective students, it seems.

Clare College gardens

3 It’s the silly season for news. That’s why the papers carry stories about donkeys rescued from seven-feet deep storm drains.

rescued donkey

And stories about Morris dancers having a punch-up with blind footballers. If you’re wondering, that one’s a spoof.

The biggest silly story of all? Must be the Labour party’s leadership contest. 

4 Kids in Scotland are already back at school. They’ve given up pretending it’s still the holidays.

5 When the August bank holiday weekend is over, that’s it. There are no more official holidays until Christmas. And any minute now, Christmas merchandise will hit the shops.

by Raquel Santos

6 It’s high season for kittens. In north-west London, the Mayhew Animal Home’s kitten cabins are overrun with furry bundles that need forever homes. Can you help? 

posed by model. photo by Roger Heykoop

7 Everyone is away (except for tourists). If you’re an adult, your inbox is full of automated away messages. If you’re a child, there’s nobody around to come to your birthday. I should know. Mine’s tomorrow. Are you going to be there? Thought not.

Roll on September.

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Easy tweet: 7 Reasons Why August Sucks http://wp.me/p3uiuG-13z according to @DrCarolCooper

How to Stop Yourself Watching Kitten Videos

Aw, kitten videos! Don’t we all love them to bits? It’s estimated that there are some 5.3 million kitten (or cat) videos online, and writers like me must have watched every single one. When inspiration fails to strike, or you can’t quite find le mot juste, the brain craves a cute kitty video.  

I bet you’ve watched them too. There are kittens tumbling about, swimming in bathtubs, playing the piano, cosying up to babies, fighting off Dobermans, rescuing firemen from trees, etc.

They’re a massive time-suck, especially for the self-employed, but they’re compulsive viewing. Someone shares one with you, and you can’t delete or look away. You just can’t. It would be like turning down a date with George Clooney. I bet if Clooney called you just before a crucial work deadline, you’d still say ‘Yes.’

I managed to give up chocolate for years on end, but couldn’t stop the kitten video habit, even though it’s pretty obvious I’d be a lot more productive.

Well, I’m over all of that now. No more kitten videos. And now I can share my secret with you.

Puppy videos.

I mean, who can resist the one with seven dogs waiting to be fed? Or the one where the smallest dog nicks treats from all the big dogs? Or the dachsund playing in deep snow? Not that you can actually see him, obviously.

Here’s my personal favourite.

I have the Mayhew and Jenny to thank for this one. The lovely Honey is one of the puppies from the Mayhew Animal Home in NW London. In December, I posted a photo of her, along with three other Mayhew animals who were also looking for forever homes.

Amaruq

Amaruq

Rambo

Rambo

Alfie Moon

Alfie Moon

I’m delighted to tell you that Amaruq, Alfie Moon and Rambo have now all found homes too. But there are still lots more lovely animals waiting patiently.  So check out the doggy videos on this link.

PS there are a few kitty videos too. Just in case you’re still hooked.