The fear of cancel culture
There are a number of reasons people do not tell the truth. They might look to those around them and think they all believe something different and they do not want to become an outlier. They might fear they are wrong and will be humiliated. They might fear it will upset someone in power who might cause deliberate harm to them as a consequence.
Let’s take each of those in turn and show how weak and dangerous those arguments are.
Fear of becoming an outlier
The idea of the wisdom of crowds is a myth. In reality, groupthink goes terribly wrong where there are no correction mechanisms in place. Each of us is part of that correction mechanism. A crowd can only hope to be wise when it is listening to all voices. Examples of where groupthink led to very dark places is not hard to come by: the Salem witch trials, frontal lobotomies, the Stanford prison experiment. It is utter cowardice to not speak the truth simply because you want to blend in.
Psychological experiments have shown that individuals often conform to the behaviour of the majority, even if that behaviour seems obviously wrong or harmful. A classic example is the ‘bystander effect,’ where individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when others are present. In experiments where a person appears to collapse in a public space, many bystanders often hesitate to help, waiting for someone else to take the lead. Yet, once one person steps forward, it acts as a trigger for others to spring into action. This is a clear demonstration of the power of the individual in breaking the chains of groupthink. It underscores the importance of taking initiative, being the first to stand up for what’s right, and not waiting for others to lead the way. In reality, where that is the main issue, someone who speaks truth first may well find allies readily appearing, who had been just waiting for someone else to take the first step.
Fear of humiliation
There is an easy excuse of saying I cannot speak the truth because I might be wrong, I do not know everything for certain. Of course you don’t! No one is omniscient! If everyone thought like that the only people who would speak would be the psychopaths who are not afraid of lying and then where would we be?
Yes, you might be wrong. Yes, some people might take great pleasure in that. Your ego is less important than telling the truth. If everyone set ego aside and spoke, the truth would reveal itself rapidly. All of us would be wrong along the way but at least we would start travelling towards the truth together.
Inconvenient truths upset people in powerful positions. There might indeed be consequences of speaking and you might well show me examples where the consequences for others have been severe. Silencing people through fear in this way is authoritarianism. The only antidote to that is to have the multitude speak the truth. You are a part of us getting to the point where the truth cannot be repressed through fear. The dam is about to break, the risk from speaking now is far smaller than it was earlier on. Take the risk for the sake of your children’s future.
Creating a social media profile and broadcasting to the world is not for everyone. Speaking the truth to your family, your friends and your colleagues is a fine place to start. In fact those conversations are worth many times more than communication through any screen.
If you’re uncomfortable going too far too fast then start with questions, express uncertainty, seed some doubt.
Don’t leave it too late.
The truth will set you free.