Last Friday, in many countries around the world, millions were out on the streets to protest for action against climate change. In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in more than 500 towns. Over the weekend, newspapers and social media buzzed with photos showing large crowds in public places; many of my friends and acquaintances posted their own snapshots from the protest marches.
For the last couple of days, everybody has been talking about #alternativefacts. In this medial uproar, many (at least in my own echo chambers and filter bubbles) talk and write as if there were “facts” on the one hand, and “lies” on the other, with (of course) the “other side” being cast as the intentional producers of lies. As all simplified generalisations, this one, too, is problematic – to say the least.
The truth is struggling. Ever since The Economist, in one of its September issues, discovered and described the “post-truth world” we’re living in, it has become fashionable to complain about the disintegration of truth. More recently, this complaint has been further intensified by a broad debate about the nature and role of “fake news”. If only, common sense and common opinions seem to say, we could get rid of all misperceptions, errors, lies, and outright deceit once and for all – then, we could live in a peaceful world made of truths, happily ever after.
It started with a tweet. On May 10th, 2015, @raue tweeted: “I should maybe blog again, so someone can praise it enthusiastically, so I can retweet, and you can then fav that”; I replied: “What about the reverse? I fav your tweet so you can retweet it, and then I blog about it?” – and retweet he did. So here I am, stuck with a casual commitment made online. Now I have to deliver – or else: The whole online universe will feel let down, and it’ll be my fault.
The current edition of Harvard Business Review features an article with the heavy title “The truth about CSR”. I disagree with many arguments in this article. I’m also generally skeptical about any claim to “the truth”, no matter about what. More importantly, however, I think that sustainability – and, by consequence, it’s organisational manifestation as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – is an area in which it is particularly unlikely that any truth(s) can be asserted for good.