Is what you believe in a Truth or a social construct? In order to properly answer this question, you must know what a social construct is. You also should have an idea of what Truth (with a capital T) represents. For starters, it does not represent your religion. That, my dear, is a social construct.
So what is a social construct? Anything that has to do with relative experience. For example, how weddings are conducted in your family as opposed to how they are conducted in another culture across the world. This is a easy example of a social construct. If you are a westerner, maybe someone living in the US, then you would have an idea of what a wedding is, whether it is small or large isn’t the defining factor, but a picture comes in your mind. If you are in India, a wedding is an entirely different ordeal! Because they change from culture to culture, they are social constructs. Religion also changes from culture to culture, and has a tremendous amount of variability within the same culture and even within small enclaves. People simply believe different things. Therefore, religion is a social construct as well.
Another example of a social construct is the justice system. This changes from culture to culture, along with what constitutes a crime in a given society. What other things are social constructs? The idea of woman and the roles she must play. The idea of gender. The idea of the work week and weekends. Vacation is a social construct, as well as capitalism.
Your ideas and feelings surrounding the use of street drugs is a social construct. Your ideas and feelings around pharmaceutical drugs is also a social construct.
Ok, so what is Truth? Well, truth is the part that is universal. It does not vary from culture to culture. Truth is Law. It is something you can depend on no matter what. An easy example is gravity. It is a law that things fall to the ground. How this happens may be debated (well, in this example, maybe not!), but the fact that it happens is not. Other easy laws are biological, such as how blood flows and the rhythm of your breath. The fact that you need to eat is a law, but what you eat is a social construct.
Ok, so are there philosophical points that can be called Laws or is all philosophy relative? Because people have different philosophies across cultures, it must be a social construct; yet there are laws that only philosophy can explain, simply because they can be observed but not measured. These laws are silent and powerful, and have the ability to free you or submit you to a lifetime of suffering.
One is cause and effect. It absolutely does not matter what you believe in, who you believe in or how you explain your reality; cause and effect exists whether you like it or not. It is Law. There are easy examples of cause and effect and there are very difficult ones, but knowing that it exists without fail can help you make decisions that will impact your happiness level.
An easy example is nutrition affecting your health and body weight. If you live on fast food, drink a lot of alcohol and smoke cigarettes, the effect will be poor health, or probably extreme illness. Another easy example is if you treat your spouse badly, on top of that you cheat on him/her, the natural effect is that he/she will leave you. (Some people stay in abusive relationships, but that is a dysfunction that can be discussed in another post.) Enough with the easy examples, what is a difficult one?
Your day-to-day actions are causes that will bring their effects sooner or later. If you, for example, are mean to a person on the street whom you will never see again, the fact that you will not see that person does not exempt you from the law. If you are mean, then you are probably experiencing meanness in your own life; you experience it today, you’ll experience it tomorrow and the next day. It comes to you, you pass it on, it comes to you again, you pass it on again … and the cycle goes on. You are locked in a cause-and-effect cycle that is creating pain or suffering in your life. To get out, you would need to commit yourself to being kind to others no matter what. You will have to start turning the other cheek. You will need to start “praying for the ones that use and abuse you”. You will also need to heal the pain that all the meanness you’ve experienced has caused you. This is a long journey, but it is the only way to truly free yourself from these chains of suffering, which will go on unless you change yourself. (This is the journey that I, myself, have taken.)
Here is another cause-and-effect example. If you steal from someone, and I don’t care how justified you think you are, or even if the theft is legal, the universal effect will still come back to you. (Legal consequences is a social construct, universal consequences is Law.) Major corporations commit theft on a regular basis. They get away with it because it is legal. For example, they can “steal” the clean water of a community, or the property that is rightfully theirs. A government or corporation that displaces an indigenous community to create a mine, or to build a dam is also a form of legal theft. Although one cannot say what the consequences will be in detail, you can observe the social consequences by looking at the reality of the countries that permit these kinds of theft. Their justification is that business creates prosperity and some people are not valuable to the system and can be easily brushed aside and forgotten. Yet, if you look at those countries more closely, you will see that there are a tremendous amount of social ills and consequences that come from this behavior (and many other similar actions, which come from an overarching belief-system/social construct). Social ills eventually lead to social unrest, which leads to a shaking of the economy, which leads to the devaluation of the currency, which leads to the wealthy losing a lot of money.
Furthermore, the executives will each lose things dear to them, such as health, family members and business. It is a losing cycle to abuse the people that cannot defend themselves in the legal zone or with military might.
But, you might argue, the US massacred and displaced millions of indigenous people and it is a very prosperous country. Believing this is like believing that a person’s Facebook profile is an adequate description of their life. The US has a lot of money, but it does not have a lot of wellbeing. The suffering in the souls of its inhabitants is deep and almost ubiquitous. If you don’t believe, just look at the statistics. Look at the level of drug use and overdose, the amount of depression and anxiety, the amount middle-class families have to work just to keep their heads above water, and how many are getting chronic diseases. There is another major social ill – it is the aloneness of the average American. People are separated from the ones they love, and cannot spend time with their children.
The fight for prosperity at the expense of others can never bring lasting happiness because the Law of cause-and-effect is universal. It stretches across all time, throughout all history and permeates every culture. Like it or not. It does not care about your religion or personal philosophy. The idea of prosperity is actually social construct – it varies from culture to culture and a changes over the years. The need for inherent wellbeing, on the other hand, is a Truth. People seek it across all cultures and in all human history. They like to be happy, they need to stay alive. How they go about it, though, is a social construct, and one that was given to them by their parents, ancestors and community in general.
On a personal level, to have lasting happiness, you need to be on a positive cycle. The cause-and-effect cycle must bring you good things, and you must put good things out. You must also deconstruct the social constructs that do not permit you to have or be the things that would make you happy in the truest sense. For example, if you believe that you must be something that you are not in order to please your family or community, this would be a social construct that you would have to break apart. Also, if you are stuck in a boring routine at work and are not advancing in the way that matters to you this would also mean that there is a social construct in place that is ruling you and you are not aware of it. If you require yourself to behave a certain way that is not you, you are again obeying a social construct and not Truth.
Here’s the deal. The #1 thing that causes human suffering are not actual situations but social constructs. When you believe that a social construct is Truth, you bind yourself to it and this creates a situation where your soul is in a cage, which is what causes suffering. Poverty does not cause suffering; nor are “poor people” in pain because they lack certain things. Poverty is a social construct – it is a set of rules that says a person must have x, y and z in order to be well, and it is usually western-thought driven. A good example that I have witnessed in my own life is that of indigenous people who are left to live their own cultures in their own jungles and wildernesses. They are much happier than most westerners who live in big houses, yet the indigenous are considered poor and needing of help. (Such bullshit!)
If you want real and lasting happiness, you will need to look at what you value, what your social constructs are, and if they are serving you. This is a long journey to embark on and is filled with challenges, but it is far less painful than staying stuck in soul-chains forever. On this journey-to-freedom, you will encounter adventures and delights that can never be expressed in human language, nor can the people who live in chains ever understand if you tried to express it. You will also find other journeyers who meet up with you for a number of miles, sometimes many, sometimes just a few, but in those moments you then have something that is priceless and no amount of money can buy: camaraderie. This makes a world of difference in your journey to freedom! But you cannot have this unless you are on your journey to freedom. It must be legit.