As part of my day job, I make an effort to stay current with what’s going on in the world of software development and testing. I’m not going to say this is the kind of thing all the folk here would just adore, because it’s not, but every now and then I run into something that totally nails it.
This article is one of those. The author goes to a lot of effort (and quite a bit of formal logic) to work through and destroy “the fallacy that there is no truth in discourse (or anywhere else, for that matter), but for the multitude of subjectively held opinions that are all equally and to the same extent true and valuable”.
Let’s just say he’s not a fan of moral relativism.
The author is a consultant who is often brought in to help fix broken software development processes, but the problems he describes are the same ones that show up all over the place in publishing (and elsewhere, of course, but I’m focusing on publishing here), so he’s had plenty of opportunity to study the phenomenon.
His conclusion isn’t comfortable, but it fits. It’s a workable theory that can be used to predict how people who stand to lose (or think they stand to lose) from changes will likely respond.
It starts with change. Things change. Circumstances change, environments change. When a changing environment hits a stagnant (or stable) culture, the culture has to adapt or it dies. But when that culture is truly stagnant and the decisions of its various leaders have generated a serious distrust, even hatred, for innovation, the people who most need to change how they do things aren’t going to want to do it.
Think about the traditional publishers and what they think about ebooks. That’s one big fat heaping pile of change-averse before you even consider the antiquated accounting and management systems that decide how much the publishers owe their authors in royalties, the arcane contracts that make signing over your soul and your first-born look reasonable, and the miniscule return offered to the author. Among many other things.
So when it starts to look like change is necessary, they start fighting back with the moral relativism where everything is equally valuable.
That’s about the point where the article hits the formal logic, but my less-form version goes something like this:
You say “there is no absolute truth”. Is that also relative?
Now, if you’re thinking with the correct head and not letting emotions get in the way, that’s a nice little contradiction in terms: to say “there is no absolute truth” is in itself a statement of an absolute truth. So “there is no absolute truth” has to be a relative statement, and so, not completely true.
But if “there is no absolute truth” is not absolutely 100% true, then there must be some absolute truth out there somewhere if only we can find it. Which also means that not all things are relative, and some things may indeed be better than others. And yes, independent publishing and ebooks might just be here to stay.
Go read the article, even if you’re not up for the formal logic. The first half is describing what happens and how people react, so even the least technical among us can do that.