"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.) The words Dante places over the gates of hell are terrifying. And to turn that cause and effect around is to remind ourselves of the devastation wrought in lives where hope has gone.
Being a person who respects truth is about a great deal more than avoiding the telling of lies. It may mean acknowledging and regretting you have told a partial truth or that you have avoided taking responsibility for an error of judgement.
Whoever we decide to vote for in May, we need an election campaign fought on the basis of truth, not spin. In the past, charities would have spoken out if a politician tried to give a false picture of reality, but many now feel gagged by the Lobbying Act passed last year. Happily, one charity exists solely to check facts, but it needs our help to meet the challenge of the election campaign.
A question for every one of us: how particular are you about truth and accuracy if a statement gives you an advantage or feeds your confirmation bias? Over the next 98 days, we are going to see and hear a lot of information which will either do this, or will make us fume and curse its falsity.
Following an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival this year, Jeremy Paxman remarked that it was “almost impossible to exaggerate the public’s contempt for politicians.” This is probably true and much of that scorn is of politicians' own making.
A couple of days ago, I sat in a packed church in a Cambridgeshire village to hear Rowan Williams speak about food banks. The former Archbishop of Canterbury was measured and carefully non-party political in his observations. His address was a model of the power which is exercised when discernment is coupled with commitment to truth and justice.
Propaganda could be described as persuasion without morals. It has been a tool of power for centuries and in our own time, its use in inculcating a state of belief which is not in proportion to evidence, is most clearly seen in politicians' choice and use of slogans.
Sniping at the holiday choices of politicians is a fixture of the Silly Season. Whatever they do, they lose. They are either self-indulgent and free-loading (Tony Blair) or grimly and self-consciously puritanical (Gordon Brown).