By Abel Merawi
January 26, 2022 (Ezega.com) -- Defending Truth is a uniquely human endeavor, but it is ventured by heroes who are willing to sacrifice. Let us save the essence of such sacrifice to the conclusion, however. Let’s begin with the struggle. Wherever and whenever the truth teller claims to communicate reality to the public, and when this figure is defamed and accused by the powers that be, we see a struggle between truth and untruth. As we witness opposing sides engage in a verbal battle to tell the truth and discredit the opponent, we witness the struggle of falsehood to overcome truth. The public views such claims and disclaims of truth with a hint of doubt and cynicism. Deception never defeats truth by replacing it, but it can reduce truth to mere opinion. When this occurs, the public goes beyond conceptions of truth and falsehood, and places them in equal footing as competing realities or alternative realities.
But wait! I think I have rushed into an argument on ‘Truth’ without providing it with a contextually meaningful explanation. So, let me make that clear first. Truth is generally assigned to two corresponding realities: to the world borne of our imaginative mind, and to the world that finds its expression in facts or events that occurred. Following the definition of the political theorist, Hannah Arendt, the first is rational truth and the second factual truth. For instance, when Socrates claims that his only truth is the fact of knowing nothing, he is speaking a rational truth. On the other hand, when a journalist reports on a crime committed, the reference is to factual truth. When each type of truth is confronted with the persuasiveness or sophistry of falsehood, it is threatened differently. I speak here of persuasiveness since untruth demands skills of concoction whereas truth is spoken but seldom defended. When truth demands persuasion, it enters the realm of opinion and is exposed to doubt. The rational truth of our mortality is evident in life cycle, and so persuasion also discredits it. Similarly, when historians are required to persuade the fact the WWI and WWII occurred, they are in a losing battle that equates them with sophists.
The tyranny of falsity attacks and undermines rational truth differently from its assault on factual truth. As rational truth is begotten and nursed in our mind; it is the outcome of creative imagination. Accordingly, you can burn all the philosophical and artistic documents of bygone days, but you cannot extinguish the natural curiosity of humans, and so it is bound to reemerge in the future. Sadly, the same is not true for factual truth. Events and facts we document as history, are the outcomes of indeterminable human interactions. When we erase and rid of all the facts that attest the world wars, and when the generation that retain its memory perish, the facts are irretrievably lost. That’s why the Diary of Anna Frank, the slave narratives, and even documentations by the oppressors are treasures for our progenies. Therefore, we must denounce politicians, media, historians, or any entities that threaten to erase factual truth. Above all, we must preserve factual truths because they diminish human ingenuity in constructing rational truth.
Rational truth is certainly the child of our mental faculty, but it partially operates through the facts gathered from factual truth. Mortality and precariousness of human beings can be comprehended through our interaction with nature, with little help from factual truths. However, our conceptions of human rights, justice, equality, and humanity are rational truths attained from the lucid understanding of not just nature but history. For instance, for us to reach a higher understanding of human rights, we had to refer to the suffering that innocent people endured under all forms of human bondage. When these factual truths are erased, the rational truth of human rights is stripped of its foundations. Expressed differently, we can have an abstract conception of equality, but it became part of universal human rights only after we witnessed, through history, the cruelty inflicted in its absence. When the factual truth is negated by untruth, the inequality of past revisits us. Thus, protecting factual truths is the precondition to preserving any form of truth.
Deception is nothing new, annals of history is full of powerful individuals and group who have used dishonesty to attain their blind ambitions. Yet, the motive and ultimate goal of the deceivers have become mammoth. While hiding and partially denying truth defines past ambitions, currently, the desire is the total annihilation of truth and its replacement with untruth. The swindler of past may have lied about the battle, but the contemporary swindler lies about the war. When truth is partially carved out and patched with untruth, it was easy to identify. But when truth is utterly erased and replaced with untruth, we end up losing our sense of reality.
Falsehood ultimately fails to replace truth, but it damages our reality, making us cynical to the point of reducing everything to an opinion. Hannah Arendt writes, “the surest long-term result of brainwashing is a peculiar kind of cynicism … the [mental] category of truth vs. falsehood is being destroyed.” Thus, falsehood employs seductive propaganda to compete with truth, making both truth and untruth simple opinions open to interpretation. The truth teller cannot use persuasion for it makes truth political, forcing truth to employ the art of persuasion and losing the battle. So, the truth teller should not take similar action as deceptive organized liars (become political) because the use of persuasion and any form of coercion by the truth teller is a sure sign of failure. In other words, the truth should not be uttered and defended in the same way falsehood is defended.
We are becoming a generation that went beyond truth and falsehood, we are rushing towards an age of post truth. But we must not lose heart for the preservation of rational and factual truth is not a losing battle. But to champion the truth both the swindler and the swindled public must give up our illusions. No individual, group, or nation is pure – our history of past evils haunts us just as our virtuous history comforts us. We, as public, cooperate with the falsehood and propaganda of the powers that be when we refuse to give up our illusions. In his essay, The Creative Process, James Baldwin cautions, “whoever cannot tell himself the truth about his past is trapped in it, is immobilized in the prison of his undiscovered self. This is also true of nations. We know how a person in such a paralysis is unable to assess either his weaknesses or his strengths.” Purity belongs neither to individuals nor nations; seeking it in falsehood simply prolongs our illusions.
We started with the hint regarding the sacrifice Truth demands, and we must now face it. Truth demands the individual and the society to give up its illusions. Those who cling on to their illusions, find fleeting refugee in uttering and obediently accepting falsehood. The defenders of truth threaten the communal foundation of delusional crowds. Their leaders are topnotch swindlers who vow to defend illusions by sacrificing not just the truth but also its defenders. Yet the suffering of the truth teller is worthy compared to the life of citizens in the Republic of Illusion. As Hannah Arendt lyrical remarks, “Conceptually, we may call truth what we cannot change; metaphorically, it is the Ground on which we stand and the sky that stretches above us.” Thus, truth is the acceptance of the immutable scope of reality – only truth grants our lives a meaningful expression.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Media Framing and Public Reaction
Vice in the name of Virtue
Dream of a Reality
Human Wave Attacks
The Bridge Between Love and Hate
Identity Frames and Humane Response to Suffering
The Plurality of Identity
Necrophilia – The Affliction in Servants of Death
Public Trust in Social Media
Even Monkeys Can Use Smart Techs
Adwa – Triumph of Unassailable Humanity
Democracy and Democratic Institutions
Democracy and Democratic People
Paideia or Deep Education
Educational Purpose: Good Citizenry Vs Rational Autonomy
Crowd Leaders as National Enemies of Ethiopia
Ethiopia Under the Threat of Crowd Mentality
Conformist Realism in Ethnic Federalism
Alternatives to National Identity
Ethiopia in Conflict - Part II: A National Stand for Unity
Ethiopia in Conflict - Part I: EPRDF and the Creation of Ethnic Division
Forms of Human Violence (Part II)
Forms of Human Violence (Part I)
The ‘Having’ Mentality
Free but in Chain, Part IV: Personal Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part III: Economic Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part II: Social Bondage
Free but in Chain. Part I: Bondage of Worldview
Unemployment and Economic Growth in Ethiopia
The Underestimated Human Ignorance
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part II)
Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part I)
Capitalism Becoming an Impediment to Morality
Ketman: Living in Disguise to Gain Acceptance
The System and the 'Criminal'
Trust as an Economic Force
Do You Trust the Government?
Our Online World
Fame Mistaken for Expertise
The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers
A Time to Reflect
The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!
History of Pandemics in Ethiopia
Human Struggle Against Pandemics: Historical Perspective
You Can Make a Difference
Rule of Law for a Free Society
The Origins of Law
Determinants of Market Value: Part II
Determinants of Market Value: Part I
Your life Matters Too
Manifestations of Artistic Expression
Achievements vs Natural Accidents
The Grip of Sacrifice
Injustice is Never Justifiable
Education Demands of the Future
Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future
The Shift From Racism to Culturism
Sacrificing Meaning for Power?
Culture and Market Forces
Seeking Cosmic Justice
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
Join us on social media:
Like Ezega.com on Facebook and get Ethiopian News updates regularly.
Get the latest Ethiopia News by following us on Twitter @Ezega_Official.
Follow Ezega on LinkedIn for Ethiopia Jobs and Ethiopian News Today.