Saturday, July 20, 2013

Maybe one of the reasons why truth finds it so difficult to emerge in life is because humans fear the consequences if it does. If you have committed some misdemeanour or crime, in private or public life, however much you might be willing or happy for this to be exposed if committed by others, you might want to look out for your own interests first and keep the truth of your activities concealed. This may sound obvious, but we wonder about the 'truth' of public life, and the private life of significant others, and make great efforts to urge openness and sincerity (or transparency as it were) from each other; and yet we get confused or enraged because someone hasn't told us the truth about something. Yet why be so surprised? 

I’m not trying to defend wrongdoing, I'm just saying, the obstacles in the path to truth are not merely epistemological or procedural, but also social. If we really want the human truth to come out - and quite possibly we do not since it may also involve us and those we love - we might want to think about amnesty's and domains of forgiveness as contexts for such revelations, founded not on wishy-washy uber-liberal relativistic indulgence, but on reflections upon our own complicity with the unethical, actual or potential (unless of course we claim to be perfect). Otherwise, why not openly acknowledge that the loss of truth is a price that we are willing to pay for the threat of retribution remaining always active and in place. Or acknowledge that if we want both, that is, if we want both truth and retribution, that the only way to get this is through ever more intrusive surveillance and policing powers to root out wrongdoing – powers which we can just hope will themselves not be corrupt. I do not doubt that the ultimate answer that would render the truth something that wouldn’t wish to conceal itself is people just doing the right thing in the first place. But this is a separate matter, the question of how to achieve this complex and important. Nevertheless, in the meantime, the truth is concealed and the role that fear of retribution plays in this, I think, interesting.