Sep 12, 2018 Dr. Niaz Murtaza Comments Off on Cost of truth
In the age of alternative truths and a post-truth world, some say it’s useless to talk about truth. But it is now actually more critical to define, diagnose and defend truth.
The truth is easiest to define in the physical realms. We all agree on the names of common physical objects. Those who don’t are jesters or crackpots. Physical scientists broadly agree about earthly physical laws. But going deep into space or matter, they too start disagreeing. Luckily, those discords don’t affect our daily lives. But there are few social issues on which everyone or even social scientists agree. This intense discord about social truths often causes huge strife for us.
The pursuits of social bonds, wealth and power have always been common human pursuits. But a few shunned them and traversed mountains, deserts and forests to pursue truth. This travel created the view that truth refers to great hidden mysteries about social issues buried in isolated places, which seekers discover and then share upon return. But in reading such seekers, one is startled to find that truth merely means viewing social realities and cause-effect links more objectively. Oddly, few do that, due to the huge personal, family, religious, gender, class, race, national and other biases drilled into our minds from early on. Women are weak, Jews are greedy: such biases distort the simple truth that there are good people in all groups.
So the reason for the extensive travels of sages was to get detached from their social milieu so as to slowly shed their biases for more objectivity. But besides objectivity, they also searched for worthy ultimate life aims that would give the deepest and the longest-lasting satisfaction. And deep contemplation led to only one answer: pursuing wealth and power for one’s self and identity group give short-lived and shallow satisfaction. There is then this urge for more power and wealth which soon brings us into conflict with others seeking them too, leading to constant conflict locally and globally.
What then are worthy aims? The sages smile mischievously and say the most critical aim actually is the pursuit of truth itself. That truth doesn’t consist of only one right opinion on every social topic known only to an all-knowing expert. It is the truth about deep social biases and the futility of the endless pursuits of wealth and power, which divide people and create hatred and violence. Pursuing truth endlessly (as opposed to its sharing) doesn’t bring one into conflict with others. Its pursuit provides deep, endless satisfaction, optimism, inner unity and peace. It gives enormous courage. Truth creates empathy and bonding globally based on not creed but injustice being suffered by others. It gives boundless energy to work, amazing clarity of thought and creativity.
To this basic goal, one can add others that minimize a focus on material wealth and power, like reading, writing, painting, traveling and bonding with close ones etc. But there is one major problem with seeking social truth: it creates a huge urge to further pursue it and speak the truth publicly. But if finding simple truths is hard, speaking them openly is infinitely tougher. Firstly, they undermine the aims of powerful forces in society who monopolize and falsify public narratives on faith, nationalism, progress, etc. Spreading religious, national and other biases expands their hold. They silence those opposing their views.
But more irksome is the apathy of even ordinary people–relatives, friends and peers–towards social truth. Various biases, identity group pride, wealth and power are far more valued goals for most. One soon becomes lonely and intellectually cut-off from one’s social circles. Some are even banished and ostracized. One then recalls a pithy couplet: zaban mili hai magar hum zaban nahin milta (I want to converse but can’t find an attuned converser). TV and newspaper folks express a real inability to risk presenting truths openly. I so desperately want to speak clearly and publicly about dodgy verdicts, pre-poll rigging done by strong forces and abuse of both faith and rationality in a big Islamabad dharna in 2017, but can’t find platforms to do so. The dodgy acts of clergy, military and judiciary in many states become taboo topics. This muzzling of truth inflicts a heavy price on nations and individuals globally: hatred, greed, violence, injustice and lack of creativity.
This then is the cost of social truth globally: you discover it only after much effort but can’t then express it effortlessly. This leads to the troubling query of whether it’s worth pursuing truth at all, or is one better-off pursuing common petty aims with a dead mind? But such is the power of truth as opposed to wealth and power that it becomes your constant friend. It soothes, calms and encourages and gradually connects you with others struggling similarly globally. Still there is no certainty that truths will prevail one day globally.
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