On Truth in General


By Gerson Narib Goal Directed Truth What is the truth? This question has been with us for hundreds of years and to date, there is no emerging consensus on an acceptable definition. The basic problem is that (human) knowledge is in a state of continuous evolution, and never is complete. Today’s truth is tomorrow’s falsehood. It therefore becomes difficult, at least at a metaphysical level, to find “the truth”. However, should our question be, “what is the truth?” Should we rather not be asking, “what is the purpose of the truth?” Still better, should one not be asking, “What is your purpose with the truth?” Why is it that one is asserting something or some proposition to be true? I use the word “truth” or “true” to denote all those instances when one affirms something or some idea to be correct, reasonable, fair, just, acceptable, etc. In short, I refer to all those instances where there is a general consensus that something is true, right, appropriate or acceptable. If you are to ask yourself at the end of this article the question, “whose truth is it anyway?” – you have not quite understood what is said herein. The truth must be yours, that is, you must not have doubts as to the correctness, justness, acceptability, reasonability, fairness, etc, of some proposition or idea, before you can embark on the enquiry I propose below. The idea is to question what you take for granted. We find ourselves surrounded by so many truths, be they in the fields of politics, law, economics or the sciences. It often happens that public figures and others proclaim some ideas or facts as irrefutable truths. One often agrees with such propositions or ideas. In my view, too many of us retire from inquiry at this stage, that is, after accepting that something is true. We then follow the beholder of the truth to his or her predetermined destination. That failure that is the focus of this article. Those who continue to interrogate the issues presented to them by the truth, soon discover that the truth is not an end in itself. They soon realise that the truth has a purpose. TRUTH is presented to them, to gain their support for one or other social, economic or political purpose. This tool is very much visible in the activities of the civil society and printed and other media, in Namibia today. Ask yourself the following questions – Why is it that only some sectors of our community get coverage (that invoke a sense of empathy or sympathy) in the printed and electronic media? Why do the media discriminate between the poor and the rich? Why does the killing of a member of certain sector of our community evoke such a sense of shock and dismay, but a killing of someone from another sector is barely noticed? The answers to these questions lie in what others, have termed social engineering. I shall refer to this phenomenon as conditioning of the minds to achieve a general consensus, for the purposes of facilitating the desired objectives. The desired objective generally is the maintenance the political and economic hegemony, a system that rewards the influential members of the society, and ignores the interests of the poor, or the less influential members. The system at work in Namibia today concentrates its efforts at not upsetting the economic benefits that were bestowed by the apartheid, and as it admits more and more black elite into this exclusive club of the HAVES, the system becomes entrenched. All its members try to prevent the outsiders from coming in. Once you are in, you are accepted as a member, and it becomes your duty, as is the duty of all who are members, to prevent others from coming in. The system is effective because it appeals to reason, logic, THE TRUTH and draws its members from the most industrious members of the society. I do not believe that those who are engaged in the conditioning of the minds work together, that is, they do not have a club where they meet to discuss their strategies, or take stock of their successes. Such would be a project of impossible proportions, even if one accepts that there will be some groups that meet regularly to strategise. On the contrary, I believe that there is a constant and very real internal conflict in this system. Even though there is general consensus as regards their underlying premise, or the inarticulate premise, members of this group are in constant strive against each other, partly, because of the differences in the process of acquisition of their membership, and partly because of a host of other factors too numerous, and diverse to enumerate herein. Some are members because of their political power or political influence, while others are members because of their economic power. As far as those who became members due to political power are concerned, a distinction must be drawn between those who rose through the ranks during the apartheid era and those who became members after independence. The apparent conflict between these groups makes it appear that they are dissimilar in their objectives. However, they have similar backgrounds, similar schooling, similar philosophical outlook, and agree on most issues. Their solutions to problems or perceived problems are informed by the same underlying premise. The system appeals to this group, in particular, to reason, logic, the truth and because this group is influential, it manages to keep the system in tact, at the expense of the poor. I believe that closer examination of this group will reveal that some members do no want to belong. They are trying to break out, but cannot, because as sophisticated members of the society, they must be seen to be reasonable, to be politically correct, to be right. Only thing is, the system dictates these matters and only by looking at it from without will you be able to see that the “truth” may be taking you to a place you do not want to go. Of course, many of the members accept the system and its consequences without question, due to inability to look at the system from without. There are also those who are acutely aware of the workings of the system, and see its results as just. May I then propose that “the truth” is a perspective? It is a look at something from the eye of the one who has certain political, social or economic objectives in mind. The angle he or she takes depends pretty much on his or her inarticulate premise. The question is – where does (s)he want to take his/her audience with the truth? The purpose of the truth may not always be aligned with the interests of the one who receives it. Thus, it becomes necessary that we should not only establish the truth, but also understand the underlying motivations of those who inform us of the truth. It is the understanding of the purpose of the truth, the motives of those who inform us of it and, in particular the understanding of the timing of the release of the truth that should determine our course of action, if any. I, by no means suggest that one should reject what one knows is true. What I am proposing is that we should look beyond the truth, to the one who asserts the truth, and understand his motives. Understanding the motivations of the one who asserts the truth will put you in a better position to protect your own interests. If you are to act on the truth of certain ideas, direct your course of action at the result that you desire. If that result coincides with the result intended by the one who asserts the truth, let this be by your design. Know that the truth has a purpose. Know that truth is but a perspective. Know that the truth operates in a society, drives its value systems and societal processes and directs its economic activity. The one who asserts the truth, more often than not has particular results from these processes in mind. Discovering his/her objective will help you direct your actions, if any, to a result that you desire. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” – Eph. 4:14.