Yes, I know I promised; but I never promised to keep my promise!
(Attributed to Levi Eshkol)
It might be that this oft repeated phrase is, actually, apocryphal. But it does give one pause when
considering the whole subject of truth. For example, the very title of this post is used in very specific circumstances in a Court of Law. American readers would expect to see the addition of “so help me God“ – but that leads to another issue which I will address later. Anyway it is my firm belief that those that succeed in Court are those that lie more convincingly.
“It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.” H. L. Mencken
Consider, for example, the highly publicised case of former Israeli President Moshe Katsav. As in almost all accusations of sexual harassment, without forensic support, the situation is always one of “he said – she said”. So the aphorism of Mr Mencken is especially applicable in these cases.
Let me be clear. I am making no assumption as to guilt or innocence in this specific case. I am using it simply as part of a general argument concerning the definition of truth.
Though Katsav had consistently denied that he had sexual relations with Alef, his attorneys raised that possibility during the appeal. Using a detailed timeline of the events, including telephone logs, before and after the time of the rape that Alef said took place in the Sheraton Hotel in Jerusalem in June 1998, attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Zion Amir tried to create reasonable doubt that a rape had occurred.
One of the most difficult aspects of the case was that the rapes Alef complained about had no witnesses. The court had to weigh Alef’s testimony against that of Katsav to determine whether the former Tourism Ministry employee was credible and whether she was telling the truth about the sex attacks, or whether there was reasonable doubt that they happened.
“The hard core of the plot, the core story, took place in private,” the justices said in their ruling.
“The justices emphasized that Katsav was convicted not because he failed to tell the truth in his testimony before the district court, but because the court found that Alef’s version was reliable regarding all the charges she made against him.
My fundamental assertion is that truth is always relative – never absolute.
Of course that means that this statement itself can be challenged. If truth is relative, how is it possible to make a definitive claim that it isn’t? This is a circular argument, much beloved of philosophers cloistered in the security of their academia. Since this is only a post and not a doctoral thesis I will not chase my own tail to justify the claim.
“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth”. Friedrich Nietzsche
There are some “absolutes” which, we have been brought up to believe, are unassailable. For example, physical or natural law. We have always known that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.
Recently, scientists working at the CERN research centre in Geneva, have conducted experiments that might disprove this.
New results from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland seem to break this cardinal rule of physics,
calling into question one of the most trusted laws discovered by Albert Einstein .Physicists have found that tiny particles called neutrinos are making a 454-mile (730-kilometer) underground trip faster than they should — http://www.livescience.com/16183-faster-speed-light-physics-breakthrough.html
On a more prosaic level, but still in the field of science, let us look at the concept of colour. Most people can distinguish between the colours Red and Green. The difference is obvious. But not to a person who is colour blind! They see these 2 colours as different shades of Grey.
In a well known paraphrased dialogue with Socrates, Protagoras said: “What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism
So, If this kind of truth can be questioned, how much more may we be cynical about narrative truth?
We are confronted daily with this problem, thanks to the enormous PR efforts of ” the cousins”, our friendly neighborhood Arabs. There is almost no issue that has arisen in, say, the past 100 years, that has not led to conflicting claims and perceptions.
“Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.”
Our Independence is their Naqba. I dealt with some of these differences of interpretation in previous posts, so I will not regurgitate them now. But for reference:
Now, I will return to the subject I previously mentioned of Americans and their obsession with things Godly. let’s start with the Declaration of Independence of 1776:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
Really! “Self evident”? The existence of a “Creator” is a self evident truth? Whilst absolutely accurate statistics are difficult to evaluate, due to different definitions of Athiesm or Agnosticsm, it is safe to say that at least 10/15 % of the world are non believers. In Europe the percentage is even higher, up to 85% in Scandinavia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism#Demographics
It is also not “self evident”that all men are born equal, and certainly not all women – or any women, for that matter.
Total nonsense presented as basic truth.
Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.
And, to end on a lighter note:
“If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics”.
Andyboy- Telling it as it is!
* Unless otherwise credited, all quotations from: http://www.brainyquote.com/
- Rape sentence upheld for Katsav (bbc.co.uk)