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 Blooming Stars

Status of the World –9

            Truth factor:Truth happens when what is on one’s mind conforms to what one says in words. Thus there is agreement between thought and speech. This for me is moral truth. The opposite of truth here is lie. There is also what I call emotional truth or honesty. In emotional honesty there is congruence between what one says and what one feels. Culture everywhere tends to foster emotional dishonesty as persons generally are not encouraged to express their true feelings for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a person many not want to waste one’s energy by indiscreetly expressing one’s emotions. To a question: “How are you? one is likely to say: “I am fine” even when one is not fine. It is more of a ritual one is routinely accustomed to. And people generally take it that way too. To be rigorously honest there was a time when I used to answer the question how is you? With I am being. In emotional dishonesty one is not morally culpable.

            Emotional problems may arise when a person tends to be emotionally dishonest. During mental status examination a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist considers blunt or flat affect to be a sign of emotionally poor and dissatisfied life. Mental confusion and lack of genuineness or authenticity result from emotional dishonesty. In extreme cases of mental disorders, for instance, psychoses, affects or feelings are divorced from reality. This is common when a person uses the most primitive defense mechanism such as denial. An example would be when a person laughs after hearing the news of the death of a beloved. In ordinary life also one may come across an emotionally intact person who laughs while that person should be sad, angry, or simply upset. This may also indicate that there are degrees of dissonance a person, often unwittingly, employs as a coping mechanism. People also have recourse to these strategies to hide their true feelings or to mislead others in a world of ever-increasing sophistication and complex relationships. While emotional honesty is very important, here I am more concerned about moral honesty.

            Honesty or integrity of character involves strict adherence to facts as one knows them. There should not be any effort to bend facts or distort them to gain any kind of advantage or further one’s prejudice against the person one does not like. There should be probity in that one does not go beyond data to interpret things, draw conclusions, and mislead people to suit one’s needs. In my clinical practice in the USA I have seen reports that began with, for instance, suspected sexual abuse ending with actual abuse with no substantiation. By bringing such instances to social workers or courts hearing abuse cases, persons’ reputation has been saved. With terrible crunch for time and fewer resources mental health workers do not carefully examine these reports. As a result an innocent person could land up in jail. We see things through the glasses we wear or filters we use. I have observed persons in India bandying accusations and innuendos about without the slightest evidence and ruining others’ good name. Floating slanderous rumors seems to be a pastime for some. They do not realize the damage these irresponsible and unfounded rumors cause.

            Most of the quarrels and problems result from judgments based on insufficient and often inaccurate data. Politicians and even, more sadly, persons in high positions in religious settings make irresponsible statements and arouse emotions of their rank and file who then run amok causing irreparable damage. One needs to be trustworthy and incorruptible. Nothing less will do. Truth was so important to Mahatma Gandhi that he considered his life to be one continuous experiment with truth. His autobiography in fact is The Story of Experiments with Truth. In later years in life Gandhi equated truth with God rather than God with truth as he could more experience truth. Christ very emphatically said: “The truth shall set you free”. In earlier years people followed civil and religious authorities blindly trusting them completely. Now they are more willing, nay, daring to question them. This is as it should be. Everyone is responsible for his/her life, and should have as much knowledge as available to make informed decisions related to personal and civic life. While principles, value system, instructions, and guidelines can be imparted for formation of conscience to make sound decisions related to faith, morals, and politics, no one needs to make decisions for other mature persons.

             Nobody has monopoly on truth, and truth is not served by abridging or limiting freedom. Truth is gradually asserting itself in the world; the old world order based on discriminations, prejudices, vested interests, and authoritarian ways are very slowly but surely passing away with great reluctance and difficulty. The general unrest that is spreading like wild fire in North Africa and Arab countries these days amply indicate that persons do not any more want to tolerate dictators and monarchies. Value-based, truthful living is in its infancy, and is very fragile, and needs to be nurtured carefully and painstakingly.


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