National Truth Day

I’m sitting at home at the moment, awaiting my grocery delivery from town to the island, and started thinking about what we believe is right or wrong and why one’s own perception is such an important thing in life. Just to be clear, I haven’t done any research on such topics and have not read a “clever” book discussing such terms, either. So, really this post is nothing more than my own perception at this point in my life and, further, it isn’t well prepared either.

But yeah, there is a day for everything, isn’t there? A day to celebrate life, the birthday, a day to celebrate a marriage, the wedding day, a day to celebrate a new year, a day to celebrate our dad and mom. There are also (international) days on which we (are supposed to) think or thank or help others rather than just buy presents and celebrate. Prostate or breast cancer day, Easter, teacher’s day, ANZAC day and so forth. There are more such days than days in a year. There is even a women’s day.

A National Truth Day is missing though. A day on which we tell, do and (try to) think only what is true. Most importantly perhaps on this day we should only demonstrate the truth. Not what is right, but simpler, what is true. Right or wrong is for the vast majority of people, and I’m no exception to this, just a personal (often selfish) perception.  And perception is what matters, isn’t it? It’s not what should matter, but it is what matters. The father with an office job, which an associate or family member organized for him, has no problems judging and complaining about the father, who is jobless and on the benefit, with three kids and a wife to feed. The former, disregarding the fact that he was put into a comfortable work place with relatively good pay, he might have never had a job interview and might likely never have to look for another job, looks at the latter, and without knowing anything about that person, his family and their circumstances, comes to the conclusion that he is doing the right thing, while the latter is doing the wrong thing. The line of thought goes actually much further. The former does not only believe that he is doing the right thing, he also believes that when he or his family are in need, for instance, when he is old or sick, is entitled to more (financial) help than the father who didn’t have a job and did not pay any taxes.

I’m bringing this up because it seems to be a very common scenario. An old man complaining about his low pension, a hard-working man on the sickness benefit because the physical job he did for 30 years actually wore out his knees and his back, rendering him unable to work physically anymore, complaining about how low the sickness benefit is. And I hear always the same argument:”I worked all my life, paid all my taxes and now, when I’m in need, what do I get? Nothing, that’s right. You can sit in front of the TV, drink soda and junk food all day, never save a cent and you get the same help as I do. That’s not fair, that’s not RIGHT.”

And there you go, what is right and what is wrong is nothing else than one’s own perception. Because, in this scenario, one is inclined to ask the person who “worked all his life and paid all the taxes”: “Why did you do this? Why did you work, when you saw others who never worked. Why did you pay all your taxes, when you saw others who paid as little as they got away with?” If the answer is, “because it is the right thing to do”, then we should expect that this person must be satisfied. I mean, this person did the right thing! So what’s the freakin’ problem then, what else does he want? The problem is that we don’t do right – again right or wrong isn’t defined by some virtue, it is a personal perception – for the sake of doing right, but we do so in the hope of being treated better, in one way or another, being entitled to more, later on in life, or for some in the afterlife.

Right or wrong has also nothing to do with stupid or wise. Some think by doing the right thing, they render themselves as wise. But come on, why would work a hard, physical job for 30 years, knowing that it must affect your health one way or another, when you have the option of not doing such a job? There are many answers to this, it could be financial, it could be the atmosphere at work, it could be the fact that you can sit down after a hard day of labor with your workmates and complain about beneficiaries, it could be that you were taught to do the ‘right thing’ and to ‘take responsibility of your own life and future’. It could be something else. Clear is, however, that your health is going to be negatively affected by this job and one could ask, irrespective or right or wrong, whether it is wise.

The job doesn’t even have to be physical and back breaking, it could be a job, like so many of us have, where you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to go to work. This feeling of having to go work can be soul crushing. We only live once and yet so many of us have to spend most of their days working for someone else a job that they don’t really care much about.

What I’m saying is that right or wrong is a personal perception and choice, and has nothing to do with being wise or stupid. But what is truth then?

Being true starts with being true to oneself. That is not hiding, not pretending, not exaggerating, not portraying, not judging. We all like to pretend that we are (financially) better off than we actually are. We like to portray ourselves as more beautiful than we actually are. We want others to believe that we are more intelligent than we actually are. The most perverse and hypocritical, like to demonstrate that they are helping others while in reality helping mostly themselves and their loved ones.

On the National Truth Day, one day in a year where we are true to ourselves and true to others, we should be exempt from any legal or moral prosecution, otherwise it would be impossible to ask of someone the truth. Clearly laws and prosecution only exist because (apparently) there is no virtue, there is no morality (for humans). On The National Truth day, we should be able to tell our mate that we really like him, but that his wife is an ugly, fat, always complaining bitch. We should be able to tell our boss that we are (financially) dependent on our job but that we think he is a stupid, introverted, selfish asshole. On The National Truth day we could look into the mirror and acknowledge that we are neither particularly good looking and/or particularly intelligent, and go out on the street just as we are and not as who we want to be seen.

Oh, just imagine a day in a year, on which you tell only the truth and that no expression of truth will be disadvantageous for you.

As a kid I had a thing for bums, no, not in a sexual way, but I couldn’t help notice that – while everyone warns you to do right, or otherwise you’ll end up as a bum – a bum is actually a very straight-forward type of person. Yes, he might stink, be dirty, drunk early in the morning and asking for a hand out, but at least he isn’t pretending to be anyone else. As we grow up we learn that people in honorable positions often do illegal and quite in-honorable things. The pastor molesting a boy, the banker selling you an AAA investment and hedging on that same investment to fail, the police officer who makes up evidence so that a person can be made responsible for a crime, the judge who believes that a young person will learn a lesson in prison for committing a petty crime, the professor of medicine who is on the board of a tobacco company, etc. And then there is the bum, doing exactly what we expect him to do.

Without aiming at this, I kind of ended up with stating that to be true in this society is extremely difficult, and that those who fail to be deemed successful in life are probably the most truthful.

4 thoughts on “National Truth Day”

    1. You’re very right Paul. Was out at Cape Barrier last Saturday and it was a bit hard going. Managed to catch a couple of small snapper and had a real good take, but lost it. You know the feeling, when you think you’ve got it all sorted, you’ve got the fish and it is going to be a big one. Haven’t lost a fish like this for a while. So yeah, kind of put me off. I’ll give it a go today at a new spot.

  1. When reflecting on Ethics one might indeed draw the conclusion of a large extent of arbitrariness in public debate. That however might be a function of the society that we live in and be the result of a historic process and therefore dynamic, making this topic potentially less hopeless than you make it sound. The two general topics raised might also be interconnected, and one might argue that the duty to oneself is connected to the duty to society supporting the historic view possibly required for these topics. Certain of the clever books you mention will categorise your ideas as emotivism and the best book I have read addressing their claims and questions is Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue.

    1. Would be interesting to analyze the “function of the society”, looking at the variation of dependencies across different societies and times. So what comes “After Virtue”? I suppose I’ll have to read it.

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