Truth, what truth?

Dear Pogue,

I’ve been back on the road for a short trip so haven’t put pen to paper for a week but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking. My thoughts have flowed from some of the letters that we shared recently and I have found myself asking: “Who owns the truth?”.

You’re probably thinking this is a strange question. The truth just is, isn’t it? But I want to suggest it isn’t. That at some point someone tells us this is the truth and, having been accepted, as time passes it becomes ingrained in our beliefs. We forget that there was a time when “the truth” didn’t exist in this form.

It is said history belongs to the victors, that they tell history from their perspective, slanted by their ideologies and beliefs.

How much do the victors omit, edit or just plain rewrite?

And what they write will be handed down from generation to generation becoming more established the further it moves from the events it refers to. We fought. We won. We’re the good guys. Therefore we can tell you whatever we like about the other side. Dude, they were evil and corrupt. We did the world a favour. Forgotten are our expansionist policies and dreams that started all this and without which, there would have been no need to write this history.

When the victors rewrite history, it’s just another kind of war, waged after the battlefield killing is done to murder the memory of the defeated.

Takeshita Kovacs

Our telling of so called “history” is something you need to be mindful of. Let me give you a recent example. I visited the battle fields of World War 1 to try and understand something of the horror and immensity of what happened. One evening I found myself in the town of Ypres in Belgium, a focal point of much that occurred all those years ago. Whilst having dinner a group of English school children passed, noisily. The man at the next table turned to me and said: “I am a teacher in Germany and we never tell our children about any of this”. We got to talking and he told how World War 1 was not taught in German schools. I don’t know whether this is universally true but true enough for him to comment.

Truth can also be told very selectively.

No matter how good you are you are evil in someone’s story.

Anon

And this applies to the religious texts that you and I choose to read. The writers want to get their message out there in a way that is accepted and is good for them. They need to be the good guys. So do you suppose they tell the tale in such a way as to not reflect the whole truth. You think certain aspects may be rewritten, embellished or forgotten on the path to building the truth we want the world to judge us by? Remember we are separated from the original events by thousands of years. The story has passed through numerous hands, been retold myriad times in numerous situations. And, I guess, if your building a religion you need to make it bulletproof.

What I want us to do is take time to examine so called “truth”. Just because someone says it doesn’t make it true. Sometimes reading the literature of those who claim a different version of the truth is no bad thing. A “know thy enemy” exercise, which often helps us to understand why we are telling things in a particular way.

If there are other histories read them. Examine the culture and the context. If you are asked to believe a supernatural account of events seek first a rational explanation. If it’s not there then move to the given explanation. Just don’t be hand fed the “truth”. Someone once told me, with a mischievous smile in their eye: “Question everything”. If it really is “the truth” it will stand up to scrutiny.

Yours, in search of truth,

Wic

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