When the TRUTH Will Not Set You Free!  Final Part – I Was Wrong!

the-truth-shall-set-you-freeI have discovered the Truth and I was wrong, it will set you free.  The philosophers, prophets, seers, wizards, warlocks and all the saints throughout history were right.  The Truth will set you free.   And for only 1 dollar, 1 peso, 1 ruble, 1 euro, or one penny, I will share it with you.  You see, I have been giving away ideas here for too long.  It is time that I like Jerry Springer, Pat Buchanan, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell and Joel Osteen profit from my blog-evangelism.  Thus, I say to you now, “send money and I will send you the Truth.”   Money will give you the Truth! We all know money is the foundation of everything we stand for.  The more money you have the more Truth you will have, right?  Actually, wrong.  Money will not give you the Truth.  So put your centavos away and read on.  I will share the Truth with you for free.  Keep in mind though, that I am simply giving you a map to the Truth.  You must find the Truth on your own and you will envy Diogenes and his search.  (The Honesty Song by Billy JoelClick on and listen while you read my blog today. 

If there was one thing I learned after our jaunt through the ten crimes against humanity it is that the Truth is very elusive.  I asked myself all week, why?  What makes the Truth so difficult to find?   Is it simply subjective and no one can ever have an objective Truth?  Is there no such thing as an objective truth?  An objective Truth is a Truth that can be verified, tested and accepted by all people.  [Subjective Truths are always personal and cannot be verified by others.  Subjective Truths are usually considered to be feelings and opinions but opinions can be objective if they involve a premise that can be verified.]  After extensive pondering of these questions, I have realized that there is objective Truth, what it is and why it is so hard to find.

There are two elements to an objective Truth.  You cannot have an objective Truth without both of these elements.  The two elements are Honesty and Accuracy.  First let’s look at honesty.  Honesty is defined as:

  1. The quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairness.
  2. Truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness.
  3. Freedom from deceit or fraud. www.dictionary.com

There is a certain amount of circular reasoning here.  Honesty is defined as being honest?  That is not very helpful.  The second part of the definition is only partially correct.  You can be honest and truthful e.g.  I don’t like fish.  That statement can be both honest and truthful if it reflects the sincere feelings of the speaker about their feelings towards fish.  However, such statements about feelings are always subjective and they do not reflect any kind of objective Truth for the world.  They simply reflect a personal Truth.  However, statements or opinions that go beyond subjectivity become objective.  These are statements that can be verified by others. Hence, they can become objective.

Honest and AccurateObjective statements such as opinions etc. may be honest but they may also be untruthful or wrong.  E.g.  “I think the Empire State Building is the tallest building in the world.”  This statement may be an honest reflection of my beliefs but it is wrong.  I may be honest in my statement but my statement is not truthful because it is incorrect.  It can be verified that my belief whether honest or not is simply incorrect.  The element that must exist for an objective Truth in addition to Honesty is Accuracy.  Accuracy reflects how close the statement comes to reality.  Accuracy can be defined as:

 

  1. The condition or quality of being true, correct, or exact; freedom fromerror or defect; precision or exactness; correctness.  
  2. Chemistry, Physics.  The extent to which a given measurement agreeswith the standard value for that measurement.  
  3. The degree of correctness of a quantity, expression, etc.

At this point, you might be wondering why accuracy alone is not enough for an objective Truth.  The reason is that you can have accuracy without honesty but you will not have the Truth.  For instance, I can say that my home was broken into by someone and I can describe some person with great accuracy.  However, I may be lying about the home invasion simply to point the finger towards an innocent victim.  If I am lying but accurate, the Truth does not exist.  Thus, to have an objective Truth you must have both Honesty and Accuracy.  This is one reason why Truth is so hard to find.  There are few truly honest people.

Honesty is a very elusive quality as Diogenes discovered.  Here are ten interesting facts about “Lying” (10 Research Findings about Deception That Will Blow Your Mind)

  1. Humans are lied to as many as 200 times a day.Gandhi-Quote
  2. Humans detect lies with only 54% accuracy.
  3. Between 75% and 82% of lies go undetected.
  4. Of the lies we tell, 25% are for someone else’s sake.
  5. Children begin deceiving as early as age 6 months.
  6. Gorillas, fish, birds, even orchids engage in deception.
  7. Avoiding eye contact is the most presumed sign of lying around the world—even though it’s false.
  8. Law enforcement officials—including FBI agents, customs agents and judges— performed no better than the average person in detecting deception.
  9. One in six juries reaches an incorrect verdict
  10. Training can improve a person’s lie detection ability by 25-50%.

If it is difficult to find an honest person, the second element “Accuracy” is even more difficult to find.  The reason for this is that most people treat Accuracy as though it is either on or off, it is either accurate or inaccurate.  Accuracy should be thought of more in terms of a normal distribution.  For every process, there is a norm or standard which we try to attain.  The norm of Accuracy is 100 percent.  This is a goal but when it involves humans or even the world, it will never exist.

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”  ― Spencer Johnson

“All models are wrong” says George Box.  People are unreliable.  Eyewitnesses at trials vary widely in their descriptions of both people and events.  Even physical objects are subject to constant change.  Heraclitus said “you never step in the same river twice.”  The world and everything in it goes on evolving.  Entropy insures that all processes eventually decay.  Quantum physics proves that you cannot measure both the velocity and position of an object at the same time.

process meanThe best we can do to find Accuracy is to assume a “population distribution” of results for any given parameter and then assume with some degree of probably based on facts and verification that our parameter exists within the distribution.  We will not be able to achieve 100 percent accuracy in most of life’s events.  When we do, it will not last for any great length of time.  We may attain it briefly but it will soon pass.  In terms of people describing life, the best we can do is to strive towards a series of successive approximations.  We can keep coming closer and closer to the Truth but we will never find an ultimate Truth since it is beyond our abilities to attain.

“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”   ― Joseph Campbell

quote-they-say-that-the-truth-will-set-you-free-but-then-again-so-will-a-lie-it-depends-if-you-re-ani-difranco-224427Thus, the Truth that will set you free must combine Honesty and Accuracy and a process of never ending search for more and more accurate results.  The Truth is a journey that you can choose to embark on and the ship leaves every minute of every hour of every day.  Some people never get on the ship and choose to remain ignorant.   Many other Truth Seekers board but soon decide that they are really tired of the journey and get off.  The few who can keep their focus and dedication to the quest may someday find the Truth that will set them free at the end of the journey.

Time for Questions:

Have I helped you to find the Truth?  What did you learn about Truth in the journey through history that we took?  What Truths can you share with others?  Please post comments etc.  I would love to hear your truths.

Life is just beginning.

“We must pass through the darkness, to reach the light.”   ― Albert Pike

When the TRUTH Will Not Set You Free!  Part 2 of 3 Parts  

Last week we started a search for Truth which took us from the Trial of Socrates to The Extermination of Native and Indigenous Peoples.   At the end of this journey, I am sure you were no closer to the Truth than I was.  Thus, I think we should continue our search through history and through the next five egregious injustices in my list to see if somewhere within these abominations of human behavior we can find the Truth.   We seek a Truth that is so compelling, so momentous and so significant that it has allowed our leaders and greatest thinkers to commit such heinous crimes against humanity in the name of Truth and justice.  (Click on the title to listen to Aye Khuda’s Song The Ballad of Inhumanity)   turth picture

Surely, with the wisdom of hindsight, there is no one who would disagree that every one of the items on my list is a sad commentary on the human race.   Let us move on then and see what insights the next events we examine might shed on the ultimate Truth which we all seek.  We move forward in history, with the hope that perhaps in this journey, we will find the ultimate Truth.  Just like Diogenes, we must have patience and keep seeking.  By the way, did Diogenes ever find an honest man?  I don’t think he did.

  1. Reign of Terror
  2. Scottsboro Boys
  3. The Holocaust
  4. The Khmer Rouge Genocide
  5. Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Scandals

The Reign of Terror:  Part of the French Revolution

The Reign of Terror lasted from 1793 to 1794.  Can you think of a more horrible epithet for a period of time that should have been characterized by unbridled optimism?   It was a period of time in France that (though it took place about 14 years later in France) was born of dreams and aspirations that were similar to the American Revolution.  In final outcomes, no two events could have turned out more dissimilar.  In the beginning though, there were similarities.  In both France and America, a king and tyrant would be overthrown.  In both nations, the goal was to establish a democracy.  In both the USA and in France, it was to be a rule of the people, by the people and for the people.  And in both cases, it was a revolution that started out based on the liberal and enlightened ideals of such thinkers as:  Rousseau, Locke and Voltaire.  And that is where the similarities end.   5_-the-reign-of-terror-1

In America, we ended up with a democratic system of government and no king or dictator.  France went on to establish a dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte and lopped off the heads of over sixteen thousand people and another twenty five thousand by other means.  Whereas in the USA, we exported the Tories (those who sided with England) to Canada and elsewhere, during the French Revolution, anyone not labeled a “patriot” was subject to arrest and execution whether they were “citizens’ or not.  The very leaders of the French Revolution were one by one called out for treason and executed.  This included such famous names as:  Saint-Just, Carnot, Danton, Marat, and Robespierre.  No one in France was safe from the guillotine.  Here was an erstwhile revolution for liberty, fraternity and equality that turned into a debauchery of power hungry madmen secretly harboring dreams of glory and fame.  Want happened to the Truth?  Who knew the Truth?  The basic Truths of the philosophical founders of the French Revolution include the following:

John Locke:  “All mankind… being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau:  “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?

Voltaire:  “What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.”

These hardly seem like Truths that would lead anyone to rampant executions but perhaps the Truths of the leaders of the Revolution did not really derive from the Truths of their philosophical founders.  Let us look at the Truths of some of the French leaders and see what their Truths were:

Louis Antione de Saint-Just:  “The vessel of Revolution can arrive at port only on a sea reddened by torrents of blood.”

Lazare Carnot:  “The General Order is always to maneuver in a body and on the attack; to maintain strict but not pettifogging discipline; to keep the troops constantly at the ready; to employ the utmost vigilance on sentry go; to use the bayonet on every possible occasion; and to follow up the enemy remorselessly until he is utterly destroyed.”

Georges Jacques Danton:  “In revolutions authority remains with the greatest scoundrels.”

Maximilien Robespierre:  “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty.”

Is it just me or does there seem to be a major disconnect between the Truths of the philosophers and the Truths of the political leaders?  Does it seem funny that a revolution that was started to pursue a rule of law for the common everyday person was soon taken over by fanatics and extremists?  In this day of rampant terrorists, it would appear that the worst terrorists of the French Revolution became their leaders.  Is it everywhere the same that Truth gets coopted by the fanatics and terrorists or is the French Revolution simply an aberration?  Could it be that the Truths of Rousseau and Locke were actually lies and the Truths of Carnot and Danton were the real Truths?  Must Truths ever be colored in blood and gore?  Let us move on to look at another regrettable episode in human history and see what light if any on the Truth it may shed.

The Scottsboro Boys:

ScottsboroNine African American youths tried and convicted for the alleged rape of two White women while on a train ride to find work in 1931.  This travesty of American justice took place in Alabama during the height of Jim Crowism.  Many people recognized that these “boys” as they were called were being railroaded to justice.  They were tried a total of three times.  Twice by all White juries and once by a jury that included a single African American member.  (How would you like to have been that minority juror?)  In each case, they were all found guilty.  Some of the “boys” were subsequently pardoned, yet all but two served lengthy prison sentences.

What was their crime?  Rape you say?  The rape of two white tramps who were probably screwing the daylights out of every male they met regardless of color?  Or was it two white Women who represented the flower of Southern gentility?  The chivalry of the Southern gentleman coming to the aid of his White magnolia blossom to insure her continued unblemished purity.

Yes, this trial was more than a trial for the rape of two women, this trial represented the rape of the entire South.  Every White male in a Southern state was raped by these “colored boys.”  Such a mockery of Southern chivalry could not go unpunished.   The Truth of the color line must be established once and forever and what was this Truth?  For the Blacks and for the Whites, the Truth was very different.  Here were the Black Truths:

Black Truth:  Southern White slave masters have been raping Black women since the first slaves were offloaded to American shores.

Black Truth:   A large number of White women were more than willing to go to bed with an African American male.

Black Truth:  A White jury would never free a Black person of a crime against Whites.

The Truths for Southern Whites looked like this:

White Truth: If we could lynch these Black bastards, we would.

White Truth:  It’s alright for a White man to screw a Black woman but it’s not alright for a Black man to screw a White woman.

White Truth:  We have two sets of justice down here, one for White people and one for niggers.

Times have changed. Black people have made progress right?  Of course they have you say!  Does not the USA now have a Black president?  Although, he is also half White so why is he not a White President?  However we also have Ferguson Missouri, Eric Garner and thousands of African American males in prison for drug crimes that a White person would not have been convicted for.  We daily witness protest marches against police profiling and the shooting of poor young African American “boys.”  Time marches on and the Truth still remains somewhat murky.

The Holocaust:

holocaust childrenThe Holocaust was the systematic murder of Jews by the Nazis for the sole reason that they were Jewish.  They were not a burden on the society.  They were not a primitive culture.  They were not a class of deviates or criminals.  Indeed, they were shopkeepers, bankers, manufacturers, educators, musicians, philosophers and scientists. The Jews in Europe were probably the best educated and most prosperous ethnic group that existed in Europe.  Why the Holocaust?  Why the crematoriums?  Why the Gas Chambers?  Why? Why? Why?  This question has been asked thousands and thousands of times.  Hundreds of books have been written asking and looking for an answer to this question.

Now it may be noted that a “Holocaust” does not strictly apply to the Jewish slaughter and that there have been other holocausts in history.  Earlier I noted the massacre of Armenians by the Turks.  The systematic murder of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge, the Rwandan Massacres and the genocide that took place between the Bosnians and the Serbs.  So what is the difference between the Jewish Holocaust and these no less horrible episodes?  Let us look at the definitions that have been applied to the following terms:

Genocide is defined as:  “The deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.”  (Dictionary.com)

Holocaust is defined as:  “The systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II (usually preceded by the).” (Dictionary.com)

The Holocaust has been labeled as a unique instance of genocide.  It is certainly a specific example of genocide that was perpetrated against a targeted group of people.  One might argue that there is no commonality between the Holocaust and these other examples of genocide, however I think they would be on shaky grounds.  In all cases, it could be argued that the perpetrators felt somehow threatened by their victims and decided that only by killing their chosen victims could their threat be eliminated.  Nevertheless, in no other examples except for the Jewish Holocaust was the entire legal, judicial, legislative, military and political apparatus of an entire State brought to bear against the victims.  Furthermore, the furtive and secretive nature of the Nazi slaughters were without precedence.  They clearly recognized that their mass murders were immoral and evil and they took major steps to prevent the world from learning about these atrocities.  So did the Nazis have a set of Truths that they were following in the murders of their victims?  What were the Jewish Truths that they followed as they attempted to take part in the German culture?  Let’s listen to some of the Nazis leaders to see their Truths:

Hitler:  “The personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.” 

Himmler:  “We know that these clashes with Asia and Jewry are necessary for evolution.”

Goebbels:  “I am of the opinion that the greater the number of Jews liquidated, the more consolidated will the situation in Europe be after this war.”

Rosenberg:  “Since Germany with its blood and its nationalism has now broken for always this Jewish dictatorship for all Europe and has seen to it that Europe as a whole will become free from the Jewish parasitism once more, we may, I believe, also say for all Europeans: For Europe the Jewish question is only then solved when the last Jew has left the European continent.”

We must look to some of the Jewish leaders and spokespeople to see what their Truths were.  What beliefs and ideologies could have persuaded the Jew to live, work and die for a country that would eventually seek to totally and permanently eradicate their very existence?  But of course, only after stealing everything they owned and even taking their victims hair and teeth to recycle for the greater good of the true German Master Race.

Robert Weltsch:  “They accuse us today of treason against the German people: The Nationalist-Socialist Press calls us the ‘enemy of the Nation,’ and leave us defenseless. It is not true that the Jews betrayed Germany. If the Jews have betrayed anyone, it was themselves. Because the Jew did not display his Judaism with pride, because he tried to avoid the Jewish issue, he must bear part of the blame for the degradation of the Jews.”

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski:   “I thought that would be the end of it, that after that, they’d leave us in peace, the peace for which I long so much, for which I’ve always worked, which has been my goal. But something else, it turned out, was destined for us. Such is the fate of the Jews: always more suffering and always worse suffering, especially in times of war.”

Jewish Saying:  “If a Goy strikes you, bow your head and he’ll spare your life

Anne Frank:  “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Simon Wiesenthal:  “For me the Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a human tragedy. After the war, when I saw that the Jews were talking only about the tragedy of six million Jews, I sent letters to Jewish organizations asking them to talk also about the millions of others who were persecuted with us together – many of them only because they helped Jews.”

The Jewish Truths seem to me to bear absolutely no resemblance to the Truth of the Nazi Fascists.   In America, we lost over 400,000 soldiers in our efforts to wipe the Nazi butchers off the face of the earth.  Nothing infuriates me more than seeing some miscreant wearing a Nazi swastika or sporting a Nazi tattoo.  The Nazis made a sacrament out of murder and torture and created altars where they could worship their blasphemous sacraments at.  Their altars were their crematoriums and death chambers.  It is a sad Truth that we still have Nazis and Nazi sympathizers walking the face of the earth.  But let us journey on through history.  With only two events left in my list, it would be irresponsible to forego the lessons that they might still hold for us.

The Khmer Rouge Genocide

The Khmer Rouge regime arrested and eventually executed almost everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments, as well as professionals and intellectuals. Ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Thai, ethnic Chinese, ethnic ChamCambodian Christians, and the Buddhist monkhood were the demographic targets of persecution. As a result, Pol Pot is sometimes described as “the Hitler of Cambodia” and “a genocidal tyrant.” Martin Shaw described the Cambodian genocide as “the purest genocide of the Cold War era.”

Ben Kiernan estimates that about 1.7 million people were killed.[6] Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a “most likely” figure of 2.2 million. After 5 years of researching some 20,000 grave sites, he concludes that, “these mass graves contain the remains of 1,386,734 victims of execution.”  (From Wikipedia)

khmer-rouge-skullsThe most startling fact or perhaps we should say Truth about the Khmer Rouge Massacres is that they went on virtually unheralded and unnoticed by the Western world.  There was little outcry or call for intervention by any Western government.   In the USA, virtually no press covered these events while they were happening.  How could nearly two million people be exterminated without the United Nations, The United States or any other Western country raising an outcry against such an atrocity?   The Truth, which few dare say, seems to be that Asian lives (much live African lives) do not matter as much in the West as European or American lives.  Witness the recent Charlie Hebdo murders.

On January 7th 2015, two masked men entered the offices of the journal paper Charlie Hebdo and murdered in cold blood twelve of the staff.  The reason for the murders is alleged to be retailiation for the depiction of the prophet Mohammed in unseemly portrayals by the satirical magazine.  The manhunt went on for three days for the killers and resulted in thousands of newscasts, broadcasts, newspaper articles, radio announcements etc. that continued 24/7 non-stop until the killers were found and eliminated.

The Western press had a field day with the event.  It became a bigger star than the Super Bowl.  I looked at CNN on my IPAD one day and the first 16 of 55 articles all had to do with the Charlie Hebdo murders.  The 26th article that CNN published two days ago noted the massacre of 2000 Nigerian men, women and children by the terrorist group Boko Haram.  Sixteen articles on the murder of 17 French citizens and one article on the massacre of over 2000 Nigerian citizens.  Does this suggest a different Truth for the murder of Africans versus Europeans?  On Sunday, heads of state from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East flew into Paris to take to the streets alongside an estimated 1 million people in the city — including the entire French government to protest the Charlie Hebdo killings.  Republicans in the USA are criticizing President Obama for not having sent a high enough official to attend the march.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”Malcolm X

Where is the march and protests for the Nigerians who have been murdered?  Where is the outcry for the massacre in Nigeria?  Where is the manhunt for the Boko Haram terrorists?  Where are the thousands of articles and newscasts doing a minute by minute and hour by hour summary of the search for the Nigerian killers?  Dare I suggest the Truth that African lives do not matter as much as European lives?

African lives, Asian lives, Mexican lives, European lives, American lives, we can put them on a scale and measure the value to the news and media.   Do the news report the news or do they make the news?  If the news paid more attention to the rest of the world, would we see the importance of “other” lives?  Would “other” lives ever matter as much as European and American lives?  What is the Truth here?  Perhaps our last case to be examined will finally allow the Truth to emerge.  One more to go before we discover the “final” Truth!

Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Scandals

I confess that I grew up in an Italian Catholic family.  I went to a Catholic boarding school for 4 years and went to Catholic Church until I was sixteen.   I have since regularly attended a yearly Jesuit Retreat for the past thirty three years.  During all of this time, my experiences with the Catholic Church have been positive.  I am an agnostic by way of coming to have a different understanding of faith and religion but not because I was ever abused or mistreated by any clergy.  I state these facts so no one will misunderstand my intentions in discussing the issue of the Catholic Church hiding its pedophiles.

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”Arthur Conan Doyle

catholic-church-priest-sexual-abuse-scandal-cartoon-vatican-action-pinata-blind-leading-blind-hypocrisyWhile there are some who argue that the number of priests identified as pedophiles is about the same as in the general population, this argument entirely misses the point.  The key point of the issue for those who were abused is that they were relating to a select group of individuals who ostensibly were selected, trained and promoted to positions of authority because they could be trusted.  The fact that this was not the case was only one half of the problem.  The other half of the problem was that the Catholic hierarchy refused for years to acknowledge the problem and indeed grossly exacerbated the problem by hiding and protecting the deviant priests.  Thus, not only the pedophile priests were guilty of a crime but the Church leaders themselves were guilty of deception, fraud, immorality and the concealment of major crimes.

When we look closely at this situation then, we have three sets of Truth.  The Truth of the Pedophiles.  The Truth of the Catholic leadership and the Truth of the abuse victims.  Where should we start?  Let’s look first at the truth of the victims.

Rita Milla – Victim: 

“The 28th of January 1978 was when I was first raped,” said Milla, now 51, as she sat Thursday in the Wilshire Boulevard office of civil rights attorney Gloria Allred.

“Every year on that day it kind of freaks me out,” she said. “I started feeling like when I was 18 when this stuff was going on – the same feelings, the guilt and the hating myself.” I became very depressed and for three or four days I just wanted to hide out. I just wanted to throw up.

Mark Murray – Victim:

“They know that the abuse that happened by priests at Roe Head was then covered up. They know that the priests that abused children were moved on to other positions. Positions where they would not cause concerns or problems for those that moved them.”

Boy X – Victim at the Comboni Mission:

“Sometimes I think what would have happened if Fr. Pinkman had not turned his back on me that day on that railway platform. What if he had approached me and put his arms around me and told me he was sorry.  It would have meant the world to me. I would have forgiven him there and then. It would, to a great extent, have lightened that burden on my back, that devil I’ve been carrying all my life.  I really believed that Fr Pinkman cared for me, maybe I needed to believe that. Even after he had turned away from me that day. I still believed he cared. I realize now that he never cared at all.”

The Truths of the victims are rather hard to understand.  Unless one has gone through what they have, it is difficult to fathom the pain and anguish that the pedophiles reeked on their victims.  But let us be fair.  We must also listen to the Truth of the pedophile priests.  Perhaps their Truth will be all that is necessary to set the victims free.

Father Shawn Ratigan

“Prison is hell,” Ratigan said. “I know I deserve 15 years, but 50 years? Come on, I don’t think so.” 

Father Oliver O’Grady

“I want to promise myself this is going to be the most honest confession of my life,” O’Grady said in the film. “And in doing that, I need to make a long journey back, understanding what I did and to acknowledge that.  And in some ways make reparations for that.”  [O’Grady was the subject of the 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary Deliver Us from Evil.  In the film, he admits to molesting dozens of children and writes apology letters to some of them.]

 Fr Curtis Wehmeyer:  (Wehmeyer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years)

The priest had quietly admitted to touching one boy’s genitals on more than one occasion, masturbating in front of them and possessing pornographic photos and movies showing nude prepubescent boys alone and engaged in sexual acts with each other.  ( Minneapolis Star Tribune:  February 1, 2013) 

Finally, there is the Truth of the Roman Catholic Leadership in terms of what they believe about these cases of abuse and rape.

Todd Tamberg – The Archdiocese of Los Angeles:

Speaking about the film (Deliver Us From Evil), Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg, who viewed the film prior to its debut, sent a statement saying it is “primarily based on anti-Church assertions by plaintiff’s attorneys who stand to gain financially and on the self-serving comments of former priest O’Grady, a sick, twisted monster and, like most molesters, a master manipulator.”

Bishop Robert Finn:  (Sorry no direct quotes here, but actions may speak louder than words).

A computer technician working on Father Rattigan’s laptop in December 2010 found hundreds of troubling images of young girls and reported it to officials with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  Instead of turning the photos over to police or reporting suspicions about Ratigan, Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas Diocese sent Ratigan away for psychiatric evaluation and later ordered him to stay at a convent where he could say Mass for the sisters and stay away from children.

The Vatican:

“Regarding accusations against a cardinal, we remind everyone that, in the Church, only the pope has the authority to accuse a cardinal,”   (Pope Benedict had censured Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who last month publicly accused another cardinal of covering up sexual abuse)

I think it is fairly easy to sum up the truths of the various parties.  I wish I could have included all of the comments and dialogue that were possible but the comments I included reflect to some extent the overall tone of the parties involved.

The victims felt betrayed, abused and guilty.   Perhaps the victim’s Truths were as follows:

  • I must have done something to deserve this abuse
  • I really thought they loved and cared for me
  • Why didn’t anyone come to my aid?

The guilty pedophile priests engaged in active denial or a sense of indignation that they needed to be found guilty for something that to them was an inalienable right.  The right to abuse, molest and rape young girls and boys.  Their Truths would sound like this:

  • I did not do anything to really hurt anyone
  • Why is everyone upset over nothing?
  • I do more good than harm so why am I being prosecuted?

Finally, the Officials of the Church share a large portion of the blame and responsibility for these acts. They hired these priests, promoted them, protected them and even went so far as to engage lawyers in efforts to cover up these crimes.  Their Truths would include:

  • We are above the law
  • No one was really hurt
  • We can’t afford to accept any responsibility for the crimes committed

Conclusion to Part 2:

I think I am finding (and I assume you might also be finding) that truth is a very ephemeral, elastic and slippery quality.  Nevertheless, despite its elusive attributes, after spending over 2500 years looking at some of the most atrocious and egregious events in history, we should be at the point of finding the Truth.   Alas, I think we have run out of time and space in this blog.   I had thought we could wrap things up and conclude at this point but I think with all the time and energy we have already dedicated to our search, it would be hasty and premature to conclude at this point.  There are a number of observations that warrant attention and I will discuss these in the Part 3, the final part in our search for the Truth.

Time for Questions:

What are your thoughts at this point in our search for the Truth?  What observations can you share in my comments section?  Please add your voice to the search.  Your opinions are valuable and the more brains the better.  We all need to hear from each other or there is no Truth to be shared.

Life is just beginning.

“We must pass through the darkness, to reach the light.”   ― Albert Pike

When the TRUTH Will Not Set You Free!  Part 1 of 3 Parts  

Dangerous-LiarsFor the next three weeks, I want to help us find the truth.  Truth has been said to be the most important element in our lives.  Truth is what everyone wants to find.  Thus truth should make a difference in the world, but does it?  We will examine some specific episodes in history in our search for the truth.  I have selected the following ten situations:

  1. The Trial of Socrates
  2. Slavery
  3. The Crusades
  4. The Inquisition
  5. The Extermination of Native and Indigenous Peoples
  6. Reign of Terror
  7. Scottsboro Boys
  8. The Holocaust
  9. The Khmer Rouge
  10. Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Scandals

What do they all have in common?  What does truth have to do with these injustices?  What truths did the perpetrators subscribe to that allowed these travesties of justice to happen?  What truths did the perpetrators fundamentally ignore?  Would the truth even have made a difference?  Are we more liable to listen to “truth” today or is it simply a fiction that we trot out to justify our prejudices, bigotry and murders.  Will it really set us free or is that simply another myth spread by the powerful to emasculate those with less power?  (Listen to in Search of the Truth  by Guy Sweens)

“Historical injustice is ubiquitous in human history. The origins of just about every institution relevant to human political life has a pedigree stained by injustices of various magnitudes. Slavery, genocide, mass expropriation of property, mass internment, indiscriminate killings of civilians and massive political repression are all depressingly familiar features of human history, both in the distant and more recent past.” —- Historical Injustice, Duncan Ivison, University of Sydney in Jon Dryzek, Bonnie Honnig, Anne Philipps (eds) Oxford Handbook to Political Theory (Oxford, OUP, 2006)

I want to briefly explore each of the above injustices.  I apologize for calling these injustices, they deserve a harsher more critical term that that.  For the victims of these “injustices” were slaughtered, maimed, mutilated, tortured, butchered, immolated, hung, gassed, poisoned, executed and stripped of all human dignity.  The words we can use to describe man’s inhumanity to man can never go far enough to convey the “truth.”  I debated whether to start the New Year of 2015 with such a heavy dose of misery and horror but perhaps it is better to start with some thought for creating a better world and recognizing the work that needs to be done.   We are told that all we need is the truth and the world will be a better place. We are constantly urged to seek the truth and to speak the truth.  But what is the truth and what can these injustices tell us about the truth?  Do you dare to see the truth?  Do you have the stomach for the truth?  I have ordered the above list in a rough chronological order.  Let us together examine each one of these horrors to see what truths were behind their execution.  For surely, one fundamental fact is that no human being acts without some truth.  Thus, you may be as curious as I am to see what truths the perpetrators had subscribed to in the implementation of these deeds.  Also, what were the truths that the victims subscribed to?

Keep in mind that we must give perpetrators the benefit of the doubt.  It is possible that they only thought they had the truth and that each of these injustices was not based on actual truth but an incorrect system of beliefs which we shall dutifully avoid calling lies.  Some might say that each of these injustices represented a lapse in truth.  If so, perhaps we can learn the real truth from looking at them more closely and finding out why there was a lapse.

Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.Swami Vivekananda

These ten injustices range from the death of one man to the death of millions of men and women.  They include the deaths of people from every corner of the earth, every tribe that ever existed and every culture that was ever known.  That is a truth.  But I doubt it is the truth that we seek.  Before we proceed with this exploration, let me warn you.  You may find some truths that you do not want to hear.  What if each injustice in this list was the truth?  What would this tell us about human nature?  Could you look at your fellow human beings and live with this truth?  Do not despair yet, for at this point, I have presented no evidence to show that either truth or false beliefs were behind any of these inequities.  Perhaps, we shall find that truth had nothing to do with them.

But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is… to tell the truth.”  ― Howard Zinn,

The Trial of Socrates:

death of socratesSocrates, the wisest man in the world was tried in Athens, the world’s greatest democracy sometime around 400 BCE.  Socrates was tried for corrupting the minds of the Athenian youth.  The truth for Socrates was that he never taught anything (since he did not know anything) but he loved to ask questions to stimulate the thinking of other people.  Socrates was teaching Critical Thinking skills before they were popular.  The truth for his persecutors was that it was too dangerous for the young people of Athens to be questioning their elders.  Socrates did not mount a defense, did not hire canny lawyers, did not plead “not guilty by reason of insanity” and did not blame Athenian society for his plight.

“At first, they’ll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they’ll dislike you.”   Criss Jami

Much to everyone’s chagrin, Socrates plead guilty as charged.  One might wonder what fears could have brought about the conviction of a man teaching other people to think.  Was it the potential fall of the Athenian Democracy or the current threats that leaders saw mounted to this democracy?  Was Socrates really a threat to democracy?  Is this possibly a truth we have not admitted in our own zeal to export democracy all over the world?  Truth:  Thinking is bad.  Truth:  Following orders is good.  Truth:  He who is in charge decides what is true.

Socrates was given a poison called hemlock and his last words were:  “Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius.  Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.”

“Everyone knows perfectly well what truth is – everyone except Pontius Pilate and philosophers.  Truth is the quality of being true, and being true is what some statements are. That is to say, truth is a quality of the propositions which underlie correctly-used statements.” — Bob Stone

Slavery:

slavery in IslamSlavery has existed since time immemorial.  Slavery was known in almost every ancient civilization, and society, including SumerAncient EgyptAncient China, the Akkadian EmpireAssyriaAncient IndiaAncient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Islamic Caliphate, the Hebrew kingdoms in Palestine, and the pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas.  According to Wikipedia:   “Slavery is officially illegal in all countries, but there are still an estimated 20 million to 36 million slaves worldwide.   Mauritania was the last jurisdiction to officially outlaw slavery (in 1981/2007), but about 10% to 20% of its population is estimated to live in slavery.”

Many distinctions and definitions exist regarding types of slavery and conditions related to how slaves were and are still treated, bought and sold.   According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year for the purpose of sex, servitude or pornography.  More than 70% are female and half are children.  Without going into the various categories of slavery, anyone with a smidgen of morality can see that all slavery is immoral and cruel.  But that is a truth for the slaves.  What was and is the truth for the slave owners and slave traders?

Truth:  We have a right to their labor and even bodies

Truth:  Slaves are inferior creatures and do not deserve to be treated as we would want ourselves to be treated.

Truth:  If it is my slave, you have no business telling me what I can do with his/her labor.

Truth:  My slaves may have had different ideas regarding these “truths” but their ideas do not count.

Truth:  Money made by slavery is more important than the morality of the trade.

“So our definition of truth needs to be much more flexible than Plato, Descartes and other philosophers claim. I would say that a pragmatic theory of truth is closest: that truth is the ‘thing that works’; if some other set of ideas works better, then it is truer.” — Andrew Warren

Will slavery ever come to an end?  Is there a truth to slavery that will enable all to see the inhumanity of it?  What about the truths that the perpetrators have?  Is their truth less valid than the truth of the slaves?  Does anyone care about the slaves’ truths?  Which truth is truer?  When will the truth arrive to set the slaves free?

“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”  ― Galileo Galilei

The Crusades:

From about 1100 CE to 1300 CE, Europe invaded the Mideast with the purported reason of securing the Holy Land for Christian pilgrims.  Some would say the real reason was conquest while others would say it was purely economic.  According to Wikipedia:

Pope Urban II promised forgiveness of all sins to whoever took up the cross and joined in the war.  While there were additional motivations for taking up the cross—opportunity for economic or political gain, desire for adventure, and the feudal obligation to follow one’s lord into battle—to become a soldier for Christ was to express total devotion to God.”

crusadeWhile I find the arguments for the wars intriguing, I am not as interested in the motives for conquest as I am in the truths that both sides, Muslims and Christians used in their massacres of each other.  As Ulysses S. Grant noted about the southern sharecroppers who supported the Civil War, it is curious that so many Christians could be induced to fighting for goals that had no material or even spiritual advantage for them.  Of course, one could argue that the “forgiveness” of sins was some type of spiritual advantage.  I would counter that there would have been easier ways to attain this goal rather than risking one’s life.  Did not confession as a Catholic sacrament exist in 1100 CE?  No, if there was a real reason for the crusades, I think as usual we will find it in the truths that motivated both sides.

Christians then and now believe that God is our God and not the God of Islam.  Allah is not Jehovah or Yahweh or I Am.  Allah is some foreign and heretical interpretation of the “real” god who belongs to Christians.  “Allah Be Praised” is not the same as “In God We Trust.”  Another truth is that Muslims had no right to the Holy Lands.  God (The Christian God) gave the Holy lands to the Catholics by way of Abraham, David and those other Jews who were known as the Israelites but who no longer existed back in 1100 CE.  Of course, Jews were scattered all over Europe but the world was not yet interested in regaining the Holy Lands for Jews.  In fact, in another one hundred years or so, we would start an institution to get rid of Jews and eliminate the heresy that was associated with Jewish beliefs (More on the Inquisition later).

So what truths motivated the Muslims to risk life and limb to protect the Holy Land and to stop the Infidels from regaining the center of Christian spiritual life?  I think the term “Infidel” easily answers this question.  Translated the word Infidel means:  “A Person who has no religious faith; an unbeliever.”  Thus, to many Muslims then and now, an unbeliever is a Christian or Jew who does not believe in Mohammed or Allah.  That is the Allah of Islam.  The truth to a Muslim is that Christians are unbelievers and not worthy of respect.  Of course, not all Muslims believe this.  Another motivational truth was that many Muslims in 1100 CE thought it was their land.  They were upset that French, Italian and German Knights thought that they somehow had a right to lands that had been occupied by Arabs since Ismael’s time.  The truth that “this is my land and not your land” has always been a powerful motivator for fighting (More will be said about this when we talk about the Extermination of Indigenous Peoples).

“Truth is not constant. Some beliefs which were held to be true are now considered false, and some for which truth is now claimed may be deemed false in the future, and vice versa. Truth is good for helping us decide how to act, because it serves as a standard for making some sort of sense of a world populated also by half-truths and untruths.”  —- Ray Pearce

The Inquisition:

Galloping on through history we now arrive at the Inquisition, another great idea to come from the Roman Catholics.  How can we stamp out lies, heresies and false truths?  Heresy can be defined as:  “My beliefs or truths are different from your beliefs or truths and since you have more power than I do, my beliefs are wrong and punishable.”   Solution:  Let’s inquire as to the beliefs that potential heretics (Jews, Cathars, Protestants, Muslims, Free Thinkers, intellectuals and many others) might have in respect to what are the true beliefs that we know are true.  Any suspects whose thinking deviates from our truth will be punished until they are repentant.

“Wherefore if forgers or money and other evil-doers are forewith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated, but even put to death. “Thomas Aquinas

Inquisition_torture_03This simple inquiry or Inquisition process was complicated by the unfortunate fact that people lie.   Solution:  We will need to torture them to tell the truth.  Complication:  people who are tortured will also lie and tell you whatever you want to hear.  (See the current US Senate Report 2014 on Torture).  Thus, the suspect is dammed if he tells the truth and dammed if he does not, since he won’t be believed in either case.  If he does tell his truth and it is not the right truth he will be burnt at the stake for being a heretic.  Solution:  Burn all suspected heretics no matter what they say.   Is it any wonder, so many people finally left the Old World and when they came to the New World wanted nothing to do with religion, the Pope or the Catholic Church?

“Discovering the truth will be a hurtful and painful experience when the facts or realities turn out to be different from what is expected. Yet there ought to be no grounds for despair if we accept that the ideal of truth, like all other virtues, can be approached rather than attained. This ideal truth can be glimpsed if we manage to be skeptical, independent and open-minded when presented with the supposed facts and realities.”  —- Ian Rizzo

The Extermination of Native and Indigenous Peoples:

Aborigines, Mayans, Native Americans (Indians), Eskimos, Tibetans, Incas, Ainus, Daurs, Bushmen.  All indigenous people.  All subjected to murder, famine and extermination by more powerful invaders who wanted their land or resources.  There is not an inhabited continent on earth where the indigenous people were not persecuted and their rights and even lives forfeit to the invaders.  There is not a time in history where such persecutions have not occurred. From the first historical records to the most recent news reports of mass tribal exterminations in various parts of the world, we see the truth.  The truth of the invaders and the truth of the exterminated though are not the same.

I have listed the Holocaust in a separate category of injustice.  Many historians would see the systematic genocide of the Holocaust as perhaps belonging in my category of Extermination.  We can add numerous examples of genocide to the above list.  The Bosnian Serb massacres, the Rwandan murders, the Armenian massacres, the Cambodian massacres might also fit in the Extermination category but in my scheme of things, I would include them in the Holocaust category since I believe and will show that they are based on a different set of “truths.”  The truths for the extermination of indigenous people as defined by the invaders are:

Truth:  They don’t need the land and stand in the way of progress.

Truth:  Might makes right.  Since we are mightier we can simply take their property.

Truth:  They will never fit in with our way of doing things.

This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision on their fate.”Thomas Jefferson

“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.”L. Frank Baum (Author of the Wizard of Oz)

native_american_indian_six06Looking at the truth from the point of view of those due to be annihilated provides a different perspective on the truth.  We see the White truth that Indians are lazy, barbaric and that their culture stands in the way of progress.  A White truth is that the problems with Indian culture far outweighed any inherent value in their way of life.  They are immoral, cruel and uncivilized and worse they refuse to adopt the “White man’s ways.”  Heck, we gave them reservations, taught them to speak English, sent them to schools to learn to read and write and even sold them booze and now they have casinos.  Truth:  Nothing seems to make them happy.

However, the voices from Native Americans seem to present a different truth:

“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents.  Without a prison, there can be no delinquents.  We had no locks or keys and therefore among us there were no thieves.  When someone was so poor that he couldn’t afford a horse, a tent or a blanket, he would, in that case, receive it all as a gift.  We were too uncivilized to give great importance to private property.  We didn’t know any kind of money and consequently, the value of a human being was not determined by his wealth.  We had no written laws laid down, no lawyers, no politicians, therefore we were not able to cheat and swindle one another.  We were really in bad shape before the white men arrived and I don’t know how to explain how we were able to manage without these fundamental things that (so they tell us) are so necessary for a civilized society.”  —John (Fire) Lame Deer, Sioux Lakota – 1903-1976

“I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right.  Riches would do us no good.  We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches.  We want peace and love.” — Red Cloud

Do Red Cloud’s words sound familiar?  Have you ever heard of a man named Jesus Christ who said:

“Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.” — Luke 6:30

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”  — Mark 8:36

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” — John 13:34

It would seem like Red Cloud knew more about the “true” teachings of Jesus then the thousands of Christian missionaries who went to Asia, Africa, South America, North America and elsewhere to teach the pagan barbarian primitives how to be good Christians before they were slaughtered.  Much merit to these missionaries since in the Christian theology, you cannot get to heaven unless you are baptized.  It would be simply awful if these indigenous peoples, whom we planned to rape, rob and murder could not get to heaven.  What do you suppose they will say to their murderers when the murderers arrive in heaven?  Egad!  I just had a terrible thought.  What if all the conquerors and murderers are going to hell?

Let’s wrap this up.  Thanks for your patience.  I never thought this blog would get this long. I suddenly realized it was almost beyond too long and I have decided to break it into two parts.  When I started this blog, it was as much an exploration for me as it may have been for you. I truly wondered if I would find the Truth.  I wondered if a clear set of precepts might emerge which would better help me to understand humanity and how we can allow such injustices to occur.

I thought that by exploring the worst injustices or at least a variety of the worst injustices in history, a light would inevitably shine on the Truth.  Everyone talks about the Truth.  Everyone says they are looking for the Truth.  We all know that the “Truth will set us free.”  Free from what though?  I am more confused than ever.  Thus, the search will continue next week.  You deserve the Truth, if you can handle it.  The problem seems to be in finding it.  In my next blog, we will look at the next five atrocities on my list to see if they will shed more light on the Truth.   We have invested too much time to quit our quest now.

“The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.”Herbert Agar

Time for Questions:

Have you found the Truth?  What is your Truth?  What keeps us from the Truth?  Is there really a Truth to be found?  How do you know?  What if there was no truth?

Life is just beginning.

“We must pass through the darkness, to reach the light.”   ― Albert Pike

Don’t Tell the Truth, Hide Behind a Euphemism

Collateral-DamageI woke up at 3 AM the morning of January 2, 2015 with military euphemisms on my mind.   Knowing that I would forget the ideas I had, I jotted down a few notes on paper before going back to bed.   A few of the specific euphemisms that were running through my brain included:

  •  Collateral Damage
  • Surge
  • Village Pacification
  • Enhanced Interrogation
  • VUCA
  • Shock and Awe
  • IED
  • Drone Kill

Thinking that this was probably a very incomplete list of the euphemisms out there, I decided to Google the following:  Military Euphemism Examples.  Here is what my screen looked like:

Pages of Search Query

You will notice that I now had 254, 000 results.  I decided to go to “Glossary of Iraqi War Euphemisms” and I found a site full of euphemisms that I had not thought of.  At this point, I realized that any possible list of euphemisms I could compile far exceeded the limits of my concepts for this blog.  I had originally thought to list a few of the more commonly heard euphemisms and discuss the implications of these words in respect to our thinking and behavior.  I would still like to accomplish this objective but now with more deference to those who have gone before in this effort as well as increased humility with the extent of the problem we are facing.  (Following this blog, are two references which anyone who wants to explore this problem further should pursue.)  See the late great George Carlin on Euphemisms.

What is the problem you may ask?  David Bromwich put it very succinctly:

“The frightening thing about the use of euphemisms is their power to efface the memory of actual cruelties.  Behind the façade of a history falsified by language, the painful particulars of war are lost.”David Bromwich

Dangerous-LiarsLet’s take a concrete example to illustrate the problem more.  The United States Senate recently released a report officially titled as:  Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.   Unofficially, it has been called the Senate Report on Torture.   I downloaded and saved the above report (525 pages) which I assume is the condensed version or summary of the full report.  Just for curiosity sake, I searched for the word Torture in the summary.  There were 131 instances of the word in the 525 page summary.

I then typed in “enhanced interrogation” and found 997 instances of the term in the report.  Apparently our Senate is no fonder of the word Torture then its intended victims were.  Given our penchant for euphemisms, I am almost surprised that they did not call it the “Senate Report on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”  With such a title, they could probably sell it to Human Resource Managers looking for better ways to screen potential new hires.  Oh, I also typed in the word Victim to see how many times this was in the report.  It was found a total of 6 times and in each instance, it was related to the phrase:  “United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”  Apparently, the word victim is too harsh to use.  Maybe we should call victims of torture something like “unintended recipients of undesired attention.”   You must admit it has a sort of ring to it.  I think it sounds a lot more interesting than “victims of torture.”  We could abbreviate it as URUA which can then be used when needed so as not to offend anyone.

grave yard euphemismA euphemism is a word or phrase used in place of another word or phrase.  However, a euphemism is different than a synonym.  The difference is important because it is insidious and it strikes to the heart of the problem that we are facing here.   Here is an example from Baker Editing Services on the use of synonyms versus euphemisms which I think does a good job of illustrating the differences:

“You need to select your synonyms carefully.  Euphemisms are sometimes a good choice as a specific category of synonym when selecting an alternate word.  They are neutral, mild, or vague terms that can be used to express a more offensive or traumatic word or situation without giving offense.  Rather than saying a coworker is a competitive ass, you might say that he is “driven” or “very dedicated to achieving his goals.”

war picturesNotice the difference?  When we use a euphemism, we may be trying not to give offense.  We may also be trying to hide the truth or something that might be unacceptable if rendered in plain English.  Thus in war, words like casualties replace deaths and “suppressing the enemy” replaces “killing” the enemy.  American casualties are reported but not enemy casualties since we don’t really care about the number of freedom fighters (Oh, I meant terrorists) we kill.   We did not really destroy the village and all the women and children and freedom fighters (Oops, my mistake again, I meant terrorists) in it.  We pacified the village.

(‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’, a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.)Peter Arnett

We certainly pacified the town of Bến Tre which now has a population of over 140, 000 people.  Of course, back during the Vietnam War, they were not people, they were Gooks.  I was curious to find out just how many people were killed while we “pacified” the village but I could not find any specific figures.  (If anyone knows the number of people killed at Bến Tre during the offensive, please let me know.) 

Another euphemism or at least it seems to be a euphemism is the concept of “force continuum”:

force continuumA “Use of Force Continuum” is a standard that provides law enforcement officials and security officers (such as police officers, probation officers, or corrections officers) with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation.

excessive forceThe principle idea here is to use only the amount of deterrence necessary to protect oneself and also accomplish the objectives needed by the situation.  Practically speaking this means that if someone calls you a name, you do not shoot them.  If someone comes at you bare handed, you may use the minimum level of force necessary to protect yourself.  This might mean you would use tear gas or a Taser before you would blast them with a shotgun.  I mentioned that the concept of force continuum seems like a euphemism but perhaps it is more of a misnomer since it often seems like it is an upside down continuum with police shooting first and asking questions later.

The problem of euphemisms is evident in policing as well as in military situations.   However, it is more insidious and subtle here and thus more difficult to recognize.  Nevertheless, it plays an important role in police efforts to prevent crime and violence.  If instead of a looking at someone as a human being or a citizen, police label them as “violent perps”, then they will be likely to use more force than they might need to.  Many of the recent examples in the news of “police brutality” reflect this overuse of force due to the stereotyping of African Americans as more violent and dangerous than Whites or other ethnic groups.  Again, we see the problem here is that we are labeling people not as they really are but as we are programmed for them to be. Human life becomes cheap.  Maybe we should call it a “killing” continuum instead of a “use of force continuum.”

euphemismMadison Avenue has become an obscene part of the communication process in both the military and law enforcement.  Hide it.  Obscure it.  Obfuscate it.  Give them what they won’t understand.  Make it sound benign.  Sugarcoat it and they will buy it every time.  We did not kill the man.  We neutralized him.  We did not choke him to death.  We used acceptable deterrence procedures.   We did not abuse the woman; we used standard assault control techniques.   Let’s not say what we mean.  Let’s not call it what it really was.  He injured himself in the course of our investigative process.   She was injured while we were restraining her for her own safety.

Euphemisms are dangerous.  I would go so far as to say they are evil.  They hide the truth.  They convey a message which does not fit reality.  They paint an inappropriate picture of what is happening in our lives.  They distort the facts.   Without seeing things as they really are, we are lost in a fog of illusion.  We are navigating in a maze without any sense of direction.  We are looking in a mirror that shows us what others want us to believe and not what is really happening.   Here is a recent news story about a 90 year old war veteran who was arrested for feeding the hungry.  Notice the euphemisms:

“While video available on YouTube shows Arnold Abbott and ministers being taken away in police custody, the Mayor states that Mr. Arnold had not been arrested, but rather was detained, cited, and ordered to appear in court.  Those cited face possible jail time and have taken the city to court to fight the ordinance.”  CNN,  11-5-2014

Should you get arrested, I hope you will remember the difference between detained and arrested.  It might help in your plea to the court.   Here is another example of a euphemism that has evolved over time.  It is from the pen of the famous cartoonist Scott Adams known for his Dilbert series.

“You’re fired.”  (1980)

“You’re laid off.”  (1985)

“You’re downsized.”  (1990)

“You’re rightsized.”  (1992)

Do words matter?  Of course they matter.  Why would advertisers, marketers, PR people and political pundits go to such trouble to use words to disguise meanings if they did not matter?

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’  (From Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.)

bank exampleThe golden rule applies unilaterally when euphemisms and misinformation must be spread.  The golden rule is “he, who has the gold, makes the rules.”  In most cases, this easily answers Humpty Dumpty’s question about who is to be the master.  The person who has the most gold is the master.  The poor, the underprivileged, the defeated, the economically disadvantaged, the bottom of the pile minorities and lower income groups do not get to choose the words and make the euphemisms.   If they did, it could lead to some type of new grammar which I would have to call “reverse euphemisms.”  This means euphemisms named by the group that has nothing to hide or would really like to see the truth out.  Thus, in Michael Brown’s case it would have been said that he was:

  • Indiscriminately slaughtered
  • Butchered in cold blood
  • Executed
  • Assassinated

Eric Garner did not die from aspiration or asphyxiation or not being able to get a breath while in a police restraint.  Eric (it would be more accurate to say) died from:

  • Being strangled to death
  • Choked to death
  • Unwarranted and unnecessary application of dangerous and lethal police procedures

article-eric-garner-wife-1203All lives matter:  Black, Brown, Yellow, White, Blue, Pink or any other color.  No exceptions.  No one’s death is a cipher.  When we diminish the victims meaning and their importance through the use of sophistry, euphemisms and carefully crafted words to hide behind, we increase the probability that no lives will matter.  We must not allow others to hide behind words designed to conceal the truth.   Start speaking the truth.  Say the truth.  Change the words you use to reflect the truth.  The truth may just set you and the world free.

Time for Questions:

What is your favorite euphemism?  Why?  What do you think would happen if we stopped using so many euphemisms?  Would we have more truth or less?  Do you think euphemisms are helpful or harmful?  Why?  Can you trust what anyone means anymore?   What is the difference between a lie and a euphemism?

Life is just beginning:

Here are some good sites to visit if you want to explore this subject further:

 

 

 

 

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