Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Where the truth lies

Part I – The accidental truth.
Long time ago I had a very nasty car accident. There were several motorists that witnessed the accident and stopped to help. When the police arrived and started taking testimonies from them, to my surprise their stories were not as I recalled the accident happening. Further more, one of the witnesses even went to say that the accident was my fault. I couldn’t believe it! Why a complete stranger with no vested interest in the case would lie like that? Or maybe he wasn’t lying, he was honest but wrong. Was he then telling the truth? Then… what is the truth?
There is no universal accepted definition of truth and the subject is still out for debate. The classical definition of truth deals with how well a statement represents the actual facts or things it describes. So a painting, lets say, it is true to the degree it reflects the reality, hence a photography will be better but still limited to a two dimensional representation, while a hologram will be even closer to reality, but in an absolute sense not real. So reality is the only absolute truth. For more than 2000 years we have been trying to bring our language closer and closer to that realty with direct, explicit, clear words. At the same time our vocabulary has developed to reflect the social, political and economical trends, specifically the male dominance in the society. The rise of women rights movement in US brought those discrepancies in the lime light. The argument was that the male culture and language promotes sexism and discrimination against women and had to be changed to reflect the equality of sexes. So mankind became humankind, stewardess became flight attendant; policeman became officer, chairman chairperson, man made synthetic, fireman fire fighter and so on. The changing of the wrongdoings of the past was done not as a favor to women but as justice. The new words were not a departure from the truth but rather a better reflection of the man, woman equality. And this is the most important most misunderstood and abused thing about the truth. This misunderstanding has started a new trend in the American language to change the vocabulary not to serve the truth but to accommodate certain human sensibilities thus in the 80’s the “politically correctness” movement was born. The crippled became handicapped, the retarded are now mentally challenged, fat people are overweight, midgets are little people, old people are senior citizens and dead people are expired. Why? Are those words a better reflection of reality? Do they hold a higher truth? No. Fat people are still fat, old people are not getting any younger and stupid people are not getting any smarter. Are we really doing them a favor by pretending that we don’t see their condition? Do really deaf people say “I don’t like the sound of that word, I prefer to be called hearing impaired.”? Isn’t African American as racist word as black, since it makes the same artificial discrimination. There is only one race, the human race; shouldn’t we all be called just human beings?

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