Why do we speak truth TO power?
There is that phrase, or idea, speaking truth to power. This is a VERY interesting characterization. Because it sets the two in opposition, as though Truth and Power were against each other. Is it true? The phrase supposes that it is true, or else, why should truth have to be spoken against and in opposition to power? It supposes that there is a need to speak the truth to those in power, and why? Because they have covered it up, or disregarded it, and if truth is not asserted, it will remain hidden.
One notices that there are people who value truth, and there are people who value power. There seem to be more of the latter than the former in the world. That is because people want THINGS in the world, both PROPERTY and ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Money in particular confers power in this world, and people want that. People want WHAT WORKS, what is EFFICACIOUS, what brings success. This is Power, not Truth. This is generally what we worship - power, not truth. How do you get Power? You get it however you get it. Brains and hard work, determination, discipline, focus, and also things like luck, inheritance, nepotism, corruption, greed, ambition, and also lying. You get it however you get it, honestly or dishonestly. Therefore you will notice that people who desire power, and if they have any regard for truth, it is very little, or only to the extent it does not interfere with power. When there is a conflict between truth and power, they will choose power (what works), and will bury the truth (i.e., with lies). Because truth has no independent value if you are focused on what works. Whatever works works, whether honest or dishonest. Sometimes lies work very well in ACCOMPLISHING a goal, i.e., getting what you want. Telling the truth may prevent you from GETTING SOMETHING YOU WANT, in other words, it may not be "efficacious". There may be some people who have Power conferred on them without them seeking it, I don't know. If there are such people, then they may value truth over power. But most people who have power have acquired it on purpose, have sought success and have directed considerable energy to accomplishing something, have set POWER as a goal. Because power and success do not usually just come by accident in this world. In the ordinary course, power is hard to come by and must be wrested from the world by force. And so if you look at most people who have it, you can be sure that such people are focused on WHAT WORKS, that they care about what is EFFICACIOUS, not what is true. Business leaders, political leaders, anything with considerable status will have these people.
On the other hand, there are some people who value truth. Where might such people be found? Maybe one area is basic science research. NOT the kind of scientists seeking to use scientific knowledge to build something, like a dot-com or a drug that can be patented, etc. Those people want power, even if it is to "help" others. But consider the basic science researcher, simply trying to learn something about the world. His only criteria is the truth, WHEREVER IT MAY LEAD. This is not the case with "scientists" who want power. They are interested in a line of research, not wherever it may lead, but only if it leads to something productive, profitable in some way, beneficial for mankind or for themselves. There must be some benefit involved, beyond the truth alone. But for a basic science researcher, learning the truth is enough, even if there is no other benefit. These people will tend to have a very high level of ethical integrity, because they are so devoted to the truth. The test for such people might be, what if one day their line of research happens to bear on an issue of public interest, but in an unpopular direction. For example, suppose a neuroscientist or psychologist happens upon a discovery, that their research produces hard evidence that genetically, biologically, or otherwise, something even more conclusive than IQ tests, that blacks were inferior to whites in cognitive ability? Or men over women? Suppose a scientist came upon incontrovertible evidence proving this, if that were possible? Does he publish the unvarnished Truth, as he sees it? That would be quite a test of character! But I suppose a scientist devoted to truth would, whereas one devoted to power would not (unless certain conservative demagogues had the political power in this country, and publishing this might win their favor).
What is the point of all this? I think that Truth and Power are two separate and opposed values. There is a continuum, and people fall somewhere on this continuum. The farther along towards Power a person is, the less he values Truth. And vice versa - the farther in the direction of Truth a person falls, the less he values Power. Because being devoted to Truth involves a sacrifice of Power. And vice versa as well - being devoted to Power involves a sacrifice of Truth. That's how it seems to work, at least in my observation. It is noticeable that people who have deliberately accrued a great amount of power are noticeably willing to lie. Lying, distorting the truth, framing and creating narratives in a false light is in fact a great way to accrue power, maybe the chief way. There seems to be some kind of propoganda behind any big and powerful success. And when you look at people who have valued truth to an extreme extent have fared very poorly in this world. In fact those who really do speak truth to power usually end up dead, having been killed by those in power, who do not want the truth to come out. Think of Socrates, Jesus, many other historical examples.
So I think it is the case that Truth and Power are opposed. Most people, even devoted basic science researchers, are not devoted to truth to the extent that a Socrates was, do not have that level of courage to speak truth to power at all costs, and so I suppose most scientists would not publish the truth about race and intelligence in my hypothetical example, because at some point, most people are not willing to die for the truth. And on the other side, few people are at the extremes of power where they are willing to lie and enter into criminality to achieve power to the extreme degree that some have in history, like certain historical political leaders, business leaders, including perhaps people living and acting right now. Most people are somewhere in between on the spectrum, more or less devoted to one or the other and inimical to one or the other.
But I think it is a useful framework when trying to figure out any particular individual you might be dealing with in a given case where the question is, are they lying or not? Is this person telling the truth? Does this person even care about the truth? Would this person be willing to lie, if he thought it would be "efficacious"? I submit that the answers are related to the degree to which the person cares about power - where he falls on the continuum between Truth and Power. The further towards Power he is directed, the more he would be willing to make sacrifices in Truth (i.e., lie), and conversely, the further a person is directed towards Truth, the more he would be willing to make sacrifices in Power (i.e., loss of personal status). You can see where a person lies on the continuum by the decisions they have made through the course of their life, what their goals are, what they have aimed their efforts at. You can discern where they fall also by their speech, what they say, how they talk.
This is also related to Process versus Results. A process is usually more Truth oriented, designed to ensure a fair procedure to get the truth, whatever the specific result may be. This is why justice is pictured with a blind fold. For example, the election system in the United States is supposed to be designed to ferret out who gets the most votes, i.e., the will of the people, in an accurate and fair way. It is supposed to have no regard whatsoever to the particular result - i.e., Trump or Biden. A Process designed to bring about a specific result (either a Trump win or a Biden win), would be a result-oriented process, and that is where corruption enters in, when Process is made with a view towards a particular Result. That is Justice peeking through the blind-fold, and that is what Power wants - to peek through the blind-fold. Hence we see those in Power, like presidents appointing Justices to achieve a specific desired result on a specific legislation or political issue, and we see legislators seeking to block a nomination based on the same - both sides being firmly on the side of Power over Truth.
But it is very hard to be on the side of Process without regards to Result for long, or to be a Truth person, wherever it may lead. Because it may lead to a very uncomfortable situation, and most of us are just people, and people have needs in this world. To remain devoted to Truth or Process one's whole life long, to have that level of integrity and keep it "wherever it may lead", seems heroic, but also inhuman. To succumb to temptation is human and most of us can identify with that and sympathize. To resist and maintain one's integrity at all costs is totally inhuman, and who can really identify with such a person? If there were a person with the discipline to make a to do list every day of all the things he should do from morning to night, and stick to it day after day his whole life long, what would we think of such a person? I think it would be inhuman.
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