Monday 18 May 2015

Telling the Truth is a Revolutionary Act

I think one of the essential things we should emphasise to children is the importance of telling the truth. The Buddha is supposed to have said that there are three things that cannot be permanently hidden, the Sun, the Moon and the truth. I think that this is one of those undeniable facts of life, the sort of fact that we might ignore at our peril like the old adage that the only inevitability is death and taxes. How important it is to tell the truth and to try to live with integrity. It is so important not only for us as individuals, at the individual level but it is important in every field of human activity, in all organs of government and in every institution of business, religion and charity and political activity. Without the perception of truthfulness and integrity individuals lose respect and organisations become damaged and can ultimately die. We place such an importance on telling the truth and yet how often do we see the failure of truth, the betrayal of trust, financial shenanigans, the cover-ups that go right to the top of the political system even aided and abetted by Prime Minister's as official records years after the events reveal and are made public. We have to ask as we should where the moral compass is and what is driving this dishonesty, we have to ask the pertinent question - why? And in whose interest this level of corruption is working?

We tell children always to tell the truth but somehow, I can't help thinking that this child like quality we try to encourage is not really in the more sophisticated world of the adult the touchstone for all our relationships. As we get older it seems that we are expected to accept that with a nod and wink we can subvert a promise or a contract because that's the real world that we live in. And besides, it’s what everybody is doing or going along with and so we tell ourselves that at some level that it's OK to turn a blind eye to a certain level of dishonesty.

I can't help but think that story of The Emperor's New Clothes should not remain in the primary school but should be elevated to the level of a religious parable and so we can say that the Kingdom of Heaven can be likened to the child who declared the Emperor to be naked. Indeed, in the story, the unexpected emergence of such compelling and innocent honesty became in fact a catalyst for a re-wakening in the consciousness of the people, the government and the Emperor. Such honesty deflated the tyranny of ego and prepared the way for humility and awareness. If the Kingdom of Heaven is to come to earth, this kingdom which is 'righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' then it must be based on truth.

In the Gospel of Matthew (21) we can recall the story of Jesus who overthrew the money changers in the Temple but in the violence of this scene we overlook the children who were crying their support, "Hosanna to the son of David" they shouted and cheered. And when chief priests and the scribes saw and heard this they rebuked Jesus who in response reminded them of the Scriptures (Psalm 8) "Did you never read, 'Out of the mouths of babes of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.' Here Jesus had committed a revolutionary act by overturning the moneychangers tables; he had struck at the heart of economic injustice, for he said that the house of prayer had become a den of robbers. The writer George Orwell once said that "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act." This revolutionary act, as we know led to Jesus' crucifixion but as someone once observed, you can kill the revolutionary but you can't kill the revolution.