As usual, I’ll start by making it clear these blogs are about my opinion. In the process, I’m not ‘taking aim’ at any individual, group or entity. I just say as I see. It’s the way it is with Yorkshire folk!
I was going through some of the news stories circulating online over the last few weeks, I found myself considering two words – truth and honesty.
Superficially, you may think they’re the same thing, and you do have a point. There is a case to argue they each have a nuanced and slightly different connotation.
Think for a moment how you perceive the word ‘truth’. What exactly does it mean to you? The dictionary defines truth as accepted as true, fact or reality. The word ‘truth’ therefore carries a notional nuance of something ‘real’ with its basis in fact. This is possibly re-enforced because we tend to talk of ‘the truth’ as a tangible object – thus designating it a noun.
We use the word ‘honesty’ to describe an object or (perhaps more often) a person. This flags the word as an adjective, subordinate to the noun it qualifies and maybe diluting its importance by virtue of its context. The word may also suffer in terms of meaning in view of the penchant for using it as an umbrella term when the user is too lazy to seek a better or more accurate way to describe what they really mean.
The dictionary definition of honesty is the quality of being honest, which isn’t especially helpful in the context of a debate. Where the definition is helpful is it references the quality of being honest, which is a human characteristic and provides the crux of the argument: the split or difference between (a) the truth – fact/objective article and (b) honesty – based on a personal trait or feeling/subjective interpretational bias.
During my long-distant school days, we very rarely got composition homework. On the rare occasions we did, it was for us to decide for ourselves the level or extent to which we wanted to go in finding the words to use. My school days (the 1970s) were a learning lottery, with steep variations in the breadth and quality of the teaching.
Perhaps I’m misreading or misremembering the past but I felt at the time there was a definite shift in ethos, in approach, in attitude when I moved from child to teenager.
I’ll try to illustrate what I mean by way of analogy. When I went to the local state high school, there was a reasonably large staff turnover. It was an annual event and it was rare event for a new teacher to remain at the school beyond the first year.
Flash back: (I can’t be exact on the timings) to around 1975. Among the year’s intake was an extremely intelligent and talented junior teacher. She taught German as an ‘o’ level option. She was nervous teaching in large classes. She was young, attractive, with a prominent nose.
During the first year, she was a huge success. She taught me more in one year than I learned in the next two without her input. The second year was the deal-breaker.
The fresh intake of students into her class harassed and harangued the poor woman. She lost her confidence and with it control of the class. She was constantly upset, calling on other teacher’s assistance. At the end of the year, she resigned, and gave up teaching altogether. It was blatant bullying and abuse by the students and all I could do was stand by and watch it happen. It’s completely unacceptable by any standards.
When I look back, I can see there wasn’t anything I could have done, but I still feel the upset and shame caused by the abhorrent behaviour of those other children I was reluctant to acknowledge as my peers.
The world of work beckoned and (along with the remainder of my school year), the school designated ‘careers’ advisor ‘interviewed’ us all. I wanted to write, but was told it was an unrealistic fantasy. My stark choice was between ‘office’ work or ‘factory’ work. Neither sounded at all appealing.
I drifted from one job to another. The problem was, I didn’t fit in.
All around me, it seemed (to me) the real meaning of truth and honesty was somehow lost in the drive for material success.
Today, anything seems permissible – take a look at the latest ‘cat walk trends’ for confirmation. You can ‘identify as a banana’ if that’s your wish. You can dress as you want, without fear of discrimination.
Pardon me if I digress slightly, but on the subject of discrimination, it’s allegedly illegal to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of age, sex, disability or race, but have you noticed the rash of news reports on people dismissed from jobs they’ve held for years after a terminal illness diagnosis?
Why this is acceptable behaviour? Have these unfortunate people suddenly become incompetent – overnight or the space of a weekend? They’re not contagious! Or is it their work colleagues find it too awkward to work with them anymore?
Is this a symptom of a changing society? If it is, it seems as a species we have lost a rather large chunk of something between back then and now. It’s something we used to call integrity and it sits pretty much next to its neighbouring virtues – truth and honesty.
Today it seems like it’s the celebrity culture with its influencers, promoters and PR machine who talk about ‘their truth’ and categorise themselves as ‘honest’.
The danger of making their ‘truths’ public, particularly with public events, is someone somewhere has documented it. There will be photos, videos and witnesses, all traceable and checkable.
The public forgive a lot, but fraud, blatant lies – throwing status around, shouting and threatening to sue, these faults amount to unpleasant, entitled arrogance. Surely, it’s the way to lose friends, make enemies and never influence anyone?
Monday, 12th February 2023