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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The hidden truth

Truth can be bitter and knowing it may also be disastrous. Individuals or nations in pursuit of truth are either shocked and disappointed, feel a sense of loss or perhaps even satisfaction.

Not knowing the truth could be blissful but it can also create a thirst to know more. Curiosity is the force that makes one investigate, probe and detect the truth.

In Oedipus the King, Sophocles, the Greek dramatist, narrates the story of Oedipus who was curious to know who the killer of his father was. He asked Teiresias, a blind prophet to tell him the truth. Teiresias told him that it was better not to know because truth was disastrous. At his insistence, Teiresias told Oedipus that he was the killer of his father and the queen whom he married was his mother. It devastated him. The queen committed suicide and he blinded himself, wandered from one place to another, and eventually died a miserable death.

Truth becomes painful when religious or ideological beliefs are challenged. When Stalin’s crimes against humanity were released in Soviet Russia, diehard communists went into denial and continued to idolise him as a great leader.

Generally, the ruling classes are afraid to reveal truth that is not in their favour as it might expose their weaknesses and rouse the people to launch a movement against them.

In the 16th century, to counter the Reformation, the Catholic Church established the Index Librorum Prohibitorum which was a list of prohibited books in an attempt to protect the faith and morals of the faithful. The church feared that other aspects of religious truth might mislead the believers.

In the 19th century, the department of censorship in France controlled outgoing information so only information that was in the interest of the rulers was released to the people.
Napoleon’s achievements were reported in the French newspapers while the defeat of the French navy in the Battle of Waterloo was ignored.

In 1943, when one of the worst famines hit Bengal, the British government instead of providing relief to famine-stricken people, exported rice from Bengal to feed the soldiers at war.

Newspapers were not allowed to report the famine. Similarly, when the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the newspapers did not print any reports of devastation.

When army action was taken in former East Pakistan in 1971, the reality of the situation was hidden from the people. The fall of Dhaka and the surrender of the army shocked the people because they were unaware of the real facts behind the situation.

Likewise, the Kargil episode remains a mystery for us. Who should be held responsible? How can we assess the suffering on our military, political and diplomatic fronts? The government always sets up a commission for investigation, but so far these commissions have only hidden facts instead of determining the truth.

The reason is that successive governments commit atrocities and conceal the truth from people. Consequently, it creates a gulf between the people and the state institutions which instead of reforming themselves, continue to follow the same policies without any change. History is therefore based on incorrect information which misleads society.

In Pakistan, military dictatorships concealed the truth and misinformed people. Toward’s the end of Ayub Khan’s rule, his government announced celebrations for an entire decade of his achievements but eventually the falsely glorified image of his rule collapsed.

Sadly, the successive rulers in Pakistan have not learnt any lessons from history and continue to lie to the people. Hidden truth is an impediment in creating historical consciousness and political awareness.
By Mubarak Ali: http://dawn.com/2012/10/21/past-present-the-hidden-truth/