March 23, 2022March 20, 2022J M Duke Hold Your Line _______________________________ Click for larger image. Main music while creating: Muse — Uprising Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading...
These days it seems like telling the truth about anything is the thing that is most likely to get one punished.
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
People often seem to reel out that quote as if to say “yeah, I’m cool, I’m a rebel, I’d tell the truth”, except actually, in reality, if you’re honest a lot of people will hate you for it. So most people won’t tell the truth because, as you say, one is likely to get punished. It’s like that famous photo of the guy refusing to do a Nazi salute. Many claim that would be them, even though it wouldn’t. Many people would rather die than do a bit of socially acceptable public speaking, because they fear embarrassment that much. But they’d totally be the guy not saluting and standing up to a genocidal government, wouldn’t they? Bullshit. They’re the cowardly conformists saluting in that photo, who turn on and report the guy who isn’t, and they can’t even be honest enough with themselves in their own heads to admit that (which is the first step to changing). If you can’t even tell yourself the truth, you’re no use to anyone else for it.
Honesty isn’t easy, and without a culture that enforces telling the truth, that makes honesty a virtue and rewards it, that makes free speech safe, why would we tell the truth? I was chatting with someone the other day about the children’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, because I have regularly found myself in the position of being the child in that story, often unintentionally. We both concluded that to be realistic, the child pointing out the emperor’s nudity would mean they were immediately turned upon by the crowd and literally or metaphorically torn limb from limb for their “hatred” of the emperor. The vast majority of people I encounter these days appear to be like this. They don’t want the truth, they want a bedtime story to stroke their egos with and they don’t want you spoiling it, even though that means they’ve lost touch with reality. Without the capacity to tell the truth we fall into mass psychosis. The best reason to be honest has nothing to do with other people, it’s our own individual sanity that’s at stake. As Lao Tzu said, our thoughts become our words; our words, our actions; our actions, our habits; our habits, our character; our character, our destiny.
Yes, the first thing is to be true with oneself. Sadly, I think we might be entering a stage where in order to survive, people need to operate strategically, and can no longer afford to openly speak the truth. There’s that scene in “The Killing Fields” [one of my fav movies of all time] where the journalist, Dith Pran, lies that he’s a “taxi driver” so he won’t be killed as an educated person during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. He pretends he doesn’t even speak English. The time when people really need to speak out is when tyranny first arises. But at some point it becomes too late, and one has to employ subterfuge in order to survive long enough to be able to speak the truth again after the new regime eventually implodes through its own internal rot. I don’t think it’s safe to criticize the CCP in Hong Kong, for example, if you live there. And in Western countries, which have been the bastions of freedom, we now see people being de-platformed, banned, canceled, and even losing access to their own money, because they dared challenge the narrative.
You are sadly right, of course. Outside a certain context (as I am lucky enough to have some friends and family who are very sane) my days of being honest with others are coming to an end. What I don’t say these days is often quite substantial and I am re-learning how to stand by quietly and watch others totally screw themselves, while I step back and get on with my life in peace. Can’t afford to take the risk of saying much, if anything anymore. I have been punished enough for it in recent years. Part of me is even starting to find great satisfaction in it blowing up in the faces of those supporting such punishment, and I’m sure that will only get worse. I will continue to offer whatever support I can to those with platforms brave enough to be standing up in the face of all this still. Those with powerful voices willing to drink the cancel culture hemlock and hold their line are the small dam between us and hell. But I think it may be too little too late.
I grew up in an environment in which honesty could get you killed, but being able to be honest with myself about what was going on was essential to my survival. I was a very quiet person back then and I feel myself starting to put that back on, like a cloak. I have been trying to warn people about where the destruction of free speech goes for decades, but they don’t listen, so now I can’t speak freely anymore. But I’m used to that and the might makes right environment it enables. It’s been nice to have freedom for a while. I’m still enjoying what I have left. And while it feels sad and maddening to see people taking it for granted and throwing it away, I’m fairly confident I will survive and they won’t. I’ve done without before, they haven’t.
But then there are my lines. The circumstances under which I know I will still speak the truth and I will “refuse to salute” or the equivalent. I just hope to fuck I never have to face that. That’s the main reason I know people are lying and posturing when they talk about these things. Going down in flames is not something anyone really capable of it would want to do. From what I’ve read about the guy in the Nazi salute photo, his name was August Landmesser. The Nazi’s prevented him from marrying the woman he loved, took their children away, put him in a concentration camp because he kept seeing her, and murdered her. His act of resistance wasn’t about virtue signalling, he was doing it because he had nothing left to lose but his truth. None of us should want to have to be that guy. We should want to prevent the very circumstances that caused his small act of defiance. Instead we appear collectively hell bent on repeating them.