THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

Powered by the Plogosphere

The Inconvenient Truth – Lessons in Decision Making.

Posted by intellisg on June 7, 2007

HONESTY and sincerity are of course commendable traits in business and politics, but leaders and even followers like us all have to tread a fine line: to tell the truth can sometimes do more damage than good. If you don’t know what I am talking about, please move on to the next great read. This article is reserved for those who have to regularly struggle between telling the truth. Or settling for outright fibbing – still around? I thought so, even the best of us are sinners in this regard.

Lying is a necessary skill and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. It’s indispensable when it comes to managing oneself and others. We all learn sooner or later the perils of being truthful. If you don’t believe me, just consider the following questions: “do I look fat in this dress?” – “do I look younger with this hair style?” – “can you see that I’ve have slimmed down?” Get the drift, telling the truth can often be hazardous to your health and even more damaging to your wallet. Some lies are just plain heroic, “He went the other way!” Others encourage and edify “don’t be silly of course you will recover and come back stronger than ever before!” Most of us accept while the truth is generally good most of the time it doesn’t always serve a noble purpose – that’s the cue for the “inconvenient truth” i.e necessary lie, to step in – please make room, siam!.
No where is this struggle between the necessary lie and the truth more visible than in business and politics. It raises a rather perplexing question: can leaders continue to garner their cachet of supporters if they are just plain honest Joe’s who tell only the truth and nothing but the truth? Doesn’t the whole idea of inspiring and leading often require a certain degree of spin and doctoring on the “truth”?

Although outright deceptions are generally seldom tolerated by shareholders and the electorate at large – and most of us readily agree it would be commendable if both corporate and political leaders should offer full disclosure: the full picture. What about the grey area concerning: disclosing the whole truth? By this I mean those half truths which can be seen as true only because they cannot be disproved? You know what I mean don’t you? Those “broader than broad” planks of truths that roughly has the same utility as a Cheshire cat: a winning smile and very little else. Rhetoric: “no one will be left behind” – “we will make sure, we will help the needy” – “we’ve all in this together” – “if you win, we win etc.” The danger with anything broad is eventually the line between generalization and empirical truths becomes less distinct and blurred with repeated usage.

Take the phrase for example the “war on terror” which was once used to justify everything from higher taxes to the invasion of Iraq. Today the same broad truth or lie which ever way you wish to paraphrase it, hardly commands the same urgency, neither does it serve as a rallying cry unless you want to conduct lighting or attract flies. In fact, the “war on terror” has come to symbolize the incompetence of the Bush administration and its wanton disregard of human rights and mismanagement on a mythical scale.

It poses a philosophical question: that goes all the way back to the Aristotle when he first asked: what is the truth? To which he added, “There are many chambers to the truth.” Paraphrasing Aristotle, the truth is ephemeral and it has little or nothing to do with absolutes. Rather much of what constitutes the truth has everything to do with your bent, inclinations and prejudices as an individual. Let me just give you an example: we all know the idea of globalization is good and it makes cogent sense for firms to continually maintain a healthy gap between cost and income, thereby increasing profits and returns to shareholders. We’re all in favor of globalization, the “truth” that is – just as long as it (the truth) doesn’t come knocking on our door – just as long as we are not told. We are obsolete or our jobs are going to be out sourced to some firm in Mumbai. I am often reminded much of what we consider the “truth” has little to do with how the chips of merciless logic add up. Rather it’s rooted at a deeper and subconscious level, the quest for the truth as Carl Jung, mentioned:

“Serves firstly to placate our deepest fears and has very little to do with the truth itself.”

Well judging from the way the marketing manifesto regularly leverages on our fears to sell products and services. We could even be forgiven. The truth is in short supply these days. After all deep within us, we all know that tube of super duper moisturizer does nothing to turn back the years and even less for the eye bags, but we still splurge out on it – don’t we? Pray tell, where is the truth there? We all realize terrorism poses a danger, but the threat is hardly a clear and present one when compared to deadlier wet bathroom tiles? Again where is the truth when we need a sense of scale and perspective to make sense of the world?

There lies the hubris of the truth: to what point can we really afford to remain truthful to ourselves and others without compromising the necessary lie which would simply make life unbearable!

“The truth will set you free.” So say the Christians. Really, you don’t say! That’s only true if our expectations about leadership accords well with this pipe dream of expecting the truth and only the truth! Or have we forgotten, we expect our leaders to be confident, competent and in control. Don’t we? As a consequence business and political leaders, like mums and dads, often have to go through the charade of being surefooted even if their decisions are less than an accurate reflection of their actual views. Though it remains a homily sugary thought like comfort food that a firm or a party might one day decide to be as open about its failings as its triumphs, the question still remains: would we cast our votes in favor of those who are truthful about their failings? Will they be able to inspire the requisite trust and confidence if they told us what we really wanted to know instead of what we really want to hear? Consider this: When a country or company is walking on the tightrope wouldn’t most of us consider it a dereliction of duty for the CEO or the Prime Minister to play the role of the doomsayer by being the first to admit, “Honestly I think we are finished!” Not least because such a message would be a self fulfilling prophecy?

We are no closer to the truth are we? What really did you expect when you started reading this article? A straight line with zero margin for error? It’s complicated, pointless even – the truth that is. Despite the cloud, I do have one rule of thumb whenever I have to regularly plumb between the truth or telling a porkie (usually a farm of them). I reminded of a couplet by John Stuart Mill’s “principle of political economy,” who in my opinion probably did a better job than anyone else in making sense of the hubris. When he said,

“Anything that doesn’t produce happiness is bad even if it’s truthful.”

I often reminded that is what most people don’t realize when they blindly pursue the truth for the sake of the truth, and it really doesn’t matter whether it’s righting wrongs or simply because they just want to be right for rights sake – but what if the cost of the truth means that we end up causing more harm than good? Disabling instead of enabling? Broken relationships instead strong bonds and ties? Exacerbating instead of relieving? fermenting animosity rather than bring people closer together? – it’s something to consider deeply.

While the vast majority of people may clamor for greater transparency, more democracy, more freedom and more truths – there are times when, they just need the opacity that hope and faith offers to turn the wheel of life. I am reminded of this every time I come across those who have to grapple with life threatening diseases, the threat of bankruptcy or even the fear of retrenchment. It doesn’t always pay to tell the truth when all it does it sharpen the fear where every passing moment cuts like a knife. Good leaders know this only too well and they have always been deft handed when dealing with the truth. Winston Churchill was telling the US that Britain was on the verge of losing the war against Nazi Germany – in order to spur the Americans into action – just as he was reassuring the British that they would victorious. Which version will history record as the truth?

What really mattered, I think was whether he did the right thing? To rally and inspire – to lead –could it be said leadership even requires both for a respect for the truth and a recognition that sometimes it too must give way to doing what’s right?

I don’t have any answers. Neither is this post conclusive or exhaustive in its attempts to distill what the truth is. If anything its like peeling an opinion, the act makes more sense than the result. Whatever you take out of it is really up to you. It’s something to think about when you find yourself standing on a soap box trying to shout your version of the truth.

But before you rush ahead, do consider why the truth will to me remain at best a sobriquet and very little else.

A few years ago, I attended a wake of fine American climbing buddy of mine who died while trying to ascend Mount Elbrus. As soon as I stepped in, the family who had gathered solemnly around the fireside settled to hear my account of how their son, brother, favorite cousin or best friend they all loved, respected and missed passed on – to cut the melodramatics out of the story, I found myself recounting the story of a brave young man who sacrificed his life so that the rest of us could make it down safely. There wasn’t a single person in the room who didn’t cry a river as they moved on to close the chapter of pain and loss. It was of course a well crafted lie, but I didn’t care for the truth that evening. What was I supposed to tell them, the truth – that he slipped, fell and ebbed away slowly? No. I didn’t rationalize much about it either before, during and after the wake. I didn’t have too, it just felt right and although I don’t have a claim on the truth and you may even cite me for being a fibber. Or choose to question the ethical premise of what I did. All I can say is you weren’t there or even scripted in the story like many of characters who heard me narrate my yarn that evening, and though much can be still made about the truth, it pales does it not to the prospects when a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, as perverse as that may sound, all of the pains of this world disappears. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exist and that really is the only thing that matters – where I wonder is the truth? Or how useful can it be under those circumstances?

That could very well be the inconvenient truth which has nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with what is rightly true – there are never any answers, only questions.

(By Harphoon & Astroboy – Musings / Philosophy EP 999272-2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007 / This article is revised from article written by darkness, entitled, “The Return from Elbrus to the Truth” EP 993782 -2006 – The Brotherhood Press.)

Advertisements

29 Responses to “The Inconvenient Truth – Lessons in Decision Making.”

  1. inspir3d said

    i enjoyed this a lot, thanks.

  2. darkness said

    Harp & AB,

    You guys r great. Dont know how you did it. .Btw got nothing to do with my article. This is really a very well crafted piece of original work.

    Great read, had me thinking deeply from the word ‘go’ and I am still thinking even now.

    Keep up the good work. It is very much appreciated.

    Brilliant.

  3. truth frees said

    next time when someone steals your money, the person in the know should protect the culprit interest instead of yours?

    when someone knocks into your car while you are away, hope that someone who witness the accident lie to protect the offender?

    an employee who cheats his company should also be covered up to protect his rice bowl?

    give me a break. honesty is always the best policy except for very rare instances which you may have cited.

    whether it be lies for the perceived good or telling the truth no matter what, somebody is going to get hurt. the general rule that we should always adhere to is that it is much better to deal with the problems that arise from speaking the truth than dealing with the damages that may result from lies.

    if you have no guts to live in truth, you should not lead.

    having said that, humans are all imperfect creatures and therefore can never be perfect. but to whomever we are accountable, we can and must be honest! otherwise, we leave room for corruption and the result maybe dissastrous for society,community, business, country and the world!

  4. montburan said

    “honesty is always the best policy except for very rare instances which you may have cited.”

    I think that was precisely what harphy boy was trying to say – for those very rare instances.

    Nice brain picker. The line my dear boy, do mind the line and of course the gap.

  5. super cat said

    Not always so.

  6. kokopop said

    Hello Boys and especially Bambi darkness,

    This piece resonates with me. Some one passed away in my family recently (I rather keep the details p&c), it was a long painful illness. I am relieved to see her go, yet I feel a deep sense of lost.

    I have always wondered abt where darkness gets his various insights – there was one incident when my sis was putting on make up, it was 3 weeks bfr she passed on. I remember it vividly, she weighed only 35kg by then, eyes hollowed, cheeks sunken, yet she was putting on lipstick, eyeliner etc.

    When she finished, she looked at me and asked, “How do I look?”

    I know what you mean Bambi. These things you had to be there to know, I know where you get your material from.

  7. piyuan said

    This is a very mature piece. I dont know much abt darkness but I know for a fact it takes someone with a keen sense of human knowledge to know that deep inside all of us, we are essentially very self serving creatures, that is probably why I have such a high mistrust of people who come across as idealistic. Most of the time, they are just as guilty as the people to often oppose or want to replace. Besides they all suffer from one common failing – they are all believe, they are right – they are often righteous – and in their world, there is only black and white.

    Like I said this is a mature piece, so I think, the author was right when he compared it to peeling a onion – the result – is not as important as an act.

    Very insightful read.

  8. bobofet said

    I know. I know. I know. But what if I really know who darkness is. What if I told you darkness is a scientist suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer. He does nothing all day except live in his imaginary world all the day. Who else can have such depths of insight except those who know the angel for holds the key to the abyss.

    There are really plenty of clues if you care to look around. “when a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, as perverse as that may sound, all of the pains of this world disappears. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exist and that really is the only thing that matters – where I wonder is the truth? Or how useful can it be under those circumstances?”

    You have 24 hours to consider our offer. Stop ignoring us. Be reasonable.

  9. bobofet said

    I dont doubt he is brilliant, but even as he writes and soars. The end is so very near. And how do I know all these things. Let us just say say. I have always been intrigued by the character darkness. His morose, brooding and almost self destructive personality. So one day I started digging and digging.

    You have 24 hours to consider our offer. Stop ignoring us. Be reasonable.

  10. LWL said

    bobo,

    I don’t like u very much. I think they should just nuke you!

    Harphy,

    Is all this true?

  11. super cat said

    Bobo should dial-a-Roo from Optus.

    It’s the new zany mobile plan they are thinking of planning.

  12. ??? said

    I know harpoon will never lie to me. – He does nothing all day except live in his imaginary world all the day – is he sick? Can someone pls tell me.

  13. elaine said

    wtf another sick joke!

  14. shoestring said

    Truth may be inconvenient but I’d rather be told the truth than be lied to, even if the former is unpleasant and the latter music to my ears. And this applies to business to politics as well. Trust is more valuable to me than confidence. So what if politicians lie to appear competent? Our confidence would then be temporal and founded on shifting sands instead of solid rock.

    I don’t expect perfection. Nobody is perfect. In fact, I would be suspicious of people who appear to be perfect and claim that they have never failed or done wrong. I’d vote for leaders or work with people who tell the truth – they can be trusted – instead of those who lie to get what they want. That is as much a put off as manipulation.

    If truth is subjective (I have reservations about this one), then the least we should expect from a trustworthy person is full disclosure of facts. Although they can be manipulated, facts don’t lie.

  15. cjh said

    “when a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, as perverse as that may sound, all of the pains of this world disappears. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exist and that really is the only thing that matters – where I wonder is the truth? Or how useful can it be under those circumstances?”

    And if it is true can u really blame him? And though you may be true Bobofet, what does it really make you? I never want to come here again. Infact I never want to see another blog again for the rest of my life. I knew he wasnt himself lately, but this is altogether another thing, I hadn’t really expected and it has really come as deep shock to me. I need time to alone.

  16. caleb said

    Hey Bobo,

    This is all BS right. It’s all for comic relief sake right?

    Harphoon,

    Can you pls tell Bobo he is talking shit! I don’t think this kind of things happen in real life, it just happens in the movies. This is a joke right?

  17. caleb said

    Bobo,

    If this is a joke. I am don’t think it’s funny!

  18. Harphoon said

    Dear Valued Readers,

    This is rubbish! Surely all of you dont expect me to respond to this.

    Bobofet,

    Our Liberium armada the “fist of God,” will be arriving in your sector in 7 earth days. The council of the wise has construed your threat as a declaration of war and a terse and prompt response will follow, the capital Tiriana will be levelled to nothing. There will be no negotiations.

    How many times do I have to tell you ppl this site is not the official channel for gaming? And how many times do I have to remind all of you NOT to threaten us?

    This is our final message.

    1st class Pre-Science Officer

    Harphoon.

  19. bobofet said

    Brotherhood,

    YOU CANT DO THAT! YOU ARE IN CONTRAVENTION OF ARTICLE 17(4) OF THE INTERSTELLAR PROTOCAL. THEY DEFINITELY BE SENDING A DIPLOMATIC DELEGATION TO LODGE AN OFFICIAL PROTEST. YOU ARE ALSO ACTING IN CONTRA OF THE INTERSYSTEM FRIENDSHIP PACT, SECTION 6.1/6.2/6.3 SPECIFICALLY PREVENTS THE ASSEMBLY OF MORE THAN 50 BATTLE CRUISERS WITHOUT FIRST GETTING THE APPROVAL OF THE COLONIES AND THEIR ALLIES. THE FIST OF GOD WILL BE CONSIDERED A RENEGADE FORCE WITH NO LEGITIMACY!

    I NEVER EVER CLAIMED THAT I EITHER REPRESENTED THE SPACE MINERS ASSOCIATION OR SPOKE ON THEIR BEHALF. SO IT IS NOT FAIR FOR ALL OF YOU TO IMPUTE THAT I HAD THAT AUTHORITY IN THE FIRST PLACE. FOR ALL YOU KNOW, I AM JUST A PRANKSTER. NOW YOU ARE SENDING THE FIST OF GOD TO WIPE OUT A WHOLE STAR SYSTEM! DON’T YOU THINK, YOU PPL ARE OVERACTING AND BEHAVING LIKE A BUNCH OF UNHINGED CRAZIES!I AM JUST A PRANKSTER, WHO HAS A BIT OF KNOWLEDGE IN COMPUTING AND GAMING, I NEVER MEANT TO THREATEN ANYONE. I AM VERY SURE IF THE MERCANTILE GUILD SPEAKS TO THE MINERS, THEY WILL REALIZE IT MUST BE SOME MISTAKE. I DONT WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF AN ENTIRE SYSTEM. TIRIANA MAY BE NOTHING COMPARED TO PRIMUS, BUT I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU EVERY BUILDING, ROAD, BRIDGE AND BLADE OF GRASS WAS LOVINGLY CREATED. IT MAY BE VIRTUAL, BUT SOMEONE ONCE PUT A LINE ON PAPER, COLORED AND MADE IT COME TO LIVE. NOW IT’S ALL GONE. I AM JUST A PRANKSTER!

  20. bobofet said

    DO YOU HEAR ME!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM VERY CERTAIN THERE IS SOME MISCOMMUNICATION. IF ONLY SOMEONE CHECKED WITH THE SMA, YOU WILL ALL REALIZE I DON’T HAVE ANY AUTHORITY TO SPEAK ON ANYONE’S BEHALF!!!!YOU CANNOT AUTHORIZE THE FIST OF GOD!!!!

  21. inspir3d said

    hahaha. nice prank. destroy tiriana anyway. 😉

  22. Preatoria said

    To: Harphoon,

    Sending the FOG to waste Tiriana is like using an atomic bomb to kill an ant.

    BTW, the real world value of all the assets and mineral deposits in system K is worth in excess of USD$145,928.20 cents. We just audited it.

    The Mercantile Guild humbly request Nacramanga and his thugs to re-consider using the FOG.

    An official protest has been lodged by the guild on this matter.

    We believe a land invasion comprising of armored, motorized and infantry divisions will be sufficiently to quel the Miners rebellion. We have also been assured all the ring leaders associated directly and indirectly with disrupting the game will be surrendered to the council for disciplinary action! I have this assurance in writing from the mining confederation.

    The Navigation Guild will be sending auditors to Tiriana to negotiate the terms and conditions of the surrender.

    We are fully aware this is an unconventional channel to voice our concerns regarding this unfortunate incident, but it appears neither, the council or Nacramanga has seen fit to consult us bfr authorizing such draconian actions.

    May I remind the 130th and the Sardu-Khan elite forces, their actions are in contravention of ARTICLE 17(4) OF THE INTERSTELLAR PROTOCAL and therefore illegal.

    The Guild will be sending 3 unarmed science freighters to monitor and document possible atrocities arising from this illegal action.

    We strong urge the 130th to explore and exhaust all diplomatic avenues bfr considering this drastic measure!

    Darkness, we hope you will bring balance and peace to this matter! Why are you remaining silent!

  23. Scholarboy said

    A land invasion will be more than enough to send fear into the miners. We will occupy Tiriana within 24 hours! So why are we using the fist of god?

    Bear in mind most of the miners are US gamers, so at least we would not have to deal with the press fall out of being heavy handed again.

    We have to consider the diplomatic cost of using the FOG, Harpoon.

  24. nacramanga said

    Allow me to be crystal. If someone makes threats or goes behind our back like this idiot, Bobofet.

    They automatically forfeit ALL their rights to fairness and natural justice.

    This has always been our way. So pls do not speak as if this is something new to all of you pencil pushers.

    In 5 earth days Tiriana will be a smoldering cinder. It will cease to exist as a planet and a mining community.

    After that we send our emissaries to which ever Parliament to talk shop but NOT before doing what we need to do first.

    The brotherhood gives no quarter to anyone who threatens us. We do not care whether you are a super blogger or a legend in your own mind like Bobofet, you will simply have to face the music.

    Now if you please excuse me. We have serious scores to settle.

  25. Curios said

    How come The Brotherhood sounds so PAP one??!

  26. darkness said

    Nacra,

    “Slowly, slowly catch monkey” i.e “Slow and steady will see you win”. The proverb comes from a popular Cameroonian folktale about the tortoise and the monkey..it’s actually pidgin.

    If people want you to react and you do so don’t you think you are walking into a trap?

    Sumiko et al,

    Yes, I see from the mail in my inbox where all of you coming from. I see pls believe me, but close you eyes and let me share with you something very slow and mellow, like amber it just seals it right, the moment that is.

    This is my fav on piece on meditation, it’s a classic best enjoyed with soft lights and a full bodied robust pinot with just a touch head. Sit back, light a candle and enjoy.

  27. Curios said

    But monkeys are nice animals. Why you don’t like them??

    They just like to jump around and be free… Like you also wat.

    You all always bully monkey one!!

  28. astroboy said

    what do u mean darkness by trap?

  29. Curios said

    *reads Astroboy*

    BOO HOO HOO HOO HOO!!! BOO HOO HOO HOO HOO!!! BOO HOO HOO HOO HOO!!!

    *WAILS*

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

 
%d bloggers like this: