Archive for January, 2012
We all lie or pander to lies
in some way or another
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon”
Available through Amazon
There are probably very few people on the face of the earth who don’t on a regular basis, engage in some form of untruthfulness, falsehood or deception, or who consciously accept questionable claims and lies, or who fail to act appropriately to hazards and dangers, whether they are imminent or not. In other words, from time to time, most of us are participants in the realm of falsehood in some way or another.
Here are a few of the many forms of untruthfulness and falsehood:
EXAGGERATION: If I say I waited for a bus for half-an-hour, when in fact I waited for only 20 minutes, I was telling a lie. Admittedly a minor infraction, but nonetheless a lie. It distorts the reality of what I’m discussing by inflating figures (or deflating them) or by embellishing details about incidents and situations. Exaggeration can become a very habitual thing.
HALF TRUTH: A common form of deception, it constitutes the selective omission of relevant facts. There are many ways that this form of deception is practiced. It is often more deceptive than the outright lie because often, what is omitted is something of over-riding importance, which the listener won’t be aware of. Example: if I’m going into partnership with an existing business and my accountant checks the bank reports and other projections, which look sound. But the owner omits to mention that he owes a loan shark a sum of money far in excess of the value of the entire business, it is clear that I will be throwing away my money.
WISHFUL THINKING: Self-deception has many forms – wishful thinking; denial; clinging to old notions no matter how things have changed; refusal to heed anything that doesn’t tally with our perception of things. Example: A person has toothache, but is afraid of dentists and balks at the price of treatment. The person kids himself that he doesn’t need to go to a dentist. He’ll take a painkiller for the pain, and his teeth, he reckons will be okay. What a painful, expensive form of lying of lying to himself this wishful thinking can turn out to be for him for years to come.
AUTOMATICALLY REJECTING WHAT OTHERS SAY: Some people automatically reject or ignore anything, no matter how plausible or probable, if it doesn’t conform exactly to their point of view. Thus they often block out what might be the truth about something. This is especially so with anything that has a political connection.
AUTOMATICALLY AGREEING WITH WHAT OTHERS SAY: Sometimes we automatically agree with something even though it is questionable, unfair or obviously false. We agree, despite its falseness or unfairness, because it appeals to our political sentiments, pet theories or a prurient interest in cheap gossip.
DECLARING AN ASSUMPTION AS A CERTAINTY: When we say something with certainty even though we’re merely guessing or don’t really know what we’re talking about, we often spread false information. We’re engaging in falsehood.
SANCTIONING FALSEHOOD: People who hear a blatant lie and fail to oppose or question it. All the delegates at the U.N. who kept quiet or even applauded when the leader of Iran repeated the canard that the Nazi Holocaust never occurred, were actually participating in the lie.
FAILING TO ACT APPROPRIATELY ACCORDING TO A KNOWN OR PROBABLE TRUTH : People who keep the lights or air conditioning on unnecessarily in their homes, or who drive a gas-guzzling SUV for ordinary use, indicate that they’re ignoring all the warnings about pollution and global climate change. By doing this they are ignoring or rejecting what is probably the truth; they do not honor the truth at everyone’s peril.
It is through these aspects of falsehood, that most man-made problems in the world are caused and perpetuated – whether they are small or large. This incomplete list of ways of twisting, ignoring or manipulating the truth, or fostering falsehood, should be internalized by every person concerned about the future of our world, because by assessing his or her degree of untruthfulness we can all work on ourselves and raise the level of truthfulness in the world, and thereby in the long run, redeem it.
“The Two-State solution” is the constantly repeated remedy for bringing peace to the Middle East. Solemnly declared over and over again by world leaders, public figures and journalists throughout the world, the Two-State solution calls on Israel to let the Palestinians have their own independent state, and thereby at long last, Israel will be accepted by the neighboring Arab peoples. It has been declared so many times that it has become a global mantra, a hallowed principle that brooks no deviation or obstruction – from Israel. But in its insistence, an enormous amount of history – past and current – is ignored, as are the declarations of intent made by Israel’s many mortal enemies. Also overlooked are the dangerous consequences to Israel’s security with each step it has taken in order to comply with the conditions for the Two-State idea.
The alternative to the two-state paradigm would appear to be a single state for all the people in the region of post-1922 Palestine. But demographically, this could lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Another idea is transfer of Arab populations to neighboring countries. However, forcibly imposed this would undoubtedly end any chance of peaceful co-existence with the Arab and Muslim world – probably for generations to come.
Is there another solution? Martin Sherman offers a bold answer in a series of articles, which have appeared in The Jerusalem Post. He says that all policy must contend with prevailing realities as they are and not as we wish them to be. He cautions: “As policy input, political correctness is a poor substitute for factual correctness. Similarly, good intentions are no guarantee of good policy. Indeed, often quite the reverse is true.”
Martin Sherman, who grew up in South Africa, has had an eventful academic, military and public career. Graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1970 with a B.Sc. in Physics and Geology, he also has a degree in Business Administration, as well as a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from Tel Aviv University. He has lectured at numerous universities and written papers for many prominent academic journals. He is the author of two books: Despots, Democrats and the Determinants of International Conflict; and The Politics of Water in The Middle East, (Macmillan). Dr. Sherman is currently the academic director of Jerusalem Summit.
His opinion pieces have appeared in most major newspapers in Israel (both in English and Hebrew). He has also been interviewed on radio and TV including CNN and BBC.
See website: http://www.martinsherman.org
We present here a slightly abridged version of an article about the Two-State solution and its alternatives, which appeared on January 6, 2012 in Sherman’s regular Jerusalem Post column “Into the Fray.”
To be or not to be – that is the
By MARTIN SHERMAN
“The maximum any Israeli government can offer is less than the minimum any Palestinian leader can accept. The real gap between both sides is much greater than perceived, and that gap is growing.”
Maj.-Gen.(reserve) Giora Eiland,
former head of the National Security Council, 2009
The Jewish people is rapidly approaching a crucial juncture. It will soon have to decide whether or not it is willing to maintain its nation-state; whether it is willing to forgo over a century of unparalleled sacrifice, effort and achievement to satisfy the cynical and hypocritical dictates of political correctness; whether it is prepared to surrender substance for form; to forsake real national freedoms for the artificial facade of feigned individual equality.
As the infeasibility of the two-state paradigm becomes increasingly apparent, even to the staunchest of its erstwhile supporters, the need to formulate a cogent alternative that will preserve the Jewish nation-state is becoming increasingly pressing.
It is not only the disillusioned among the Israeli Left who are expressing ever-more despair at the prospect of implementing the two-state solution. It is increasingly being dismissed as a realistic – or even desirable – aspiration by Palestinians, and not only radical Islamists who reject it because it entails recognizing a Jewish state. Thus for example, in his recent book, What is a Palestinian State Worth? even Sari Nusseibeh, a show-case “moderate,” expresses “heretical” doubts as to whether the struggle for statehood merits the effort.
This should be seen against the shift in the general Palestinian attitude toward the two-state principle, reflected in a strangely under-reported and grossly misreported poll conducted recently for The Israel Project by Stanley Greenberg together with Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.
According to the poll, there was a “huge drop in acceptance of a two-state solution.” 52% said they would not accept such a solution – up from 36% less than a year previously – while two-thirds rejected the principle that one of the states should be a Jewish homeland. A similar proportion said, “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state;” and 84% said that “Over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.”
Only the grossly undiscerning will fail to notice the tangible change in official Palestinian negotiating strategy in recent years. The pursuit of a two-state solution has become a leisurely distraction rather than a seriously sought after end-of-conflict arrangement. Far-reaching concessions – difficult for Israel to accept even as part of a final agreement – are being presented as conditions for merely resuming negotiations, delaying them for extended periods – hardly a rational tactic for a people eager to extricate themselves from onerous “occupation.”
Facing the inevitable
In view of accumulating evidence, it would be imprudent for Israel to continue deluding itself that Palestinians entertain any serious intentions as to the two-state solution – other than in the two-stage sense. Indeed, the accelerating erosion of support for the idea makes the formulation of operational alternatives a pressing imperative.
The alternatives that have been discussed most often fall into two categories. Those which entail: (a) conferring Israel citizenship on the Palestinians – i.e. various versions of the one-state approach; and (b) transferring civilian rule over the Palestinians to some non-Palestinian Authority Arab administration – such as Jordan or prominent local clan-leaders traditionally well-disposed to Israel, who would preside over scattered enclaves.
For a variety of reasons, neither of these offers a stable long-term formula. As a detailed critique of these alternatives is beyond the scope of this article, I will restrict myself to the following observations.
Regarding the first category, the inclusion of the Palestinian Arab population across the 1967 Green Line into Israel as fully fledged citizens would create an unbearable socio-economic burden on the country that would not only jeopardize its character as a Jewish state but as an advanced Western democracy as well – a problem many EU countries are beginning to experience, even with proportionately far smaller “discordant” populations.
It is a measure that would create difficulties far more complex and profound than could be dealt with – as some naively hope – by adopting a regional electoral system and gerrymandering the boundaries of the constituencies to minimize the impact of non-Jewish voters. Quite apart from the legal challenges – before an inherently amenable Supreme Court – as to the equity of such an arrangement, and possible mass relocation of voters to other constituencies, the cultural and economic disparities would tear society apart.
Regarding the second category, it is wishful thinking – especially in the wake of the Arab Spring – to hope that any “traditional” regime would consent to be seen as “pulling the Zionists’ chestnuts out of the fire.”
It is more than doubtful that any Arab ruler – whether a clan leader or the Jordanian monarch – would be willing, or indeed able, to function for any length of time as what would be perceived as a perfidious “prison warder.”
Moreover, in light of the instability in the region, it would irresponsible to adopt a long-term policy based on the assumption that the regime in Amman would not be replaced or at least dominated by elements inimical to any cooperation with Israel.
In both cases, the consequences of these alternatives are liable to be worse than those they are designed to avoid.
The humanitarian paradigm
These factors – the eroding relevance of the two-state paradigm, the ominous emergence of the one-state paradigm and the inadequacy of proffered alternatives – led to the proposal in my two preceding columns (in The Jerusalem Post) of the humanitarian paradigm, which addressed the fate of the Palestinian Arabs in a comprehensive, non-coercive manner. Operationally it comprised three constituent elements.
• Ending discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian refugees by abolishing or transforming UNRWA.
• Ending discrimination against Palestinians in the Arab world and the prohibition on their acquiring citizenship of countries in which they have been resident for decades.
• Providing generous relocation finance directly to individual Palestinian breadwinners to allow them to build better futures for themselves in third countries of their choice.
Unsurprisingly, numerous reservations were raised as to the feasibility of the proposal. These will now be addressed – at least in part.
The feasibility factor – I
The proponents of the Oslowian two-state principle are the last who can invoke feasibility as a precondition for the admissibility of an operational proposal –at least as an item on the agenda of public debate. After all, this is a formula that has been tried for almost two decades, and despite massive international endorsement and financial support, has wrought nothing but death, destruction and despair. Surely a proposal that has proved so disastrous should by any rational yardstick be branded unworkable and hence unfeasible. And if the demonstrable infeasibility, futility and failure of the two-state paradigm has not disqualified it as meriting serious consideration, why should a conceptually consistent, untried humanitarian paradigm not be accorded the same opportunity – at least as a legitimate topic for debate.
The feasibility factor – II
Inevitably, any radical departure from long-established conventional wisdom will be met with stiff resistance. However, the existing configuration of public opinion should not be considered immutable. Indeed, imagine how hopeless the notion of a Palestinian state was in the late 1960s in the wake of Israel’s sweeping Six Day War victory. Even in the late 1980s the idea was dismissed as unrealistic, unreasonable radicalism by all but a minuscule albeit determined minority on the far Left. However, it was a minority that managed to enlist the resolve, resources and resourcefulness to transform the marginal into mainstream in remarkably short order.
Given the paltry funding and the puny efforts that have characterized Israel’s public diplomacy in the past two decades, the current public perception can hardly be taken as persuasive gauge of what might be achieved with adequate financing and appropriate focus. Today the entire public diplomacy budget is reportedly of the order of magnitude of what a medium-to-large Israeli corporation spends on promoting fast-food or snacks.
The feasibility factor – III
According to the International Monetary Fund, Israel’s GDP is approaching a quarter trillion dollars. If it were to allot less than one half of 1% of GDP to public diplomacy, that would be over $1 billion – enough to swamp anything the George Soroses of the world devote to Israel’s delegitimization.
Given the nation’s achievements in many other fields of human endeavor, one can only surmise what impact a determined assault on the authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative, financed by an annual $1b. budget over two decades – the length of the post-Oslowian era – might have on the acceptability of a humanitarian rehabilitation of Palestinian Arabs, cruelly misled by their leaders for decades.
Indeed, important elements of the humanitarian paradigm are already gaining international legitimacy. The anomalous and detrimental role of UNRWA – a pivotal element in the proposal – has been recognized by countries such as Canada and the Netherlands which have either curtailed their funding to the organization or are considering doing so. It is distinctly plausible that the US could be convinced – especially in these days of austerity – to terminate its funding for this wasteful and counter-productive body which perpetuates the Palestinians’ dependency and statelessness.
Likewise, the brutal discrimination against Palestinians in Arab states, allegedly to “help preserve their identity,” is also the subject of increasing international attention and censure. Pressure should be brought to bear on Arab regimes to end this unacceptable practice, even if it means temporarily channeling budgets formerly allotted to UNRWA to facilitate their integration as citizens of the countries of their longstanding residence.
These elements cannot be detached from the overall thrust of the humanitarian paradigm, which is to focus on ameliorating the situation of the individual Palestinian rather than promoting the nefarious goals of an invented national entity.
The estimated cost of implementation is strongly dependent on the level of compensation and the size of the Palestinian population in the “territories,” which is the subject of intense debate.
A few years ago, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted a survey on the level of compensation Palestinian refugees considered fair to forgo the “right of return.” If we take more than double the minimum amount specified by most pollees as fair compensation for relocation/rehabilitation, and if we adopt a high-end estimate of the Palestinian population, the total cost would be around $150b. for the West Bank Palestinians and $250b. if Gaza is included. This is a fraction of the US expenditure on its decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have produced results that are less than a resounding success.
Spread over a period equivalent to the current post-Oslo era, this sum would comprise a yearly outlay of no more than a few percentage points of current GDP – something Israel could well afford on its own.
If additional OECD countries were to contribute, the total relocation/rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs could be achieved with an almost imperceptible economic burden.
Based on talk on how to prevent a doomsday situation
A new stage in humanity’s
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon”
Can be ordered through Amazon
This is the third part my talk, whose full title is: “How to solve your problems … and save the world”? In the earlier installments we offered the key to avoiding and solving most of our own personal problems, through the understanding and practise of truthfulness as a way of life.
And similarly, it is truthfulness practised by more and more people everywhere that will save the world? Oh come on Ralph, the reader might say. Be serious for goodness sake. How is truthfulness going to solve pollution and poverty? How is truthfulness going to cope with the likes of Ahmadinijad and Zawahiri? Well just think about it. Throughout history it has usually been the opposite of truthfulness and honesty – it has been lies and deceit that bungling, inept leaders, scoundrels and tyrants have used to gain and keep power and to wreak havoc and bring boundless misery into the world.
Even in the more benign democracies of the world, political factors make truthfulness among all the aspirants to power, something very conditional, even a handicap. To a large extent, gaining power, even in these democracies, is a game, a contest in which, very often, the winner takes all. And the gullibility of the general public panders to these games. Consequently, governance – which is really management on a large scale – governance is mediocre at best, and sometimes quite pathetic. In totalitarian states, not only public gullibility enables a self-serving dictatorship, but dread and fear as well. But for the moment, I’m talking about Israel and other democracies.
In our earlier blogs on this subject, we had talked about wishful thinking and holding onto old ideas and concepts no matter how things change or what new information emerges? And automatically rejecting any ideas or even events and developments that might not tally with our own perceptions. It’s called cognitive dissonance. It’s really a form of lying to ourselves. And we mentioned how these very common tendencies can prevent clear and sensible thinking.
Well, with any issue that has a political bearing, cognitive dissonance readily prevails, and often, even normally level-headed, intelligent, honest people can have their ability to think objectively and comprehensively, noticeably diminished. Right wing or left wing, religious or liberal, conservative, centrist, socialist – it doesn’t matter. Bring up any issue with a political bearing and intellectual integrity and rational thinking are often seriously compromised. Not always, not with everyone, but all too often.
If we take a brief, candid look at Israel’s situation we find that Israel faces bigger, far more dangerous challenges, probably than ever before; quite probably no other country in the world faces such colossal threats and challenges. That’s why the people of Israel have to figure out how to make the right decisions regarding every aspect of their national well-being and security. The trouble is that just about every issue in Israel has a political bearing, arousing heated, divisive squabbling along party lines and coalition hanky-panky. And this makes wise, sensible, crucially-needed decision-making extremely difficult, if not impossible. On the other hand, if government decisions were based primarily on honest, objective imperatives, truthfully debated, and based only on what’s good for the country and its people, it would have a better chance of overcoming the many threats and challenges facing us. But for this to happen, integrity and truthfulness must become the dominant qualities among all sectors of Israeli society, because it’s from this society that Israel’s politicians emerge, bringing with them, for better or for worse, all the general mores. For the moment Israeli society has a long way to go before integrity and truthfulness become the dominant qualities among all its sections.
Also compounding the gravity of Israel’s situation is its standing with the rest of the world. It’s interesting that Israel has been condemned – not just criticized – but actually condemned, in the various United Nations agencies and forums far more often than any other country in the world, and that includes some truly repressive, murderous regimes such as Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, etc., etc. And Israel heads the condemned list by far. Also, the media all over the world, including in Western democracies, is quick to pounce on Israel every time it tries to defend itself against military attacks. And there are many Jews in these countries as well as in Israel itself, who see Israel as largely to blame for the conflict with the Arabs. And of course, a major criticism is Israel’s occupation of Judea and Samaria and settlement construction.
What is largely ignored or downplayed by the leaders and people of the world and the media, is the multitude of infractions inflicted upon the Jews of Israel by the neighboring peoples. Over ninety years of unrelenting enmity and enormous efforts, to physically destroy Israel, using military invasions and terror, backed by commercial and academic boycott as well as the cynical manipulation of the United Nations.
Also ignored or downplayed are the incredibly disproportionate statistics. The Arabs outnumber the Jews of Israel by over 50 to one. They are backed by another billion Muslims. They have most of the world’s oil reserves. They have the second largest land-mass in the world, larger than the USA, Canada or Australia. On the other hand Israel, one of the smallest countries in the world, has needed to defend itself in half-a-dozen full-scale wars – all of them with the express purpose of either immediately or incrementally, destroying Israel. One would think that this enormous disparity would arouse some appreciation among the nations of the world and the general media regarding Israel’s desperate struggle to survive.
But no, it is Israel that is castigated, condemned, boycotted – not just by its sworn enemies, but by governments, trade unions, church organizations, municipalities, even highly educated, cultured folks at universities in North America, Europe and Britain, with seldom a word of disapproval towards those seeking the destruction of Israel.
Might all this be a case of double standards and bias? Well, when one also considers that seldom throughout history, or quite probably never, has a country been called upon by the nations of the world to return territories that it conquered in wars of defense, as is the case with Israel, it’s hard not to see bias. And in order to try and make peace with the Arab world, Israel has repeatedly ceded lands it conquered in these wars of defense … and yet with every concession that Israel has made, certainly in the last two decades, the enmity of Israel’s adversaries has kept growing, and peace has become less likely than ever before.
So it seems very clear that bias and double standards have blocked common sense and common decency on the part of many people all over the world. Ordinary people and their leaders and the opinion-makers in the media. But why is this? It’s a big subject, and it can’t fit in the scope of this talk. But briefly, let’s say that the bias and double standards are largely due to the concern for regular oil supplies, international politics and commerce, vested interests in certain journalistic circles and intellectual liberalism that might have tripped over itself, and oh, something to do with feelings about those pesky Jews. But no matter what the reasons, bias and double standards pop up when facts are not faced honestly; when falsehood is propagated and honored. That in a nutshell is the big picture regarding the Israel-Arab conflict, which incidentally got started and is perpetuated, to a large extent through falsehood. And yes, also through an inordinate degree of ignorance.
This series of blogs has been about a most basic value – truthfulness. Something that is clearly not fully understood, appreciated or practised … possibly anywhere. In briefly bringing up the Israel-Arab conflict, I have tried to show the connection between falsehood and conflict. How falsehood can start conflict and perpetuate it and prevent its resolution.
And the terrible thing is that it is this same general inability to face facts honestly by so many people, regarding the Israel-Arab conflict, that is also preventing humanity as a whole from coping adequately with all the other serious, pressing existential threats and challenges to our planet that we had mentioned earlier.
Crucial insights in the way
we all lie
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of “How to Avoid Armageddon”
Order it through Amazon
We all hate it when people lie to us or aren’t absolutely honest. Isn’t that so? One reason for our resentment towards any kind of falsehood – in others – is that it indicates that we cannot trust or depend on this other person. In family and friends it hurts even more, because we sense that the trust we automatically felt because of our kinship or fraternal ties, has been betrayed and could even be the source of harm to us.
But I think that our aversion to falsehood is probably instinctive. It’s a universal sentiment, like the disgust caused by exposed feces. I’m sorry to draw this unpleasant comparison, but that’s how repugnant lying can be. I think that our disgust with exposed excrement stems, not only from the smell and the messiness, but also from our innate knowledge that uncovered, it can be a source of disease. The smell and appearance exude a warning – watch out this is dangerous for your health! And while lying might not reach our olfactory senses, and although most of us might not be sensitive to its perniciousness when we ourselves lie, we instinctively recognize that something stinks – figuratively – when we are lied to.
Now, to a large extent it is belief that determines our routines and attitudes. Regarding every-day issues, my beliefs are largely based on empirical experience. I’m not talking about religious belief now. I turn on a switch – like I’ve done countless times, and a light comes on, even though I might not know anything about electricity. And I reckon that I can get to my office by 9 o’clock in the morning if I get out of bed early enough so as to catch a bus at 8.20, because I have done this hundreds of times. I acknowledge, truthfully, that I need to be at the bus stop before 8:20, otherwise I might miss the bus and be late for work. My truthfulness to myself is based on an empirical premise. Now, if I lie to myself, suggesting that I can stay in bed a little longer in the morning and that it’s fine if I get to the bus stop a few minutes after 8:20, because of my untruthfulness to myself, I could end up losing my job.
This is a small, very mundane example of the importance of truthfulness on a personal level. Employed as an unbreakable principle for every aspect of our lives, as well as for society as a whole, the practice of truthfulness can give us far more control in our lives, bring us less frustration and stress, and fewer personal problems and invariably ensure more fulfillment. Indeed the practise of truthfulness on a large scale can redeem the world. I’ll talk briefly about this later.
Now, I like to believe that most people are pretty honest most of the time. Don’t you think so? That’s wishful thinking on my part? Maybe! Look, I’ll agree that most people might exaggerate a little from time to time. Yeah, we know that. But under normal circumstances most people will seldom knowingly tell an outright lie. Under normal circumstances. But there are times when the large majority of ordinary folks … might twist the truth a little! For instance, as drivers, if caught not heeding a stop sign, many folks will swear to the policeman that they did indeed stop at the stop sign. Or when criticized or scolded for something, many people often lie about what they did or didn’t do or what they heard or didn’t hear or what they thought they understood.
How often have we ourselves given some kind of cockamamie excuse for coming late to an appointment or for not keeping a promise? I’m not talking about telling a little white lie so as to spare the feelings of someone. No, I’m talking about not being truthful, in order to impress someone, or to get out of an embarrassing or costly situation – and not even realizing that we were lying.
The thing is that if we … occasionally twist the truth a bit, and even though usually, very little harm might be done directly, fibbing can become a habitual thing. And if we fib about small things we’ll most likely have little problem lying about more serious things. And in any human framework, no matter how large or small, whether it’s a family or a factory or a large company, when the level of truthfulness is kind of shaky, and if there’s more than just a little deceit and lying, then trust and harmony will be undermined, and the prospects of success in whatever is being done, will be diminished.
I reckon that many of you know all this from personal experience. As for myself, I am standing here this evening presuming to know what I’m talking about because of my own personal experience, which includes being both a purveyor of untruthfulness, a lightweight purveyor if you please, and a recipient or target. I admit that in the past I have indulged in a lot of exaggeration; I have fibbed and lied – for many reasons; I have tried to impress people, especially womenfolk, with fib and fantasy – on a scale that makes me embarrassed when I think of it. But today, I think I’m more honest and truthful than I used to be because I realize more fully than ever before the paramount importance of truthfulness. And yet, sometimes, even now I still catch myself about to regurgitate one of my old fibs or even tell a lie. But I usually catch myself in time. At least I hope so. It’s an ongoing challenge to be a fully truthful person.
However, there are great dividends to truthfulness. In itself, being an honest person can have its rewards in the form of self-esteem. Why not? As long as we don’t become self-righteous prigs. And we’ll earn the respect of our friends, neighbors, work associates and family. Also, a spirit of truthfulness in whatever we do, is likely to have positive results. We might not make a lot of money all at once, but in the long run whatever we do will have a better chance of turning out fine.
And there’s a good reason for this. Firstly, we won’t be so prone to kidding ourselves about the prospects of whatever it is that we want to do, or our own ability, or what is needed; we won’t be kidding ourselves about the budget needed, or the risks involved, and a whole lot of other details and issues. For instance, we might have our hearts set on buying a new car or a house with a garden, or opening a business or expanding our business. And it’s wonderful to have aims, ambitions and dreams, and to try and make them come true. But if we’re not completely honest with ourselves about all the details and issues, then instead of a dream coming true, we might find ourselves in a nightmare.
To make the best possible decisions, whenever there is some kind of dilemma, or an ambitious project, what we can do is take all the facts and factors, see them as objectively and honestly as possible. Then, if we have a problem deciding what to do, we can use the old system of making two columns – pro and con. Then give each item a rating according to the scale of likelihood – ranging from definite, probable, possible, unlikely to absolutely no chance. Add to this equation personal feelings about the issue. What does our heart say? Try to assess how much weight this aspect carries in our ultimate decision. Then, even after coming to a final conclusion, it might be helpful to mull over the question for a little while longer – if the issue is not too urgent. Then we will probably have made the best possible decision. And it will have been personal honestly and truthfulness that enabled us to do so.
Truthfulness, integrity, honesty – these are serious principles. But please bear in mind that abiding faithfully to these principles, doesn’t mean that we have to constantly be absolutely objective about everything; it doesn’t mean that we have to be unmitigatedly cautious all the time, or unimaginative, humorless, inflexible and puritanical. We can still be our true selves. We can still joke if that’s what we like doing, or smile and laugh if we feel that way. We can even tell tall tales – as long people can understand that our stories are not meant to be taken literally, but just for the purpose of amusing others.
By the way, truthfulness won’t solve all our problems, especially if there are serious, incurable illnesses involved, or if we have unsolvable problems with crazy neighbors, or very rebellious children, or a nasty spouse, or overwhelming financial woes. Although truthfulness might help us reconcile ourselves to a difficult situation, or keep us from making things worse, and yes, maybe even find the best way out of our problems. And we might even be able to convey to any adversary of ours, the fact that being straight with each other might help us resolve our differences.
There is an important additional aspect involved in the practise of truthfulness. It has to do with the way we speak. In any discussion or argument, if we shout, we might be heard, but we won’t be heeded. It’s usually best to talk quietly, calmly and politely. If you need to raise your voice to be heard, then raise your voice until you are being listened to, and then revert to a less confrontational tone. By continuing in this way, it is likely that we will be responded to in a similar tone. A modulated decibel level is invariably more conducive to honest discourse. I bet that for many folks this would be a new approach, uh?
Based on one of the most
important talks you’ll
By RALPH DOBRIN
Author of How to Avoid Armageddon
Available through Amazon
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you for coming to listen to me.
How to avoid problems and how you can solve problems when they arise … and how to save the world! Yeah, yeah! This might all sound very presumptuous. But in the course of this talk, you’re going to get answers. Answers that deep down you probably already know. But they’ve simply been buried, forgotten, ignored … and need to be brought to light. And by the time this talk is over everyone here this evening will have the key to bettering our lives … and the world, for that matter.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, let’s take an example from real life. I’ve changed the details a little to avoid any embarrassing identification. Anyway, a woman applies for a job as the assistant manager of a small, family-owned hotel in a seaside resort. The owner needs an assistant manager because his wife, who used to help him run the hotel, has become chronically ill. The woman who has come for a job interview is very pleasant, youngish, nice-looking, well groomed. She tells the hotel owner that she had been assistant manager at a five-star hotel in the French Riviera. Wow! The owner asks the woman a few questions about the name of the hotel where she had worked, the number of rooms, size of staff, prices and the exact nature of her duties. But some of the woman’s answers just don’t make sense. She’s vague about the duties. Also, while the staff ratio in his hotel is one worker for every six guests, she stammered a ratio of one to twelve, which seems very unlikely for a five-star hotel anywhere. Also, she has no diplomas or degrees in book-keeping or accountancy, hotel administration or any kind of management; not even cooking. And she has no letters of recommendation. He’s about to say he’s sorry but he can’t hire her, but she cuts him short and says, “I always give 150% of myself wherever I work. And I learn very quickly. I will be an asset to your hotel.” She says this with a smile that looks sincere and full of respect and compassion. Boom – all the owner’s experience and common sense is dulled and he ignores all his well-founded doubts about her and takes her on as his assistant manager.
Well very soon it turns out to be a disaster. After four days, there aren’t enough supplies to prepare meals; not enough linen to make the beds, kitchen and dining room staff are very unhappy with her bossiness and her obvious incompetence. And never have there been so many complaints from the guests. Before the week is over, she is looking for another job and the hotel owner still needs an assistant manager.
Now in this story we have examples of different forms of lying. Firstly there was the woman’s false claim about having been the assistant manager in a five-star hotel. And such lies are usually exposed sooner or later. And that results in a loss of credibility, frustration, unpleasantness and eventually total rejection. The other example of lying in this story is the wishful thinking of the hotel owner. The woman who applied for a job was so pleasant that he lied to himself about her suitability and in hiring her, he lowered the standard and reputation of his hotel and needed to deal with dissatisfied guests.
And here in a nutshell, is the answer to our question – how to avoid and overcome our problems. Don’t lie to others! Don’t lie to yourself! And another pointer that would have helped the hotel owner: don’t be taken in by another person’s dubious statements. Especially when what is said is clearly unlikely.
The keyword is truthfulness. Being truthful in our dealings with others and being truthful to ourselves. And also being alert to untruthfulness in others. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the answer to our question – how to overcome our problems. Okay, so, we have finished our talk … yeah, we’ve finished. And we can all go home now. Or if you like we can have a party.
But wait a minute – before we all rush out of here or get ready to do a hora, or salsa or a waltz, we need to know that there’s a lot more to the concept of truthfulness. It’s actually a fairly big subject. And we need to acknowledge that just about everyone, from time to time does indulge in some form of untruthfulness.
You see, apart … from always telling the truth in the sense of being honest about what we’re saying, truthfulness also means not expressing half-truths or indulging in selective omission. For instance, let’s say that I’m going to sell my car to someone. The car had a tune-up a few days ago and seems to be running just fine. But the garage mechanic had told me that the transmission is badly worn-out and might break down at any moment. Now, if tell the prospective buyer that my car is in excellent working order, that might be part of the truth at this moment. But by not mentioning the worn-out gear box, I am indulging in a half-truth. True, the buyer could have the car checked by a garage before he buys, but I’m still being devious by not telling the whole truth up front. And what if the buyer feels that I have the kind of face that he can trust, and that he doesn’t need to have the car tested by an authorized garage? So, okay, I’ll make some money by selling a car that might break down at any moment. I’m making money. That’s what counts, no? Yeah, but I will have compromised on my integrity.
A lot of people might not think that’s not important – when making money is concerned. But, I might also have stirred up a hornet’s nest in the form of a very angry buyer, and I might find myself needing to spend a lot of money on legal fees and time in unpleasant court hearings. All unnecessary had I simply told the truth. I could have sold the car eventually, but at a lower price or paid to have the transmission repaired and then sold the car at its market value. The point is that by indulging in half-truth, I was not being truthful and I opened myself up to the possibility of some time-consuming trouble. Who needs it? Also, I had behaved unethically and dishonorably. In fact I had become a bit of a scumbag.
There are other ways that we lie. For instance we often lie to ourselves. One way is through wishful thinking. Like if I have toothache and I tell myself that the pain will pass and my teeth will be okay. I don’t need to go to a dentist. Now, that’s wishful thinking! And what an expensive, painful form of lying to myself this has been for me over the years!
Another way that we lie to ourselves is when we cling rigidly to old ways and ideas, no matter what happens or what new information emerges. Many folks automatically block themselves off to anything that might not tally with their perception of things … it’s called denial. These are tendencies that can lead to families breaking up; businesses crash; people get unnecessarily sick because they rejected advice on healthy living, or ignored bodily danger signs and left medical attention too late. On a larger scale, national economies have spiraled out of control; governments have fallen; there have been terrible wars because of the stubbornness of people in charge, who refused to even listen to any new ideas and developments. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every old idea or way is necessarily faulty and must be changed. Of course not. But whenever we automatically close ourselves off to anything new or different, or anything that doesn’t exactly tally with our current perception, we should check to see whether we are really facing facts with complete honesty. Because the consequences of not doing so, can be pretty grim to say the least.
Being truthful also means refraining from saying things that we are not absolutely sure of, and if we do say or claim things that we are not quite sure of, we should make it clear that we either heard or read such and such, or that in our opinion, maybe such and such is the case. There are factual issues and there are value judgments.
Many years ago a controversial issue was the fluoridation of water. Do you remember? It had to do with prevention of tooth decay in younger people. I had read a few articles in health magazines that claimed that the serious dangers to general health caused by fluoridation of water far outweighed any possible dental benefits. So I became a vociferous, really vociferous activist against fluoridation in Jerusalem’s water system. One day the head of the Government Health Ministry’s Dental Health Department, Dr Kelman, invited me to his office. After a short discussion with him it was obvious that I really didn’t know what I was talking about. While I was in his office, Dr. Kelman said that he had a large collection of books and scientific papers on the subject – for and against fluoridation, and he invited me to read the material. And ask questions. Well, I did just that. For about two or three weeks I sat in a room next to his office and tried to study the material on fluoridation. I had majored in science studies at high school, but it wasn’t nearly enough to enable me to fully understand the issues involved. But I quickly concluded that I couldn’t know really determine that fluoridation was hazardous to health. Although from all my reading, I did get the feeling that the miniscule quantities of fluoride added to the municipality’s water system, posed no danger to general public health. I couldn’t say for sure. But I did come to a personal conclusion, weighing the pros and cons according to a scale of likelihood ranging from probable, to possible, to unlikely and surely not, that my opposition to fluoridation was unjustified.
Incidentally, two areas that open us to untruths are gossip and generalizations. About gossip, it’s not for me to say that we shouldn’t gossip. After all, everyone loves gossip. No? And most of us indulge in it. However, this talk is about truthfulness, and gossip can very easily stray into the realm of unfounded fabrication. And that is something wrongful. Especially if it’s malicious.
Another area that can lead us away from truthfulness is when we generalize about something. Like saying that “all politicians are liars and cheats.” Oh yes? You know all the politicians? Some of them might be liars. Indeed, quite a few have been proven to be liars and cheats in a court of law as well as by their statements and actions over the years. But that doesn’t mean that all politicians are liars and cheats. And if we say that all politicians are liars, that possibly makes us liars ourselves.
Truthfulness also means being able to admit when I am wrong. No matter what the issue, If I suddenly realize that I had indeed, done something wrong, or said something I shouldn’t have said, or made any kind of mistake – if there is a discussion on it, I should be able to admit: “Yes, I was wrong!”
Now, as we indicated earlier, truthfulness should be complemented by yet another important aspect and that is how we receive … how we choose to understand … what others say. We need the ability to sense in others, whether what they are saying is factually valid, or maybe questionable, or unlikely or downright false. We should be able to consider the credibility of things even when what is said or claimed, might initially appeal to our political, religious or ideological sentiments. We should always be able to sense when something might seem glib, or contrived or just doesn’t make sense, and we should have the ability and the integrity to question or reject it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s our best friend, favorite singer or politician, or our parents.
Although if we do catch our parents not telling the truth, we should temper our reactions to them with due consideration. Like: I’m sorry to ask, Dad, but are you sure that what you’re saying is really so? Actually this is a good response in most cases when we feel someone is lying to us. Because when we blatantly or indignantly challenge someone’s honesty, they will probably become very defensive and reject our question and paradoxically, even see us as being in the wrong for daring to question them. And if that happens we will have lost an opportunity to set the record straight and in fact, lost the opportunity to plant the seed of the importance of truthfulness in the other person’s mind.
Incidentally, when we speak about truthfulness, we’re not necessarily talking about “truth,” which while connected, is not quite the same as truthfulness and we don’t have to go into any abstruse philosophical theories about the full meaning of the word “truth” – which granted can be a fascinating subject, if one has the time and inclination. But I do want to say that the often repeated phrase that everyone has his own truth, actually mangles the meaning of the word “truth”. What everyone has in actual fact, is his or her own notion of what one might think is the truth about something, but that notion, all too often lacks pertinent facts and might include half-truths and quite a bit of wishful thinking. And no matter how deeply felt, it is often – not always, but often – just a notion. Not necessarily the truth.
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