Submitted by Charles Knighton
When Epicurus wrote “Any philosopher’s argument which does not therapeutically treat human suffering is worthless” he showed, like Sir Roy Trotman, that even the very wise sometimes say foolish things. The purpose of all serious intellectual inquiry is surely to enable us to see things more truthfully, whether that soothes or disturbs us. As unfortunate as Sir Roy’s comments were however, according to some they provide another opportunity for Barbados to intelligently discuss the subject of race and truthfully deal with an issue that erupts geyser-like from time to time, occasioning brief comment before subsiding once again to simmer just below the surface.
But why place such a high value on truth? For sure, sometimes the truth might set you free, but on other occasions it might destroy you, shattering comforting illusions that make life tolerable. As T.S. Eliot memorably put it: “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
To justify the value of truth all you can do is make people attend to the role it plays in their lives and see if they can recognize how much it really matters to them. Just think about anything that you truly value, such as the love of your partner. Now ask yourself whether it would make a difference to you if your partner only pretended to requite your love and really lived a double life. Would you want to know the truth or would you rather live on in blissful ignorance? The answer is usually “it depends”, but most people, most of the time, would rather live honestly, authentically, in the truth than not.
Why is it then that when uncomfortable truths threaten to emerge, our instinct is usually to avert our gaze or move away so that we don’t see them? As Plato’s Socrates put it, we are ruled by two drives, one being an “innate desire of pleasure” and the other “an acquired judgement which aspires after excellence”. There is no law of the universe that states whether the desires of instinct or intellect should prevail. But if you think about it, I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the truth about which one you believe should win the tussle, but is Barbados ready?