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Searching for Truth

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2001 by RDFollendoreIII

June 29, 2001

I suppose I must be a natural Scientist and Academic because I almost always feel good when I am searching for the truth.  Maybe it is for that reason that I personally don't like to lie.  Maybe it is because I was taught as a child of the 50's to equate the truth with honesty.  I like to think I am a person that happens to like the truth.  In fact I like the truth so much I have a compulsion to tell it.  The trouble is that I have "honestly" come to the conclusion that this may be one of my greatest character flaws, of which my wife and daughter can often be quite willing on any given day to name in order of priority.  But recently it seems that I made a huge mistake a few months ago by telling the truth.  In fact I told everyone I was working with the truth all at once.  I did this not just once but twice on two different occasions, so you could say that I made the same huge mistake twice.   While it turned out that truth wasn't all that important, the outcome sure fired was, ...so it got me to thinking about the nature of truth, and what truthfulness actually means. It was through these mistakes that I discovered various things that I would now like to more or less truthfully communicate to you.    

It seems to me that within our society, people don't really want to dwell much on the truth.  I read that thought recently in a book and it seems that point is particularly true and poignant with respect to this subject.  Your Mother never seemed to listen to your excuses when you stayed out too late because your friends didn't want to leave earlier.  Courts don't seem seek truth as much as justice and Superman probably didn't care much about some bad guys excuses of a poor childhood.  

Managers don't like to hear the truth because it will probably be bad news.  Everyone knows that managers tend to hurt people that bring them bad news.  Partners don't like truth either.  Partners like to think everything is great all of the time.  So do Directors on Corporations.  Perhaps they all like to feel like they are partners with people at least as good or better than them, not people who can make mistakes like them. They certainly don't like to hear the truth about themselves and to be perfectly truthful they don't much like to talk truthfully about others either. The scale of the group of people does not seem to make much difference.

For instance, I think that our United States Government is a good thing but that does not mean it would necessarily know truth.  I suppose I should feel strange that I do not regret having contributed to the welfare of our Country by participating in it but I don't.  All large corporations and organizations don't take kindly to truthfulness either but they do it in a kind of  institutional way.  You never hear some big supervisor say that he or she got to where they are by telling the truth.  

The Federal Government is exactly the same way about this, so perhaps this thing about denying truth is not just about me, or people, but also about institutions of power and authority.  During my career I worked in several huge organizations of Government and my findings about the truthfulness within those organizations seems clear.

I found that in many ways the CIA did not appreciate truthfulness, even though they insisted on putting people through lie detector tests to make them tell the truth about themselves and their lifestyles.  Lots of time it appeared to me that they would simply like me to know that they would know if you didn't know they knew I knew the truth... but the truth is that kind of truth is too confusing and gave me a big headache.  It was just easier to tell the truth and in the end they probably made it that way for that reason.  So I really can't say that they don't always like truthfulness, because that would not be the truth either.  On the other hand, it is common knowledge that the CIA certainly wants the truth far better packaged than most other organizations.  They want to hear and tell the truth, when, where and how they want it.  

Like all "intelligence" organizations supporting powerful leaders CIA wants to manage knowledge and perhaps out of the best of intentions bend the ideal of truth of knowledge for the greater good.  For this sometimes they might want strange containers of ideal truth, as though ideal truth could possibly be contained or managed or bent.  But bent truth is ultimately broken truth so the truth is hard to say.  Of course there are times secretive organizations really don't want the truth to exist at all.  All I know is that employees in such organizations can get into just as much trouble telling the truth as not.  It all depends on where, when, how and to whom you speak the truth.  It is also hard to know who is to have the privilege to tell what truth.  They were quite clear about that.  After indoctrination about the enemy some people had trouble truthfully telling others who they could say they were and that is the truth. 

The U.S. Army certainly does not like truthfulness either and for very similar reasons.  The military, particularly the Army is capable of telling the enemy or friends a lie or the truth when it is important for it to do so.  The U.S. Army is as sophisticated about handling the truth internally as well.  Generals certainly can't get to their positions of absolute power, which may be in their minds to do absolute good, by telling the absolute truth all of the time.  This is sometimes what some feel honor boils down to.  They are the ones willing and duty bound to sacrifice truth at the drop of a hat for the greater good that will come from their careers for their country.  Maybe they are right maybe not, but an awful lot of brave and good soldiers sacrifice their careers and lives in the name of  truth.  I suppose that is the reason you have to believe your career was ordained by heaven and God to be a General as well as a fundamental part of the reasons why I never could be one.  

I have to admit that it takes a far stronger leader than me to recognize that higher institutional careers are founded on organized deceit for the greater good and then take command of that.  At least for me the concept of becoming a powerful General is about as alien as the concept of becoming a successful Physician or a Priest or even a Mailman.  The truth is that these might sound like a great jobs but within each, part of the work is just not all that pleasant, or absolutely sincere and when it could possibly be an absolute, the truth is it probably shouldn't be because of the nature of the profession.  Physicians give placebos, Priests must show compassion in the name of God, and the Mailman must deliver third class junk mail to everyone.  In every job truth and trust are so intimately related that it is often difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends.  In work ethic situations being absolutely true to ones self or to absolutely true to others could easily ruin some precious sense of professional dignity which is absolutely necessary for trust and therefore there exists many different possible kinds of potentially competitive truths, particularly within bureaucratic organizations.       

So big governmental organizations may simply be strong enough to simply ignore the truths they don't like or perhaps they feel powerful enough to create the truth when they want it. The IRS doesn't like bad news so I guess they really don't like people to be completely truthful either.  Maybe they seem like they just say they do like truth and then hurt you when you try to tell it.  In that way the IRS is more human that we thought, just like other people and organizations.  Have you ever found anyone that felt like they were telling the truth on their income taxes? I have not. I noticed when I talk with my friends, everyone I know who fills out an IRS form feels like they are lying.  Maybe it is because the forms are so complicated that we never know we are telling the truth because we never really understand the formulas.  

Computers are a good thing and help you out there because they fill out some of the forms for you so you don't feel like you are lying so much.   Maybe that is one good thing about computers that is unspoken.  I think a lot of people like that about computers.  They tend to protect you from feeling so weak and guilty when you are trying to tell the truth.  

I suppose in this regard being married is like working within the Intelligence Community for the CIA, being an Officer in the United States Army or filling out a form for the  IRS.  One of the first things that any successful  husband learns is not to truthfully answer open ended questions like, "Does this dress make my butt look too big?" or "Do you think I am getting fat?", "Did you think that other woman was prettier than me?".  The correct answer is not, "Just a little." or "Everyone is like that." or even "What makes you think that?."  The correct answer of course is: "Of course not." This form of "artful dodge" of the truth is essentially what professionals in the Government might call a "plausible denial".  Lawyers like to call it a categorical response. I suppose it is easier to lie when you call it that because afterwards you tend to feel better about lying about it in the future.  You know you are on the road to becoming an adult when you suddenly discover that human beings can lie for good and honest reasons and tell the truth for bad and deceptive reasons.  For adults in sophisticated cultures lying is not necessarily not about telling the truth, but there should be no doubt that one would know their soul is completely corroded when they can lie and feel absolutely nothing as at that moment they know for certain they do not believe in truth.      

I once worked in a company that I trusted and with a colleague that I trusted, until the day that he told me that for him there is no such thing as a lie.  I knew at that moment he was telling the truth and in fact I found out later that he was. That was the same day that I decided to quit working in that company, and with him and I have always been glad that I did.  Maybe telling the truth is a personal flaw but absolutely nothing scares me more than a person that does not believe in the concept of truth.   




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved