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Truth vs. lies

Truth vs Lies

It might be fabricated, but a story I heard years ago was that Bill Cosby warned a young Oprah Winfrey, to “always balance your own check book.” In other words, he cautioned her to trust only herself, and not any paid employee, with that simple task.

Another piece of advice for the up-and-coming, who are now, after years of struggle, experiencing some success, “Do not believe your own press reports.” In other words, no matter how wonderful and great the journalists and reporters say you are, keep in reserve some small measure of humility.

That virtue of humility is defined as that “state of mind where we see everyone else just as valuable as every other human being on the planet, including ourselves.”

Humility begins with recognizing truth; meaning, not believing all we are told, but reining in our judgments before we leap to premature or faulty conclusions.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates revealed no clear definition of truth. He only believed in questioning all ideas that others claimed were true. He frustrated people with his constant questions: Is that true? Why do you think that? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Where is your evidence?

After all, assertion is not evidence. Where are the corroborating documents, photos, and testimonies that substantiate what he or she is saying is true?

Yes, there are various interpretations of truth. Eye-witnesses stand in various positions and see events unfolding that others cannot see. There are shades of distinction that can blur people’s vision. What we see and hear may not be correct. What others report to us may not be accurate.

Who do you believe? Who do you trust?

When government officials, in any country, spread lies or fabricate stories, that is “propaganda.” Here are three examples of propaganda.

“The lying backfired on Putin when his advisors ‘believed their own propaganda,’ and assured the Russian leader that the war would be over in three days, and the locals would greet the Russians with flowers, like liberators.”

“Putin’s advisors ‘are now afraid to tell him the truth’ about Russia’s rapidly faltering campaign in Ukraine.” “Putin is now turning on his own spy chiefs and military advisors, as the invasion fails.”

Putin may have believed his advisors, who may have failed to tell him the whole truth.

The Washington Post columnist George Will said recently, “The rhetoric of imagined but rarely attained precision is common in modern governance.” Indeed, it is doubly difficult to achieve a successful outcome when lies are laid one on top of another, when graft and corruption run wild.

Putin convinced the Russian people that the Russian army would save Ukrainians from Nazi’s. “He sent Russian conscripts to ‘fight Nazi’s.’ They are there to ‘denazify’ Ukraine and save its Russian-speaking people from ‘genocide.’”

This was less than the truth.

Yet, his words touched a raw nerve, that of the Russian people’s ugly memories of the twentieth-century, when Germany’s Nazi army invaded eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and ended the lives of millions of Russians and Ukrainians. It is now Putin’s excuse, used to justify his invasion.

One statistic sticks out. One out of every four of the six million Jews, who were murdered during the Holocaust, across Europe, lived in Ukraine. No gas chambers there, just bullets and mass graves.

The thing is, the forty-four-year old Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s sixth president, grew up speaking Russian, and is of Jewish heritage.

It was the Nazi’s who murdered his great-grandfather by setting on fire an entire village. Zelenskyy displays very little, if any, love for Nazi’s, but lots of suspicion for the Russian government now.

Who do you and I trust to tell us the truth about this war? The Russians? The Ukrainians? The western media? U.S. government officials? Eye witnesses? Photographs that we have seen? Have you or I arrived at a less-than-accurate conclusion? Whose reporting do we choose to believe as true?

One remembers that in Putin’s former life, he was a spy, a counteragent working for the Soviet Union in Germany, an individual trained to tell lies, to make promises that are never kept, to move people around as if chess pieces, to manipulate, to push here and pull there, to feint left and move right.

Practitioners of espionage soon learn to toss aside the last shreds of humility, to trust no one, to balance their own checkbook, to prepare and eat their own food, to head-fake everybody.

One has to wonder though, how does Putin intend to end this ruinous invasion of Ukraine? I say, he could start with speaking the truth. Amazing things happen when a person tells the truth.