Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Truth first, Race second

For a start, what is truth? A brief research led me to no answers. For centuries, scholars and philosophers cannot agree to the definition of truth. But some of the variations are subjective, relative, objective or absolute.

I prefer to see truth ultimately as absolute, anything else is a variation and should therefore have a warning.
Why do I speak of truth? No, I am not a christian fundamentalist proclaiming the truth the way and the light. (although not entirely a bad idea)

I just came to a realization of my own culture's obsession with truth, even when it obviously hasn't worked very well for them.

My tribe is one of about 50 in a small East African country and is stereotyped as valuing truth even if this means hindering their own progress (especially in politics).

Mine is an immigrant group that has been in the region for less than 3 centuries. This tradition was further strengthened by the coming of Christianity mainly Catholicism whose ideology was very compatible with the local beliefs.

A dishonest person is castigated and marked as evil and known to all and despised. This person could be what in America would be termed as an industrious or shrewd business person. These are qualities that are traditionally frowned upon. As the overall economy grows people not fitting the mold tend to integrate into the bigger tribes were the 'behavior' is not a problem and is indeed progressive. But among traditionalists this truth virtue is still exercised.

A part of me still looks to this ideal, although of late I call myself a realist, but the search for truth never ends.
In the West, truth is the domain of empirical scientists ( who too BTW are corrupted by prejudicial forces). All other areas have their own variations of truth. To follow my traditional ideal here is tantamount to being suicidal.

Which brings me to many IR discussions I have been involved for the past few months. In America, race rules. Any opinions one forms or shares are highly influenced by one's racial make up consciously or subconsciously which dictates one's life experience.

So as a truth seeker whose life experience has not been shaped by my racial make up, I am not popular to those whose life has been formed by their racial make up and this is a potential source of great conflict. When I get into a discussion or debate, I am first and foremost interested in the issues being communicated, not the race from which they come. And then my process of analysis starts from there. Race is an issue when the issue is about race or is obviously being biased by the speaker's racial makeup.

I have had many subtle or not subtle accusations of being a 'cooer' and defender of WM. And lacking full knowledge of AA issues and therefore ought not to comment on them.

However if you asked the same WM they will tell you how unforgiving some of my criticisms of them are. Some will even call me a racist. So in this game, one can't win. I like to see things in their realistic even brutal state regardless of what my own race will think of me.

I prefer to call myself an equal opportunity critic and have successfully clashed with people of all races and backgrounds even with my fellow Africans and wouldn't hesitate for a second to clash with a tribes mate (this BTW is considered honorable as long as truth is adhered to).
Unfortunately for those whose life experience is different, such disagreements are perceived as an attack on their person or race. Will I stop disagreeing to appease? Now that's not possible. Its cowardice, which is a seriously despised attribute again in my culture. A coward is referred to as "nothing". You don't stab someone in the back, you do it through the front.

Does that mean I am not loyal to my race? Hardly! Truth first, then race second.