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The falsehood about truth

Updated Jul 06, 2013 02:52pm


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enter image description hereNearly universally, “truth” is rated a perfect 10 among the moral values. The scriptures exhort us to always speak the truth, so does the Maulvi from the pulpit, so do our parents, and so do we – when we become parents, and so on and so on.

I say this notion is a total falsehood.

I can right away see SuoMoto action against me for attempting to corrupt the good folks that read Add to that a telephone call from Mr. Mohsinullah Mohsin that a bomb-laden motorcycle is on its way to a place near me. Goodbye dear world.

My position is that falsehood – more commonly known as lies, is the true foundation of an organised, civilised and humane society.

My first example is from the world of love and marriage. A pretty girl knows this wonderful man, who has many positives; decency, a good job, coming from a respectable family etc. etc. The only issue is that the man won a third prize in a beauty competition that had only two contestants, including him.

The man loves our pretty lady in question and asks her hand in marriage. The only reason for the lady not wanting the man as her husband is his challenged looks. She refuses politely. The miserable man asks her, “My fair lady, for what reason do you reject me?”

I now pose the question to the Truth brigade: what should be the lady’s answer?

Should she tell him the truth that he failed in the looks department, or cook up a lie about being un-decided or not being ready for marriage? I guess most of you decent folks will say that she should not tell him that he is butt ugly, since that is not a nice thing at all to say to an otherwise decent fellow. Thus, being humane is the criteria here and not the primacy of truth. Falsehood triumphs!

Second example: You work in an office and hate the guts of your boss but you need to stay employed. During the annual evaluation you are asked to rate your boss. The truth is that you want to spit in his face and kick him in his gut, but you say that he is the next best thing to mango ice cream. You keep your job, your family is happy, the boss is happy. Falsehood saves the day for everyone!

You ask your wife, “Do you love me darling?” Given that most marriages are not really about love but about sensible choices, she is quite likely to say in her mind, “No darling, it is the house and the car that I really love”. But what comes out of her mouth? “Of course, I love you!” She in turn asks the same question of you. If what you really feel is that you hate her, would you risk saying that and upset the whole marital apple cart in a second and face the mess that comes with it?

Truth be told, any so called civilised / organised society cannot afford to entertain much truth. The whole fabric of the society will be torn in a day if a “Speak the Truth” day is observed: most marriages will end up in divorce, half the employees fired, the policemen will shoot the horrid guys they are supposed to protect, a certain retired General bombard the Chief Justice with the choicest of invectives, Pakistan’s relations with friendly nations breaking as the friendly nation’s President says in his welcome speech what he really thinks of our exalted Head of the State, etc.

Finally, when I send this to, and the editor finds it the vilest piece of writing ever to arrive on her desk. She will send me a polite note saying something about too many other things in the queue etc. because, in general, she likes my blogs. When I receive the reply, I will curse the editor for her lack of appreciation for my masterpiece, but will send her an equally polite note saying that I understand, and that I hope the next one will be published.

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Vaqar Ahmed is an engineer turned part-time journalist who likes to hang out at unfashionable places like shrines, railway stations and bus stops.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (47) Closed

Namelus Jun 15, 2013 03:43pm

I guess, this evil prevails in our society only. You would rarely find such cases in west where you would confront compulsive and adaptive liars. Either they are too dum to speak lie and protect their jobs or family life or maybe they have adopted our values and ethics.

The Truth Jun 15, 2013 03:50pm

You're an excellent writer ;)

anon Jun 15, 2013 04:02pm

sometimes lying becomes the necessary evil

Tahir M Jun 15, 2013 04:38pm

A nice and gentle read on a Saturday morning.

On my last job assignment, I had a "meets the expectation" yearly review to my credit. Mind you at 60+ I wasn't expecting anything better, but then I thought I would return the same about my boss too. And lo behold, I have been out of work since then. The company thinks I am a trouble maker since a lot of repair and paper work was required to resurrect my boss's name in the good books again.

i am not too surprised about editor's attitude but then she might be having a soft corner for the likes of NFP. By the way whatever, happened to our dear friend Mobarak Haider? Has he got himself still bogged down too in the humongous electronic traffic jam in reaching the editor? He wrote some of the most "truthful" articles in the recent past.

By the way, not everything butt-related is ugly. Ask Jo Lopez. Her's are insured for more than a million bucks.

Pakorachai Jun 15, 2013 05:12pm

There is no need to lie. As the saying goes....whenever in doubt, tell the truth. In case, if truth is going to hurt or is inhumane, it is better to stay quiet rather than to speak lie. Lying has got no justification under ANY circumstances, even if it is for the good. Because, in the long run lies spoken would come to back to haunt the people, as is happening to the Pakistani society today. Since 1947, the state has continued to lie, first, while trying to justify its raison-d'etre, and then to perpetuate the misrule of dictators.

Khanzada Jun 15, 2013 06:11pm

best column in Dawn, forever

Khanzada Jun 15, 2013 06:09pm

best column in Dawn, forever

Waqas Ahmed Jun 15, 2013 06:47pm

Dawn please i wasnt expecting this from you. Such a lame piece of writing. It's annoying and off track, even there wasnt any wit. You guys should be different from ET, they publish such crap. tsk tsk...

Agha Ata Jun 15, 2013 08:04pm

"Truth" is not always "right".

Parvez Hamid Jun 15, 2013 08:42pm

Great writing, Wicky. Of course, it's up to you how you take this complement :)

Parvez Hamid Jun 15, 2013 08:44pm

Great writing, Wicky. Of course, it's up to you how you take this complement :)

Deb; India Jun 15, 2013 08:57pm

As true as you can get. Excellent.

aaa Jun 15, 2013 09:06pm

Its not about speaking the truth but being true to yourself and your feeligs. If a woman cant handle your truth she is not worth you. If the boss only wishes flattering are you willing to flatter someoneelse for years ahead.
If one is able to stand up for himself one never comes up in such situatoins.

Crimson Jun 15, 2013 09:29pm

I quite disagree with the perspective presented in this blog. Truth as it remains a categorical imperative, is a truth no matter if the other person dislikes it, even if the other person is a prophet. If you tell your wife that you love her when you don't really love her, you rot dear sir. You should rather say something that does not deceit your wife and your owl soul.

Pinto Suma Jun 15, 2013 10:18pm

Dear Writer,

Here is what i call crux of your(everybody's) contention, truth is not truth unless it is good for individual and society at large. You gave simple examples and told big things. The same thins can be applied to well being of society is at large. The Lord Buddha has said unflinchingly that only right is the right which is good for you and society in general and that is the only truth.

Hassan Jun 16, 2013 12:38am

You remind of the villains in platonic dialogues, who would always argue for falsehood for the 'wisdom' it brings in worldly affairs, but always thrown flat by Socrates at the end !! Good try though..

IRS Jun 16, 2013 01:17am

If one analyses the concept of sin, it boils down to hurting another gratuitously, mentally or physically, by word or deed. in life, only constants are death and taxes--telling the truth does not figure among these two as an unavoidable reality. Even the muslim religion permits takfir in situations which could be harmful, enabling one to disassemble as required in order to achieve a greater good eventually. Where deflecting the truth is a kindness, and done sincerely with this objective, rather than from motives of self-interest, telling a lie is perfectly reasonable. The liar of course remains answerable to his own conscience.

Rajan Jun 16, 2013 08:18am

Truth cannot be told. We may know many truths but if every one start to shout all what they know, "The whole fabric of the society will be torn in a day". So I may not tell the truth all the time. But I can avoid telling lies.

umer Jun 16, 2013 08:32am

Your piece reminds me of 'Liar Liar', a 1997 comedy flick starring Jim Carrey as Fletcher Reede.

Irshad Noor Jun 16, 2013 11:37am

Truth can not exist if there are no lies. The examples given by the author are what can be called lies based on good intentions. By and large, civilized society deplores lies just as all the scriptures do. In fact, every religion has emphasized on controlling tongue and belt. As Khashwant Singh has aptly said " West has controlled its tongue but lost control of belt. We have controlled our belt but have let loos our tongue". So, telling lies with intention of saving someone from pain is OK but telling lies to protect one's own interests is not.

Rajan Jun 16, 2013 01:48pm

Truth cannot be always told. If everyone shouts what they know, the "whole fabric of the society will be torn in a day". So we may not tell all the truth we know. But can avoid telling lies.

siddiquebaig Jun 16, 2013 01:55pm

a wonderful article.

Awais Jun 16, 2013 02:26pm

Absolutely wrong! there are many ways to avert telling lie and the relation will be intact as well. In your first example lady can simply say that "Well i respect your feeling and emotions but i have another ideal in my mind". So it is not necessary that you always go with falsehood if your truth is causing pains for others. I personally think you have to be smart enough to play with words in such situations e.g if someone is very harsh. Instead of saying him that you are very harsh, you can say you are not very polite.

Maaz Jun 16, 2013 03:20pm


what an insightful article......!!!! Enjoyed reading...

Danish A. Jun 16, 2013 04:27pm

Truth be told, this was terrible.

arif faqir Jun 16, 2013 06:23pm

bravo! enjoyed reading. happy fathers day v. ahmed!

amalik Jun 16, 2013 06:55pm

Understood that NS Govt planning for PIA reorganiztion to turn it into profitable and sustainable pulicinstitution. Who so ever or any team who willbe busy on this matter ,please donot over look to stop free travelling of retired personnel of PIA that is taking away huge money from public.While travelling with PIA from Karachi toToronto, met many times ex PIA staff who are retiredmany many years and still tarvelling free along with family , even thier children are married ??? Shame on us having such bad arrangements ??

Please stop such free tarvelling forex staff to save money and alsoreduce the less motivated staff and workers if you really want to improve PIA iage and performance.

Aftab Ahmed Shah Jun 16, 2013 07:23pm

A total rubbish piece of writing. What the writer wants to prove that each and everyone wants to hear lies about every thing. This may be limited to the writer and the people like him.

Salem Jun 16, 2013 07:56pm

First of all there is no truth. So choosing truth over lie or lie over truth is not possible. Everything we know is a perspective. Your examples are valid within such a limited context, without actually questioning the assumptions. The only truth is the human condition, and that is that we are a animals who try to be civil in our broader self interest, either understanding the rational behind it or just following culture, religion or shared beliefs.

ibnarastoo Jun 17, 2013 12:54am

You are partially correct and your delivery was humorous though it comes across as immoral.

Truth is important but it must be delivered with love, in the best way possible. Delivering truth (which is bitter) in a sugar coated form is the arena of the arts. The arts camouflage the bitter truth with metaphor and allegory and fiction but eventually get the point across. You have used art (humor and anecdote and examples) to say that truth does not matter in a very artful way. You have perhaps imparted therefore an immoral lesson by exploiting your talents as a writer. Please be prudent and may God have mercy upon us and guide us rightly.

Riaz Ahmad Jun 17, 2013 02:46am

As the old saying goes; 'all is well that ends well'. A statement of truth bound to give cause to a negative outcome can morally be replaced by a harmless white lie to make it in to a positive outcome. Good or bad is decided by the quality of the result and not by the quality of its cause. Kindness is defined by the kind act and not by the quality of the kind man. If a wicked man performs an act of kindness, it remains a kind act despite the quality of wickedness attached to the man.

Tariq K Sami Jun 17, 2013 08:46am

There are noble lies and then there are vile lies.

vg Jun 17, 2013 10:22am

@Awais: Pl do not try to be super smart that we majority are not but simple humble people. And, your comment is not truthful either but just trying to show how smart you are. And, this is raw truth. Yes, he has taken simple examples of day to day people interaction where real truth is not a matter of life and death but a matter of cost benefit analysis of "Do I want to invite tornado?". Get real my friend and accommodative - this is polite truth.

vg Jun 17, 2013 10:29am

@Waqas Ahmed: I think it is one of the best and a MUST from DAWN. It shook you and forced you to look inside and into you yourself in your daily and life working. It is one the best way to let everyone take their own self ego centricity to their own life mirror to see real, true face, that society does not see but at times guess only.

Milind Jun 17, 2013 11:08am

The author's take on truth is interesting. At first glance looks agreeable... But think further deep... Can truth be avoided/suppressed? Would it no blow in the face at some point of time...

Your country's current plight is due to refusal to accept the truth by the masses, leaders, citizens.... Agreed making your husband accept the brutal truth may be hard, but helps in the long-term.

Net-net : The author's solution may work for the short-term and may be good for tactical reasons... but is definitely not useful for the long-term.

Salman Jun 17, 2013 01:10pm

Most people may hate, " the truth".... but " the truth", does not care ...

jamil Jun 17, 2013 01:30pm

This is call a spade a spade.

KKRoberts Jun 17, 2013 02:33pm

You must tell lies to escape persecution.It is intelligence.That is the truth.

Ijaz Jun 17, 2013 02:34pm

Bro, you suffer the same confusion about truth :)

Must be interested in reading and exploring, so here I suggest you one good read (and you may feel to re-write your article) Bertrand Russell - An Inquiry Into Meaning And Truth

Though, this read is at the same time an excellent and effective sleep pill as well ;)

marwa Jun 17, 2013 03:05pm

i think it was a wonderful article,it depends on the situation whether to lie or to say truth in some situation we say lie cause its matter of other person if he gets hurted or something but i prefer that try to say truth in every situation otherwise God knows better.................

Saleem Jun 17, 2013 06:16pm

So the notion the author is arguing about is that the "truth hurts". And hence, lying is encouraged.

When one lies, he opens the door to many more lies. If a husband doesn't love his wife (or vice versa) and they continue lying, will any of them be really satisfied with life? Isn't divorce the only option?

While I do agree that on some occasions a white lie really is necessary; however, these are very limited and more often than not, telling the truth leads to far more clarity in the situation. Even though the truth will hurt, but only then will we be able to accept it and move on.

Tipu Jun 17, 2013 07:17pm

Since most people do it, doesn't make it right. Instead of telling her suitor that he is uglier than the devil's dog, she could find a way to phrase it better. "You're not my type."

Sigh, if i had a penny for every time i've heard that!

Mir Ali Jun 17, 2013 08:33pm

I like your blog. I say this In keeping with the true foundation of an organised, civilized and humane society

Daniyal Jun 17, 2013 08:45pm

A recipe of doom in a long run, albeit there is nothing wrong in adopting it here and there in short run. If you know what I mean.

dhk Jun 17, 2013 11:18pm

What a conundrum! Should i believe your article as truth :) ?

vani Jun 18, 2013 02:22am

I found the Dawn newspaper very interesting where one can find many simple but important articles to share with others. Here after reading this article I would like to write the meaning of the word truth which was given by the realised persons of the past. Fact and truth are not the same. To describe an incident the same way it happened is called fact. But the meaning of the word truth is different. The proper use of thoughts and words for the wellbeing of others is called truth. Ex. A good person hide from criminals who are ready to kill the honest person. Now to protect his life from the criminals if one tell little lie and misdirect the criminals is not an lie at all but the truth. Protecting a life of a good person is more important then to tell so-called truth. Moral and spiritual points of view Truth is much more important then the Fact and has deeper implications in social life.

Sheetal Jun 18, 2013 06:39am

Vaqar Sahib, Couldn't resist admiring so simple yet so potent truth that you have told in this blog. Keep it up. Life is all about hypocrisy and untruthfulness but we have got so used to it that it has become everyday life mantra.