In Defense of the TRUTH
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor
September 20, 2002
If you ever had the occasion to converse with a Liberian and he or she voluntarily told you midway into the conversation, "Baa I swear that's the truth", you're most likely in good company and it should dawn on you not to take any information provided lightly. Conversely, if the person you're conversing with began the conversation with "My Man You Know... blah, blah, blah", you're better off being polite and passing off whatever information provided. Believe it or not, this simple conversation rule could save you a lot of headaches and big time political trouble in Liberia if you know how to play your cards well.
Social, economic and political inequalities in Liberia made skirting the truth such a lucrative vocation for some people that even friends and relatives were in the same striking range as outsiders. That is, it didn't matter whether you were a friend or relative, you could be lied on to authorities by a closed associate or family member seeking favor from the authorities for a lucrative government job or the like. And successive governments in Liberia have never been denied the opportunity to find people willing to go the extra mile to dirty their hands for the government. The post-cold war democratic fever gripping every nation has not made any significant dent in this unsavory practice by some Liberians. As a matter of fact, the situation could even be worst today with the prevailing poor standards of living and severe economic hardships in the country.
For all practical purposes, this brings us to the word - "Truth". Truth or "Aaletheia" in Greek means, "Not concealed". Truth therefore involves revealing that which is hidden or unknown to the public, or to a second or third party. Truth is also a universal tenet of forthrightness, and is not circumscribed to the whims of those who think that Truth is relative, and can be skirted at any time to fit individual mood or to satisfy individual egos. The very absurd claims that truth is relative may have prompted Professor V. R. Ruggiero to write in his book, The Art of Thinking, to throw out the challenge to advocates of the relativity of Truth this way: "If everyone makes his own Truth, then no person's idea can be better than another's. All must be equal. And if all ideas are equal, what is the point in researching any subject? Why dig in the ground for answers to archeological questions? Why probe the causes of tension in the Middle East? Why search for a cancer cure? Why explore the Galaxy? These activities make sense only if some answers are better than others, if truth is something separate from, and unaffected by, individual perspectives."
In essence, Professor Ruggiero is telling us that Truth is not relative. Truth is worth seeking after even if it meant exploring new galaxies or finding remedies to common illnesses that afflict us as human. Similarly, Truth in terms of human actions or information is not relative. Our action or knowledge about a particular information can only be true or untrue in any given situation or time period. It can't be both things at the same. For this reason, some of us believe in the Truth, and this is why we continue to seek after the Truth even where we are perceived as offending our friends or government. We certainly seek the Truth not to offend anyone but to engage our friends or the government to do the right thing. For instance, if we tell the National Patriotic Party (NPP) government in Liberia that it is engaging in the "exact practices" for which it engineered the downfall of the previous government, we are only telling the Truth in the hope of effecting corrections, and not in any way attempting by revealing the Truth to undermine the government of the day. For the very act of slipping into the same old shoes or practices of a person, institution, or government we have accused of misbehavior or wrongdoing and caused to be changed, are what we in Liberia call "Old wine in new bottle" or "Chicken Coming Home To Roost."
Of course, if we failed to state the Truth for fear of offending others, then we must very well consider ourselves "cowards". And in the words of Dr. Robert S. M. Kpahaye-Stewart, the late President of the Liberian Community Association of DC Metropolitan Area, "...The coward's way out is to satisfy personal greed and embezzle the little money the country has for your personal desire. The coward's way out is to use the influence of your position and get benefits others dare not attempt. The coward's way out is to find fault in your comrades in arms and eliminate all of them for you to create a one-man government. The coward's way out is to push back the day for a return of the country to civilian rule. The coward's way out is to allow the blind control of our foreign policy because of our economic problems."
Like Stewart, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, one of America's great writers and a prominent member of the Rosicrucian movement (1850-1919) noted that, "To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men. The human race has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised against injustice, ignorance and lust, the inquisition would serve (as) the law. And guillotines (would) decide our least disputes. The few who dare must speak and speak again to right the wrongs of many."
As Stewart and Wilcox eloquently put it, the coward never wins out. He or she lives in constant agitation and anxiety as to what the master will need next. So the Truth seems to be our best option, though the Truth also has consequences. For instance, according to Biblical accounts, King Darius of Babylon enacted a new law stipulating "Whoever makes a petition to any god or man for thirty days except (the) king should be thrown to the lions' pit" (Daniel 6:7-9). It would seem that the law intended to eliminate the King's real or perceived enemies, notably Daniel. Daniel did not compromise his belief; as a result, he was thrown into the lion's den for not obeying the new law. But his God set him free.
While we cannot compare to Daniel in wisdom and statute, we certainly intent to pursue the Truth no matter how the power that be perceives our efforts. The Truth, as a universal principle, will remain the same today, and tomorrow. The fact of the matter is - there will always be individuals who by choice or influence will tamper with the Truth to advance their own individual interests or the interests of those they are loyal to, not realizing that there is nothing abstract about the Truth. The Truth is like night and day. And those who subscribed to corrupt practices but yet have the audacity to persecute those engaged in similar practices are like sophists. They will certainly be caught up with time. Or as indicated by the popular Liberian proverb, "The ditch you dig to catch someone, may be the ditch for you some day". Or better yet, chicken will come home to roost.
As an understudy of slain Liberian President Samuel K. Doe, current Liberian President Charles Taylor has surpassed Doe in creating his own political legacy, which has earned him the titles of a "Stand-up Comedian" or shall I say, the title of "Empty Drum" (one who talks for talking sake). As a matter of fact, Taylor is the first Liberian President whose legacy will be compared to that of Adolph Hitler, the man responsible for the death of six million Jews. In addition, Taylor has earned himself the name of "Destabilizer" in the West African sub-region. Also, his government is credited with corruption, mismanagement of public funds, dishonesty, child abuse, sex abuse, and perhaps spousal abuse among its many achievements.
After all, as a polarizing figure, Taylor makes statements without thinking of the consequences. For example, The Inquirer newspaper reported that during a chat with Executive Mansion Correspondents on Christmas Day (December 25, 2001), he said, "I am not personally responsible for the suffering of the Liberian people because, "since my inauguration as President, I have not received a dime from the wealthy and powerful nations... The comment continued, "...There are difficulties everywhere. This Government has not received any dime from anybody outside... I have a determined mine to do everything possible for this country if I am given the support... Throughout the history of this country, no government ever constructed these things (water and electricity), they have always been constructed by these wealthy and powerful nations. If I am given the opportunity, I will do more... The imposition of sanctions on Liberia has caused investors to sit back and that is part of the pressure that international community is putting against my government... Liberians love this Country, that's why I want to pursue the process of peace, God is in control."
In reaction to such a careless statement an elderly Liberian remarked that, "Taylor is full of it! He is all talk, and no substance. When did he come to know that God was in control - is it when the chips begin to fall? Taylor is a man who when it suits his purpose - he will become Christian or Muslim."
In retrospect, I am compelled to examine some of the statements made by his arch supporters as well; some of whom and I at one time advocated for genuine changes in our society; but when they became part of Taylor's shenanigan, called government, they began to speak from the other side of their mouths. In many instances, they have allowed Mr. Taylor to circumvent the law, Congress and the Liberian Constitution for him to run the country as if it was his personal "pepper bush." The first person that comes to mind is, Honorable Abel Momolu Massaley. For example, sometime ago in November 1998, the Senator from Grand Cape Mount County, who at the time was the Majority Leader of the Liberian Senate said, the Liberian "civil war was a necessary means to a joyful end, and this end can attain its greatest significance if we of diverse political, ethnic or social backgrounds work in concert with the democratically elected government of President Charles Taylor, so that Liberia can achieve full recovery." What a reckless and stupid statement!
Then there is the statement made sometime last year by the Speaker of the Liberian National Legislature, Honorable Nyudueh Monkormana calling on the United Nations to pass a resolution against dissident activities in the world. According to The Inquirer newspaper, Speaker Monkormana said, "the resolution should equate insurgency worldwide to international terrorism and that those involved should be made to face justice for crimes against humanity." Wasn't insurgency the method used by the NPFL to destroy the country? If that is the case as he suggests, we should begin with the NPP government - that will be the true meaning of "charity begins at home." The Speaker should have began the process by calling for a resolution in the Liberian National Legislature to indict those who participated in rebel activities starting from December 24, 1989, and he should have than prevail on his colleagues to support his call for the adoption of such resolution.
And there comes Bassa County's Senior Senator, Honorable Tom Jucontee Woewiyu, the tough-talking NPFL spokesman who insisted that President Doe was the problem and once he was removed from power, all would be well. However, the July 30, 2002 edition of The Monrovia Guardian newspaper published an article under the title: "For Being Part of Rebellion Woewiyu Expresses Regrets." The article went on to say, "Grand Bassa County Senator, Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu, has reportedly expressed regrets for being part of the "popular people's uprising" which rocked the status quo of the Liberian society in the late 1980s…He accused some "big world powers" of being at the forefront of not only inciting Liberians against their leaders, but in most instances have encouraged them to violently remove their leaders.
"The Grand Bassa Senator said it was under this same influence that he and others chose to "pass in the bushes" to bring down the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe, only because somebody somewhere made them to believe Doe was the problem in Liberia... It was 'regrettable at this time to note that after getting President Doe out of the picture, the same world powers are saying again that President Charles Taylor is the problem in Liberia of today'", the paper quoted Woewiyu at the time.
But Woewiyu seems to have come of age, and he is concerned with his own job security today as that of his rebel commander, Charles Taylor, the current president of Liberia. Woewiyu warned that Liberia would become Rwanda or Somalia if the international community do not intervene in finding solutions to the current political crisis in the country and insisted that calls by Liberians and the international community for President Charles Taylor to resign the Liberian presidency is not the solution to the problems of the Liberian people.
"I just want to paint the picture that we are almost at Rwanda because I hope that the so-called international community will know that if the two tribes - two of the smallest tribes - the Mandingoes and the Krahns - combine and succeed at wreaking havoc on the majority, I can just see Rwanda repeated here "I think the international community should do better then wanting to support such a thing. They should encourage us to find peace amongst ourselves, to talk to each other and find an amicable solution to our political problem rather than the use of force."
Woewiyu, who as defense minister of the rebel NPFL was very adamant that slain President Samuel Doe was the problem, no longer thinks one man is the problem and wants "...the international community should encourage the rebels to stop the fighting (between government forces and the dissident Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy-LURD), and pursue the democratic process ...Let us not see any joyful thing in this whole proposal that one man is our problem. I'm show that even the youngest child in this country knows that the late President Tolbert was our problem and we know how he went, that the late President Doe was our problem; 250,000 is said to have perished with him and absolutely nothing has come to change anything."
It would appear that Woewiyu attempted to admit that the war efforts he and others masterminded have caused more miseries than good for the Liberian people until he said "...had it not been for President Taylor's leadership, the country would have been overrun by violence with Liberians at each other's throat... who can guarantee the safety of Liberians if President Taylor resigns and the current situation gets out of control? Everybody will be for himself and of course... we will have a Somalia or a Rwanda." So here is our predicament. Talk, talk and no action while the truth is crushed somewhere in between. Will Liberians ever get to know the whole Truth, reconcile their difference and move on? Maybe not now!
But Woewiyu is not the only Liberian official championing the PR or psychological warfare of the Taylor government. A most recent act of support came from Mr. Sam P. Jackson, Minister of State Without Portfolio-designate during his confirmation hearing, he said, "Terrorist Attacks Have Affected Our Capacity To Deliver... How can we deliver the goods to our people when detractors abroad are using all kinds of political manipulations against this country?" Journalist T. Lawrence Randall quoted Jackson in an article in The News newspaper August 14, 2002
These kinds of statements are the worse moral justifications of our time for the severe poverty and human carnage in Liberia today. It is due to these kinds of reasoning that those who are supposed to represent our interests are only concerned with what is in it for them, while the Liberian people endured conditions such as no light, safe drinking water, poor standards of living, poor sanitary services and almost no existing government health facilities in the country. This kind of behavior makes us to reach the conclusion that - the morals of our present elected officials is worse off than that of their predecessors. Morals being, the cardinal principles, which govern a rational person's sense of RIGHT and WRONG. It includes Honesty, Truthfulness, and High Standards of Conduct in all matters of human interactions.
But these kinds of untruthfulness and careless statements are not new. The famous English Dictionary publisher, Dr. Samuel Johnson once made reference to it, when he said, "There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other. When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others." It goes to say that those who engage in deceit and the telling of lies to please themselves are operating from what Senator Joe Lieberman described as "value vacuum." A place "...where traditional ideas of right and wrong have been gradually worn away."
In fact, this phenomenon has redefined what was once held to be universal Truth. Today, Truth is now widely viewed on the basis of an individual's point of view - even if the facts are overwhelming, like embezzlement, human rights abuse, the denial of free speech, violation of civil and constitutional rights, kangaroo court system, excessive use of force, framed-up charges and incarceration of unarmed civilians by the government in Liberia.
In short, because of these careless statements by public officials and the lack of progress in improving the living standards of the Liberian people, the level of confidence of the Liberian people and the international community in the National Patriotic Party-led (NPP) government has greatly diminished. Therefore, no amount of peace or reconciliation conferences amid abject poverty, high unemployment, appalling living conditions, poor social services, lack of pipe-borne water and electricity will solve the problem the country is facing. In other words, the so-called Peace and Recognition conference held by the regime in Monrovia will amount to "anything." Simple Truth matched by concrete actions at restoring dignity to Liberia will be our bet to genuine peace, unity, reconciliation and national building!