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Sunday, July 3, 2011

An-Nahar Newspaper: The Truth

[Administrator's Note: Octavia is now writing articles for An-Nahar Newspaper each week and we will provide them here after they are printed.]

Who doesn’t like the truth? Before you quickly jump to say, “everyone likes the truth,” think again. Think and ask yourself, “which truth?” Is the truth universal? Far from it! One man’s “truth” is another man’s propaganda and another man’s lie and yet other people’s spin on reality.

The truth is elusive. Some of us have nightmares because of it while others long for it and others are willing to sacrifice their lives trying to achieve it. It is a weapon that some of us use to prove a point while others use it to stall and distract until confusion sets and distracts us from the real issues at hand, namely, closure and peace.

The truth is a beautiful concept that we hang on to because as human beings we have a need to explain certain phenomena in life. It helps us identify with society and learn lessons to help us move on knowing the consequences of certain actions on the course of life in general and our own life in particular. This is why without the “truth” we remain in limbo, unable to move forward because we’re not sure if our actions will lead us to better or worse things.

When I covered the massive March demonstrations in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, I spoke of a spontaneous popular response to a shocking killing. To me, like many other journalists, it seemed that people could not accept the monstrousness of what happened and they took to the streets, carrying the Lebanese flag, symbol of their country, and large signs demanding not in any uncertain terms, “The Truth.” That demand shook the world not only this tiny country or this region. It crossed borders and made headlines around the world. It brought support to Lebanon from all four corners of the world. The Lebanese pushed forward with louder voices and more determined shouts for the truth. They brought down the Syrian-controlled government and pushed Syrian troops out of Lebanon in a matter of weeks. I consider myself privileged to have witnessed this early version of today’s Arab Spring and to have had the chance to report on it from Lebanon and Syria.

Six years after the historic events of 2005, the international tribunal set up by the United Nations to investigate the Hariri murder and bring to justice those who ordered the assassination and executed the heinous act, spoke its “truth.” The many delays to get to this point coupled with the numerous leaks accusing different parties at different times in addition to the political bickering around the indictment, turned this truth into tools for various groups to play their political cards any way they please. Between those who applauded the indictment and those who denounced it all the way to the announcement by Hezbollah that it won’t allow arrests to be made, the truth remains hostage of local, regional and international politics.

The truth today is like Lebanon, broken into pieces, each piece fighting the other for survival. The truth is an orphan who lost both parents and waiting for relatives to chart his/her life course. Each relative is now pulling in their own direction to suit their own interests. No one cares what the truth really wants; and as time passes, truth itself will forget who it is and what its role was meant to be in the first place.

In this sea of uncertainty, one thing is guaranteed. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said its first piece of truth. There is certainly more to follow. Muscles will be flexed at every stage. There will be winners, losers and bullies too. Somewhere in the middle of this fight will always reside The Real Truth… Crushed beyond recognition reminiscent of the Rafic Hariri assassination scene and every assassination before it and all those that followed.\

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Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Octavia,

I was looking forward to reading this article particularly - since I was expecting a little bit more from you than the general abstract rhetoric we always see - especially common in arabic journalism. With all my appreciation to you, please take this constructively.

In contemporary theories of social science - especially in politics and law, the truth is a black box that the subject is facing and trying to penetrate - what we try to do is open the black box. Depending on the theoretical framework we come from - the truth we are seeking is shaped.On the most part, it is subjective (not in the sense that is is prone to change as in the opposite of objective) but it is subjective i.e. it is based on the subject's beliefs and perception. Much of the truth we seek is deductive - since we build it on axioms. In the case of the Hariri trial - I do not claim to be the expert, but merely an amateur graduate student of global political economy - but what I have seen is that whether it is the Hariri camp or the Hezbollah camp - both have used subjective approaches - more or less axiomatic: Hariri - built it on an axiom that Syria and Hezbollah killed his father - and as such worked toward something that would ultimately lead to that conclusion (which is more in line with the rational choice/classical ideology) - Hezbollah likewise built it on who is the biggest beneficiary of this-i.e. Israel, and worked on finding empirical evidence that would lead to the deduction of Israel killed Rafiq al Hariri. It is not to say that the deductive approach is unreliable, but it certainly has its limitations. In any case - I was hoping you, would move beyond the general talk of who wants the truth and what is the truth, and provide a more theoretical understanding and explanation of the truth. It is very much needed in this area of the world that we rise above and help our readers develop their thought and understandings. Furthermore, to claim that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has said its first piece of truth - contradicts your introduction, because really - what is the truth, so when you question that in the first place - how do come to a conclusion that the indictments are a piece of the truth, because I am having a hard time following your definition of the truth. Again, I think this piece is more of 'blog' than it is up to the standard of Octavia Nasr.

With great respect, this is my opinion.

Sumaya

July 5, 2011 at 7:27 AM  

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