Speak Truth to Power

Dr. Asangba Tsüdir
‘Speak truth to power’ is a phrase coined by the Quakers during the mid 1950s with a call for the United States to stand firm against fascism and other forms of totalitarianism. It has come to mean “speaking out to those in authority” and is now used in politics and in human rights activism. In our society today, this phrase seems to be urgently conveying us the central message underlying it and the need to put it into practice.


Conscious minds have created waves of ripples in speaking truth to power but it has landed in a challenging terrain in the form of opposition from the government in ‘self defense’ like the recent issue on rice scam which the Chief Minister T. R. Zeliang belatedly claimed that the whole case has been “misinterpreted and misprojected in the media wherein it was depicted that corrupt activities are taking place with the assumed blessings of the government.” In urgency and in right earnest, this paper has raised the issue of the absence of democracy in the functioning of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly in a situation of ‘opposition-less.’ If this trend is to continue then it rightly pointed out that the year 2017 may see the rise of autocratic tendencies. This is neither blunt nor a virtual imagery because we have witnessed legislation trampling upon our Constitutional Rights. This is not just a democratic tragedy but an outright denial of a right to a qualified life.


The challenge will be to speak truth to power in creating a process of restoring democracy and life. To speak ‘truth’ to ‘power’ is not only challenging but may rather seem daunting especially when truth is more commonly scorned today. Though within comfortable confines, praised is heaped on anyone who dares or dared to stick their heads above the walls against undemocratic authority where matters that concerns life are decided against the ‘wills’ of the people. Today, in the struggle for truth against ‘powers that be’ support has been largely found wanting and thereby ‘truth’ finds itself sacrificed and defeated. Values and principles seems to have lost all its meanings where one’s comfort and well being has taken precedence over the collective good of the community and society.


Paradoxically, truth seems to be both ‘unwanted’ and ‘wanted’ while emerging voices of truth is being demoralized and oppressed. And rightly so, because we have failed to come together with a sense of collective responsibility. We talk about a better society but we cannot speak the truth freely and openly which only shows that we are not free. Not free because we are in chains of corruption and somehow enslaved in silence while many finds it difficult to disturb one’s comfort zone. As such, we have more of armchair warriors. A lot of soul searching is desired to ponder upon our moral responsibilities as a human being.


Our present society is in dire need of transformation for which one needs to first free oneself and go into sacrificial mode of producing ‘sweat’ and ‘tears’ in creating a transforming effect. This begins with truth and the ‘will’ to speak the truth. Often, popular yet undemocratic voices may shake one’s convictions which will act as a hindrance to speaking the truth. This requires courage to stand true to one’s faith, beliefs and convictions. It also requires a well-informed intellect especially when those in positions of authority wrongfully deny our rights.


Nonetheless, our society needs to learn to appreciate and value for what truth is and begin by learning to speak the language of truth, first from within each heart and mind before we really speak truth to power. This will be one among the challenges for this year and the onus will be on us to translate the phrase ‘speak truth to power’ either as a source of ‘power in itself’ or make it into a threat.


(Dr. Asangba Tzüdir is Editor of heritage publishing house. He writes a weekly guest editorial for the Morung Express. Views and comments can be mailed to asangtz@gmail.com)
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