“Speaking truth to power”

September 27, 2005

Doctor Bob posts an essay about the history and meaning of the phrase "speaking truth to power", as utilized by the left.  I found this section particularly apt:

"…defining one’s own truth or narrative works well–as long as the next group’s narrative is not in opposition. Certain differences are tolerable, up to a point–hence the live-and-let-live mindset of multiculturalism and the elevation of “tolerance” to iconic status. But tolerance has its limits–and those limits are met when you encounter a group whose narrative involves absolutes, especially religious or moral absolutes. Conflict then becomes inevitable. Since you cannot appeal to absolutes–you don’t accept that they exist–there is only one recourse left: that of power.

"When the postmodernist is in a position of power, the instruments of their position are used to control language, to enforce the narrative–hence the coercion of speech codes and enforcement of political correctness on campus, and increasingly in society at large, as manifested in hate crime laws and punitive, arbitrary sexual harrassment and discrimination policies. When out of power, access to such instruments is in the hands of the oppressors, and hence postmodernists are left with their primary weapon alone: speech. When detached from absolute truth and moral restraint, it is a potent tool indeed. You must undermine the oppressors with language, unrestrained by the need for accuracy, truth, consistency, or integrity. You must “speak the truth to power”: you must imprison the thoughts of the many with the language of your narrative, to undermine the power of those who enslave and victimize you."

The problem with understanding truth as simply group narrative is that it leaves you without rational recourse – actions are simply a matter of interpretation, rather than factual events.  This is fine when you’re trying to determine, say, the motive of a particular action, but actions cannot be explained away as not being factual simply because one does not interpret their existence as actual.  (At least, not without recourse to a bunch of fringe philosophical theories.) 

Anyway, take a look at the rest of his post – it’s well worth reading.


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