About a month ago, I guilted a friend of mine into watching እያዩ ፈንገስ ፌስታሌን with me. While watching the show, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have never seen anything that made me feel like that ever in my life. It was honesty; it was comedy; it was tragedy. It was amazing. It was a little hypocritical at one point where Eyayu would condemn a journalist for owning a large TV in his tiny rented house implying that the guy has fucked up priorities and yet later he still goes on to ask the audience if they dare judge the value he gives his plastic bag full of what we would think is garbage but to him represents the life he lost. You know, maybe that large TV has some value we do not understand to the stupidly portrayed journalist character.
I think in their obsessive attempt to tell the truth and make the audience question its life with comedy, writer Bereket and Actor Girum missed a few things. Or maybe they put the little defects in there on purpose to see if the audience would completely miss the message and keep on laughing. If it was in fact intentional, this would be the most brilliant thing I have seen done in Ethiopia.
Eyayu Fungus deserves his own blog entry but I won’t do that. I would ruin it. What I want to keep from that show is the last part where Eyayu says something about finding and living a truth; his Truth. The audience went crazy for a little while when he said this. I sat there trying to remember where I had heard that before. And it is weeks later that I remembered that I had read about Subjective Truth in Thomas Flynn’s book about Existentialism.
Before I explain what Subjective truth is, let me take you to Socratic Greece. The great philosopher had been teaching about the immortality of the soul among other things and he’d been sentenced to death by poisoning on the charges of disrespecting the gods and corrupting the youth. He had the option of living in exile but Socrates chose death to prove his point that death was not to be feared because there was an afterlife. So, he metaphorically flipped the court by fearlessly taking the hemlock and bottoms up….
This was Socrates’s way of standing for his truth. What we today call living by what he preaches or putting his money where his mouth is or in this case, his life where his mouth is. Socrates is one of the biggest examples to raise when talking about the sacrifices one may pay for what one believes. This was what father of existentialism Soren Kierkegaard called Subjective Truth; “A personal conviction on which one is willing to risk one’s life”
The speech from Eyayu Fungus’s last words in the show are kind of almost a direct quote from Soren Kierkegaard’s own words from one of his journals where he wrote, “The thing is to find a truth which is true for me. To find the idea for which I can live and die.”
The whole thing seems like such a good idea, doesn’t it? I mean finding a truth you believe so wholeheartedly that you would give your life for it? It definitely gives the implication that this life that would be given to prove a true point, would have a certain value. It would also make you feel less useless when you are living it.
Let me tell you another story.
In 12th grade we had this insanely inappropriate teacher who barely taught anything that I can’t even remember what subject he was supposed to be teaching. Anyways, this man started a discussion on religion one time in our class of like 24 diversely religious students. It was very weird for us. But he kept talking and he said that one of his parents was Ethiopian Orthodox but the other one was a Muslim but he himself was a Protestant because, he said, he had weighted both religions and chosen one that he believed was true.
It seemed like he had done this speech many times because he went on to compare religions to us. Some kids took the bait and they started debating but oddly enough I didn’t say anything which is seriously out of character for me. I love me a good debate but the thing is, I didn’t know what the teacher was trying to do. I didn’t know if he was trying to turn us on each other or if he was trying to convert us. I was a little annoyed.
Then the bell rang and one kid that I have always admired and respected in spite of our differences, and whose name I will never include in an entry because I fear him a little too, who had been sitting quietly listening to the fool, finally spoke up and said, “There is one truth. There can’t be a scenario where my religion is a truth but yours is too if we believe two completely opposite things.” And with that he just walked out of class. What he said would go on to be my argument for many things, and not just religion, for the years that followed.
This was added to when my PHD in philosophy wielding professor friend from Mekelle, John, said in one speech, “The Truth is Simple. If you complicate it, you do not understand it.”
So, the concept of truth has sort of been like a slippery soap for me for a while. Yes, I said soap and not slope because I mean that it has been very hard to grasp.
I have come to dislike many people because of the things they do with complete disregard to their surrounding while they throw their truth around like it has to be everyone’s truth and I have also seen the intensity with which they protect their truth. Which should impress philosophers like Soren Kierkegaard. But that is not the case. Soren Kierkegaard’s argument was not that one should believe whatever they want to believe and then be willing to die for it. That kind of shit is what results in religious extremism or the type of stubbornly annoying loud mouth that I used to be.
Soren Kierkegaard says that there should be different criteria that one should probably use before choosing to believe something as one’s own truth. He doesn’t deny that personal want and feelings go into the choices that we make. In fact, he calls this Passion. But he says that one should weigh all possible outcomes and not fall face-flat into just any truth you choose or your truth is just bad faith and you’re an idiot.
I like Kierkegaard’s ideas and all this remind of all those opinions that we throw around because they are our truths even though they aren’t supported by any fact. The dictionary definition of the word “Opinion” according to the Advanced English Dictionary as is relevant to this article are,
1. a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty.
2. a message expressing a belief about something; the expression of a belief that is held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof
6. a vague idea in which some confidence is placed.
Which now brings me to my favorite kind of truth. Objective truth. There are certain truths that you can’t argue like that fact that the socks I am wearing right now are red. If you could see them, you and I will see the same thing. As opposed to Subjective Truth which depends in the existence of the believer to be true, Objective truth doesn’t. Regardless of my existence or yours, the socks remain red.
But when it comes to knowledge and more abstract ideas like religious beliefs or other ideologies and “opinions” that are turning the world over today, Objective Truth doesn’t exist.
According to Nietzsche (whose name I butchered a few times writing this because what the fuck is that spelling?!), all knowledge has been interpreted and every knowledge or truth, when written or taught, had been personalized by the writer or the teacher. So, every text/ knowledge has a personal subjective footprint of someone else. This excuses mathematics and history which have a certain characteristic of staying the static through time and people (although I think one can make a case that history has the teller’s truth in it and it changes)
So basically, what I am saying here is, Objective Truth or the more likely Objective Opinion can’t exist because taking a leaf from Edmund Husserl’s idea on phenomenology that there is no outside or inside when it comes to the world, we are not capable of having a completely detached and unbiased, third party observer’s opinion about something because we are of the same world with our lived experiences and our personalities be it physical or mental. Everything we know as true always comes from somewhere else. And in order to have such opinions, we need to exist first with our experiences and our hormones or whatever. Am I making sense? ]
People who are responsible for the transfer of knowledge through time are people like artists and writers and if you were an artist of some sort, your life would mainly be driven by Soren’s idea of passion. It’s amazing how long I have gone using that word not even really knowing what it means. But this other guy Jean-Paul Sartre says that people involved in literature have a certain responsibility. And I don’t know if he and I are thinking the same thing but I also think people responsible for the transfer of knowledge and art do have a responsibility to tell the truth but also to not trigger violence among people.
A lot of people don’t know if that is possible. That includes me. This is kind of like when you wanna say nigga because it’s in the song but it’s gonna offend a Black American or when that one Teddy Afro song came out and there was his artistic truth in it and he was using his Right to Freedom of Expression but it ended up inciting violence completely out of his control and he was blamed even though it likely wasn’t his intention. So my point here would be if you know that you work, your expression, your art, your way of preserving knowledge would turn men against men, should you suppress the truth or is it a fuck society, let them all die kind of thing? Is this a paradox? Did I just come across a paradox by accident while free writing?!!
Anyways thank you for reading all this mind fuck through. Sorry I might have bullied some of you into it by adding you without your will into the telegram page but the rest of you need a life.
Oh and P.S if anyone feels like this entry was about them, I fucking triple dare you to confront me.
P.P.S I have come to realize that there’s nothing I genuinely love like being proved wrong so you’re welcome to do that and I’ll be nice about it. I promise.
P.P.P.S I’m never going to get better at titles. At this point I’m doing it on purpose.