Conscience of a Centrist: We all need to make the truth matter again

Johannesburg – In the first book of the Republic, Plato shares a conversation between Socrates and Thrasymachus, a Sophist orator, that touches on the nature of truth, justice and law.

For Socrates, justice is inseparable from ethical commitment to truth. I couldn’t agree more. The conversation is as relevant today as it was ages ago.

The family of Babita Deokaran and other slain whistleblowers deserve truth and justice.

Her callous slaying shows that as a society, we are quickly running out of the moral authority to condemn such acts.

Deokaran paid the price for the indifference with which this corrupt-ridden society treats those who dare to stand on the side of the truth and reject the excesses of the corrupt.

Despite their varied experiences, all whistleblowers share a common thread: The courage to stand up for what is right.

The irony is that we have become eerily comfortable in embracing lies and liars.

It comes as no surprise that when all else fails, silencing the good, even through the barrel of the gun, becomes the only option to those blinded by greed.

Not only do whistleblowers pay the ultimate price, they also face scorn for doing what is right.

For example, it has been easy to condemn, intimidate and gaslight investigative journalists who expose corrupt and hypocrites in our midst. In a society where truth becomes treachery, the upright get killed and the embezzlers get emboldened.

It takes courage and determination to fight corruption.

This is what Deokaran and countless other whistleblowers, including courageous journalists, have made up their minds to be amenable to the spirit of our constitution and be of service to the nation.

Such individuals prove that corruption is not insurmountable.

Threats against journalists and whistleblowers can have the devastating effect of silencing many others. Yet we know that good and evil cannot co-exist, and it won’t start now.

There are enough good people out there who still believe that in South Africa, the truth matters and that the reward of good patriots ought not to be murder.

It will take a concerted effort to rid our society of swindlers who would suppress the truth and glorify untruths. Impunity creates more impunity.

The killers of Deokaran and the masterminds need to be brought to justice, otherwise they will continue with their vicious enterprise. Socrates was correct: truth matters.

So do lies. We have a choice to make in South Africa. We either embrace truth or we engender lies as a way of life.

My fear is that lies and misinformation have penetrated our social discourse to a point that liars are cult heroes and truth tellers are seen as agents of destruction.

We should have the courage to turn the course and make truth matter once again.

Plato was also correct by his disposition that justice is not mere strength, but it is a harmonious strength – it is not the right of the stronger but the effective harmony of the whole. We need whistleblowers and ethical journalists more than ever.

And we should do better by them.

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