Raphael Vassallo | Sunday, 13 September 2009
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This is my truth, tell me yours*

Ever wondered how to solve all the world’s problems to the benefit of absolutely everybody... while at the same time also maximising your own power and influence over the entire Universe?
Well, in case you were asking yourself that very question, it happens to be a good deal easier than most of us would have ever imagined. Just read Archbishop Paul Cremona’s latest homily, delivered last Tuesday on the occasion of Victory Day... it will tell you exactly what to do.

“I would like to make an appeal (the Archbishop said) so that there will be continually more references to the values that emerge from the Truth which should be the basis for our society... There is need (he continued) for us to have a common orientation regarding that which constitutes the Truth, otherwise it will be filled with other, different influences. A common and clear idea about the Truth will allow us all to have a criterion with which to compare our own actions, and to enter into dialogue with others...”

What? No, no, I’m not making it up. That is exactly what he said: and if you don’t trust my own translation, here it is in all its original glory: “Jiena nixtieq li nagħmel appell biex dejjem iktar isiru referenzi għall-valuri li joħorġu mill-Verita’ li għandha tkun il-qafas tas-soċjeta’ tagħna.... Hemm bżonn li jkollna orjentament komuni ta’ dak li jikkostitwixxi l-verita’, għax inkella jimtela b’influwenzi oħrajn differenti. Ħsieb komuni u ċar tal-Verita’ jippermetti lil kull wieħed u waħda minna biex ikollu kriterju ma’ xhiex jipparaguna l-għemil tiegħu u jidħol fi djalogu ma’ oħrajn.”
(This, mind you, in the context of a sermon about national – as opposed to religious – identity.

Right. Excuse me one minute while I help myself to a much-needed stiff drink... There. Now let’s go over all that again slowly, shall we?

“There is need for us to have a common orientation regarding that which constitutes the Truth, otherwise it will be filled with other, different influences...”
Or as a lesser mortal might put it: “It’s important that we all accept without question the Catholic Church’s version of ‘the Truth’. Otherwise, who knows? Someone else’s version might get accepted instead; and if so... well, the Catholic Church might conceivably lose a little bit of its jealously-guarded power and influence (and we can’t exactly allow that to happen, now can we?)”

Yes, I suppose it makes perfect sense. In fact, the logic is nothing less than breathtaking, and I can’t wait to apply it during my next exchange of opinions: “Now look here: this is how I see this particularly issue, OK? And if you don’t see it exactly like I do, then you and I will be in disagreement with each other, and that constitutes a ‘problem’. You don’t want to cause problems, do you? So tell you what: why don’t you just renounce your own opinion on the matter, and simply accept my own view instead? This way, the ‘problem’ will be avoided, and we will all live happily ever after...”

Honestly. Can you imagine if Archbishop Paul Cremona were appointed permanent UN envoy to the Middle East? How long do you reckon before he single-handedly resolves the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
“Now look here, my brothers and sisters: there’s only way for you to stop blowing each other (and everyone else) to smithereens; and that’s for both sides to get together round a table – maybe over some tea and biscuits – and simply agree on a common idea of the ‘Truth’. Think about it for a sec: what could be more natural than for two warring communities that have been killing each other for decades, to suddenly and inexplicably forget all their mutual grievances, and decide to simply bury the hatchet and agree with each other on everything? It’s a piece of cake, believe me! So whaddaya say...?”

Yes, indeed. I can see our Paul nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize already...

But enough of fantasy, and let’s get back to the Archbishop’s peculiar notions of national identity, and his expectations for national consensus. Let’s close an eye at the astonishing naivety, whereby Mgr Cremona seems to seriously think it is really possible for EVERYONE to just agree on any one particular issue – still less the notoriously ineffable issue of “The Truth”. At a stretch, let’s all pretend we were already seated at that table, passing around the tea and biscuits, and all of us, without exception, is willing to reach an agreement on “what constitutes the Truth” once and for all, for the greater good of all Mankind.

The question arises as a matter of course: whose “Truth” should we all agree upon?

Well, the options are many and various. How about we start with... Islam? That’s a religion which claims to be “True”, isn’t it? And in essence, it’s not all that different from the “Truth” so many of us believe here in Malta. You have the same central character called “God” – real name “Allah” – who manifested Himself to a Prophet named Mohammad, via an Angel named Gabriel, resulting in a book entitled the Holy Qu’ran.
That’s not too hard to believe, now is it? And it’s convenient, too. After all, if the same Qu’ran was written directly by God Himself, and that its contents therefore reflect God’s own express wishes... what further need would we all have for national laws? Why not kill two birds with one stone, throw away the entire canon of Maltese law, and simply become a fundamentalist Muslim state?
In fact, the more I think about it, the more suited this particular “Truth” appears to be in the context of our Archbishop’s appeal. Surely, then, in his newfound desire for mutual comprehension, Mg Cremona would be the first to sacrifice his own personal religious beliefs in the interest of mutual agreement, and embrace Islam as the One True Faith...?

Erm... maybe not. OK, so perhaps Islam wasn’t such a great idea after all. So tell you what: let’s just accept the Christian version of the same “Truth” – which by an amazing coincidence also has a central “God” character, and who similarly manifested himself to prophets (several hundred over the space of around 4,000 years, in fact), resulting in a book called the Holy Bible. Only in this case, He also went on to become incarnate, appearing on Earth in the form of a man who was also a God... who died and then rose again... and who will one day come again to judge the living and the dead.
This is undeniably a very popular “Truth” in Malta in the 21st century. And interestingly enough, it was also very fashionable in Ancient Egypt around 2,500BC... the only difference being that in the Egyptian version, the man-god was named “Osiris”, not “Jesus”; and instead of being crucified, he was buried alive by his brother Seth, then cut into little pieces and fed to the fish in the river Nile... only to be reconstituted by his wife Isis, after which he returned in glory to judge the living and the dead as king of the Underworld. (Director’s cut now available on DVD, with hieroglyphics for subtitles.)
Similar “Truths” – again with minor variations – were likewise shared by devotees of the cult of Orpheus in Ancient Greece: another man-god who was betrayed by his followers, brutally murdered, then brought back to life as an immortal deity... not to mention by the disciples of Balder in Scandinavia as recently as around 1,000 years ago.

And if these “Truths” are insufficient to tickle your fancy, you can always experiment with any number of alternatives – all of which were (and in some cases still are) “True” to untold millions of people around the world.
For instance, there’s the Buddha’s “Truth”, that would have us all interconnected as part of an inseparable One-ness. For much the same reason, we will all return after our own deaths, this time in the form of entirely new living beings (in fact we have all already gone through this process a few million times over at least). The same general idea also applies to the Hindu version of “the Truth”: only with a panoply of gods and goddesses, each representing a particular aspect of the Supreme Being, as well as this environmentally conscious idea that cows are somehow worth more than people.
Even further back in time there was also the Zoroastrian “Truth”: that Good and Evil are but two sides of the same coin, engaged in an eternal battle for ultimate supremacy over all Creation. (Hang on, I think I’m getting mixed up with World of Warcraft... or was that “He-man – Masters of the Universe”? Can’t remember now...)
At a stretch, we might even consider the Pythagorean “Truth”, which decrees that on any right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse will always be precisely equal to the sum of the squares on the two remaining sides (honestly – can you believe how gullible those ancients actually were?) But to give Pythagoras his full due, he also believed in metempsychosis: the doctrine that the human soul transmigrates into the body of another creature after death... but only after a brief transitional phase as (of all things) a bean-flower.

To these extravagant ideas one must also add the Native American “Truth” – i.e., that the entire universe was “thought” into existence by a giant Feathered Serpent; or the almost identical “truth” according to the Jatravartids, who believe that the same universe was sneezed out of the nose of a Supreme Being called the “Great Green Arkleseizure”. Or how about the Vikings’ “Truth”, whereby heroes fallen in battle are automatically eligible for a special VIP membership pass to the Everlasting Feast at Valhalla? While we’re at it perhaps could also throw in the slightly less credible “Truth” offered by the Church of Scientology, which maintains that... Oops! Sorry, can’t tell you until you’ve reached level 12, and have bought at least $120,000 worth of special Tom Cruise vouchers...

But there you have it. As you can see, this planet of ours is simply bursting with “Truths” of every shape, size, colour, fragrance and improbability factor levels... and quite possibly the oddest “Truth” among them all (which, unlike all-of-the-above-except-one, is actually very “True” indeed) is that in spite of all the incontrovertible evidence around us, there are still those who have somehow managed to convince themselves that their own “Truth” is somehow more “True” than everybody else’s.

Strange, but “True”.


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