The Press & the Pursuit of Truth
By Femi Kusa
It gives me great pleasure, for several reasons, to be honored byyou to speak today on this subject. For not only do I belong to aprofession that is expected by all to unconditionally uphold truth and fair-play at all times, I also work on a newspaper, The Guardian, whose goal is to be the guardian of society. Under this newspaper’s masthead, is the inscription, “Conscience Nurtured By Truth” It is adapted from the saying, “Conscience is an open wound… only Truth can heal it”, credited to Othman Dan Fodio, a great Islamic scholar who lived in northern Nigeria in the last century.
Our newspaper’s motto challenges us, always, to listen to that often-mentioned “little voice”, that inner or still voice, and to accord our actions with the Truth when we exercise editorial judgment. On this note, therefore, did I find myself on what appeared to be familiar ground when I had the privilege of contemplating the theme of this conference:
Journalism: The Truth and the 21st Century.
Beyond this, what does one make of the theme of this conference, JOURNALISM: THE TRUTH and the 21st CENTURY, or of the angle from which I am to examine it, namely THE PRESS AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR THE PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH?
Of journalism, I believe we are all familiar. It is, as you know, that field of human activity which distills and packages events in the human environment for those interested in knowing about them, and sometimes with the view to making them adopt certain attitudes. In a sense, therefore, journalism, apart from being an informer or informant, can be teacher, guide and guardian.
Of what constitutes the Truth, opinions are divided. Some people believe the Truth exists. Others believe everything is a matter of opinion, that human perception is selective and, therefore, relative. This is natural and understandable, given individual differences. But aren’t opinions mere expressions of limited human understanding of life? In any case, which opinion is sacrosanct in the ever-expanding frontiers of the knowledge of life? The same, I believe, goes for how different people will appreciate the concept of a 21st century.
In sorting out my thoughts on the theme of this conference, I could easily have entered into a strict journalistic discussion on how practitioners arrive at Truth, while collecting, interviewing, sifting, reporting, analyzing, interpreting, back- grounding and placing a story into proper perspective .I could also, within the ambit of this, highlight key concerns shared by many Third World journalists on how their societies are portrayed in the Western media by their relatively better opportune and more fortunate colleagues, and whether, in doing their job , Truth has been properly served.
I could also have enlarged this discussion by reeling out an inexhaustible list of”sins”which we commit and for which we are regularly attacked, such as being wanton with our freedoms,(where they exist), seeing ourselves as players and not reporting, as did the late Veronica Faerin, Dublin’s best known reporter, being unnecessarily judgmental and self-righteous, and callously invading the privacy of public figures by unearthing salacious stories, (all in the name of Truth, the public’s interest and its right to know) but which at best are remotely related to these people’s contributions to the public weal. We all know that there are more than enough reasons to criticize a nation’s leader, so there is little need to judge a politician’s record on his extra-curricula existence, or to assume that `morality’ is only to be confined to sexual morality, unless he is guilty of financial impropriety, or his private offences do have sufficient bearing on his competence as well as political values. No, I shall do none of this, since much of what is being discussed among us do touch on these aspects of journalistic practice and even more.
However, for most journalists, especially in the West, there is this belief that in arriving at Truth, fact can be separated from value. Although this is now being constantly challenged and seen to be an impossible goal, a good number of journalists still insist that in the pursuit of Truth they have to strive for fairness, accuracy, balance, and lack of bias; even when objectivity is clearly relative and definable mainly in terms of a journalist’s cultural beliefs, value-system, as well as his or her selection process of facts and points-of-view.
So we find that frequently used words which in the West connote contempt, like “tribe” and “jungle”, create media images of Africa which may not necessarily be true, or are far form the Truth. For instance, “tribe” is an English word used to describe the organization of groups of people sharing a common language, yet Europeans or Americans do not describe themselves that way. While almost all ethnic warfare in Africa is reported as tribal, the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses between York and Lancaster in Tudor England, those of the Venetians against he King of Naples in fifteenth century Italy, and today’s civil war in Britain’s norther Ireland province, would certainly not qualify as “tribal” warfare. Similarly, frequent use of the word “jungle” would indicate to Western or other audiences that Africa is all jungle, when in actual fact Africa’s rain-forest, which is jungle, covers just five per cent of the continent.
Similarly, Africans who are “progressive” are those who adopt Western dress and enthusiastically introduce cash crops to their people; and a country is “developing” when it begins to computerize its commercial and government operations. But while many journalists and leaders in the West believe that “progress” and “development” are changes in the direction of the way they do things, these may be in opposition to traditional African ways. For the African who wears a suit, shirt and tie may find that he is uncomfortable in a tropical climate and non-air-conditioned room. If he returns to wearing his loose, flowing robe, is he less “progressive” or more practical? Is an African leader more development oriented, and so on the right track, if he decides to build a clinic or a school, rather than computerize record keeping in the Ministry of Education? In other words, one society’s idea of validity and Truth should not be transferred to its study of events in another. Rather, events should be examined on their own terms, for what is true in one instance may be false and inappropriate in another.
Concerning the concept of press freedom which is a necessary tool if we are to get at Truth as we work, this varies from country to country. In the U.S. and Britain there are less restraints than in France, and as a result this can and does lead to what may be regarded as high levels of irresponsible reporting and coverage of public figures, as we have seen in the U.S. since the beginning of the Clinton presidency, and the abysmal low levels the British media has sunk to in the saga of Diana, Princess of Wales. But then one of the philosophical assumptions of the media, particularly in the West, is that news is about the unusual, the bizarre and the weird. It should also focus on conflicts and the negative aspects of human existence on this planet. However, is this the entire Truth? Are these qualities more important than the positive element in news?
Defining the Press as an instrument for the pursuit of the Truth, either now or in the 21st` Century, therefore cannot be an easy task. I will try to define the press, why it is a vehicle to convey the Truth and the consequences of the workings of the Truth. I will then endeavour to define the Truth Itself, and show that It really exists, despite many opinions to the contrary. I will also try to show that from the effects of the Truth has life on earth as elsewhere emerged and is maintained, that these effects or influences pervade everything, be it the invisible atom, a blade of grass, bubble of water, the solar system, the gigantic constellations of the celestial bodies or man himself.
It will also be argued that, since no-one has come into being of his own accord, and since man did not make the earth or the world, and since everything predated his earthly existence and consciousness, his opinion on anything can only be an assumption, hence the ever-recurring relativity, although, sometimes, this may accord with the Truth. The inviolable, indivisible Truth, ladies and gentlemen, can only be unraveled, where it is not revealed, from living experiences, that is experiences which touch the spirit of man, from the prick of conscience and from the lessons we draw from the language which Nature speaks to us. For Nature is not man-made, being that which lie outside the realm of his work Nature is the Work of God.
For want of a better expression for now, please permit me to say it is like Art and that, as the thinking of the Artist can be recognized in his work, so can the Will of God be deciphered in Nature, His Work, which bears His Holy Will. Nature, therefore, bears the Imprint of the Almighty Creator of All and His All-Holy Will. This Will, being superior to man’s, is the underlining Truth of Creation which till this day has remained elusive to many a man who, rather than seek It, would like to impose his wish as the inviolable Truth. Yet the Creator, God, is the Truth we are talking about. The Lord Jesus Christ, coming out of God, as a part of Him which expresses His Love, has already pointed the way to the Truth to us when He said: “I am the Truth, the Way and the Life… “. Everyone can recognize the Truth and feel it to his finger tips or the depths of his soul, having issued from it, for Truth, indeed, is Life, God Himself.
From here, ladies and gentlemen, I will attempt to reveal that the world is upside down today because man is pursuing various courses opposed to the prescriptions or principles of the Truth. Doesn’t a coach derail that runs off the track? And aren’t the yearnings for a better world, sometimes sought with the force of arms, a befitting testimonial of the fact that life on earth thus far has gone off its track?
Thereafter, I will seek to suggest how the Truth, or the prescription of Life, that is, the track on which God wants His Work, Creation, to follow, may be recognized in all things at all times, how such a recognition can be used to measure how society is faring and the direction in which it is to go, and how journalism may help to foster the pursuit of this recognition. I will also hope to show that the 21st century may not be just another 100 years in the history of human existence on earth.
QUALITIES OF THE TRUTH
Let us, at least hypothetically, for now, perceive of the Truth, as the eternal, the unchangeable, that which is as it has been, and will continue to be, which, being perfect, can never be subjected to any development because the nature of perfection does not permit of change or alteration; as a change detracts from the quality of perfection.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we cast our mind back to a few years, we would remember the battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola for the world’s soft drinks market. Coca-Cola said, and it still believes, that it had a better, perfect product. Pepsi Cola vehemently challenged, and still challenges, the claim. To establish a quality distance, Coca- Cola announced it was improving its formula. Pepsi Cola immediately snapped that the plan indicated Coca-Cola had always been an imperfect, inferior product. The psychological impact of this on Coca-Cola addicts and the market forced Coca-Cola to revert to its old formula. From this, it is evident that what constitutes the truth, or perfection is not in doubt.
In earthly and supra-earthly matters, what will pass as truth should be valid anywhere, any time, world-wide, for man, beast, terrestrial matter, celestial matter and even the so-called space. For there is only one God, One Life, one Truth, one Will, one Law and one Power which effects this all pervading Will. Therefore, on earth, among men, even as they quarrel about the nature of phenomena, the Truth should be able to stand like a rock above the waves of individual and public opinion, beyond the sway of human intellect, cunning and idolatry, and remain unalterable by social and scientific developments, and advances.
Yet this Truth should be so easy to grasp that neither erudition in learning nor complex scientific mind should be required to recognize it. At the same time, it should be accessible to both logic and reason. If it exists, it must lie far above any contrivance of the human mind which, by this standard, is anything but perfect.
What is this Truth? Does it exist?
HOW THE TRUTH MAY BE RECOGNIZED
Truth may be recognized either through revelation or experiencing. First, it may be revealed, in which case it becomes revealed knowledge. The Will of the Almighty, as documented in The Ten Commandments, was revealed, for example, to Moses on Mount Sinai. So was the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Shepherds on the Holy Night. The fact that life goes on after physical death was revealed not only in the resurrection of Christ and His appearance to His disciples, but also, for example, in the Transfiguration, when Peter, James and John saw Elijah and Moses beside Christ. The Old Testament records the recognition of Balaam that not only human beings populate this earth. The Truth is also revealed through the Messages of God.
From these, we now know of three Epochs or Ages, namely, the Age of The Father, in which the prophets mediated Divine messages to man; the Age of the Son, in which the Son of God Himself personally dwelt among men on this earth; and the time in which we stand, namely the Age of the Holy Spirit, of which so many prophesies have been made but of which, as is characteristic of human opinions, ideas are varied. It is that time of which there are many sayings, such as: “… for we speak in part and prophesy in part, but when that which is whole is come, that which is in part shall be done away with”.
Thirdly, ladies and gentlemen, the Truth may be recognized through personal experiencing. Saul, later called Paul, on the way to Damascus to persecute early Christians, beheld to the exclusion of his entourage a blinding flash of light and heard a voice, which he took to be that of Christ. The Truth may be recognized through careful, patient learning and understanding of the language of Nature, the Work of God, through which He speaks to His creatures. Lastly, there is the silent, still inner voice, which is a part of what we call conscience.
THE LANGUAGE OF GOD
In, and through Nature, God speaks to His creatures. But we never really know unless we make a determined effort to find out and learn the language He speaks. It didn’t occur to me until much later in life that, as we earthly parents speak with our children, in order to make them to understand our will and our ways, and as they in return must learn to understand the language we speak to them in order that they may be able to get along with us as friction-free as possible, there also exists a communication line with the Creator in His work: Nature.
Only now do I appreciate, better, even the content of my school days favorite hymn in the Baptist Broadman Hymnal, entitled “Never Alone”. The kernel of this hymn is that “He Promised Never To Leave Me Alone…". As my friends and I in those days debated whether God existed, I always wondered why He did not help us to know the truth by speaking, for example, in a way that His voice would be heard all over the world and the question would be laid to rest eternally. Little did I know He does speak to man by the moment, that even in my breath, He speaks to me. Today, I know beyond any doubt that He speaks!
Ladies and gentlemen, in the gentleness of the breaking of day and the coming of dusk, in the falling of night and coming of dawn, in the constancy of the various seasons, we experience a soothing gradualism.
There is no jerking, no suddenness. And from primordial wisdom comes such observations as, “… the mills of God grind slowly and surely but finely. And no one climbs a mountain from the summit.
In the work of men, success or failure beckons, depending on the degree of the application of this principle of life. Any investment made without feasibility studies, for example, may end up plodding in the dark. A military campaign prosecuted without a build-up may likewise result in disaster. A few years ago in Britain, some parents who were impatient with the pace of their children’s growth had them given growth hormones. Years later, many of these children suffered from various irreversible diseases. Today, Americans are debating a growth hormone given to cows to make them grow faster and bigger and produce more milk. It has been discovered that the milk of such cows are carcinogens. By observing gradualism to be a method of Nature, we understand a prescription of God for earth life.
We are familiar with the following expressions:
Birds of a feather flock together
Like father, like son.
They say the same thing: Like attracts like. But intellectually, this would appear to be wrong as “Opposite poles attract” and “like poles repel”. The truth, however, is that when “opposites” attract, Nature shows they are merely split parts of a homogenous form seeking each other for a union of fuller value. Thus, sodium and chlorine are not necessarily “opposites” but split parts (of sodium chloride or table salt) seeking union again to regain their composite form. The same principle underlines why man and woman seek union either through marriage or work. But this is a matter for another day.
What this recognition tells us is that, for justice, peace and harmony to prevail, Nature brings together only things and people of like nature or tendencies. Any other arrangement detracts from the beauty and harmony experienced in Nature. Again, the human body is a fascinating example. From two uniting cells, billions and billions of cells have emerged. Soon, they separate in accordance with the roles they are to play in the life of this community of cells called the human body. And never will one be found out of place. The brain cells, always in the brain; eye cells, in the eye; bone cells, in the bone. In the deep, salmon live with salmon; whales with whales, tuna with tuna.
In the forests, hyenas don’t live with lions nor zebras with giraffes. Rather, each is with its kind. In the human domain, the attraction of homogeneous species is ever at play.
Families, villages, towns and nations are constituted on this basis. Superficially, it would appear inherited character traits underline their outwardly evident homogeneity. But inheritance has to do with the form, the body, which is procreated. The content, the spirit, man himself, comes not from parents, but God, and is, therefore, not subject to character gifts. Rather, like spirits band together like the cells of the body differentiated by their tendencies and work.
Thus, music runs in some families, and business, or journalism in others. In these settings, each one is to be independent, standing side by side with others, not one above the other, giving to the rest what it has but which they lack and taking from their own bounties that in which it is deficient, in the unending cycle of a healthy balance in the act of giving and taking. Marriages, too, must operate this prescription if they are to survive. The same goes for business partnerships and cabinet appointments.
Once, the genetist and botanist Gregor Mendel (1922 - 84) tried to create new plant forms by crossbreeding two varieties. Although new forms did emerge as he wanted, their offspring reverted to the original species by the third generation, affirming the supremacy of this compulsion in Nature.
In dissolving their nation without a war to form two new states which are more homogeneous, the Czechs and the Slovaks were mature enough to respect natural dictates. I believe the agitation in many nations today, be it in the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, Nigeria or even in the United Kingdom (the Irish question) arose from the failure to constitute nations on the basis of homogeneity or compatibility of constituent groups called tribes, nationalities, or ethnicities. And it would appear that the strong, more united and stable countries today are the homogeneous ones. Otto Von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor had to break up the Austro-Hungarian Empire by forcing Prussia and Austria out of the Union with Germany. Even the division of Germany into two after the Second World War did not kill the yearning of a people to be one as ordained by Nature, hence the striving of split parts of a homogeneous peopie for union once again.
Besides the compulsion to gradualism, the drive in cycles or arrangements on the basis of similarities, Nature also prescribes motion or movement for all creatures. That is why the clouds are forever on the move. This minute, they form a pattern. The next, they dissolve into another. Where movement ceases, degeneration begins. A stagnant pool of water is foul; a flowing river fresh. Where the air we breathe fails to move well enough, we become uncomfortable and seek to aid the motion with electrical devices.
Our lungs, like our hearts and our blood, must be in motion if we are to stay alive. When we sleep, we roll from side to side. The coming into being of man on earth in itself warranted motions of the womb in labor. Inside the invisible atom, science has discovered incredible motion of electrons revolving around the nucleus. What goes on in the invisible replicates itself in the gigantic. Planets of a solar system, like the electrons, encircle their cores, as if it were a spool, and revolve around them. A recognition of this language of Nature suggests that man himself must be in motion.
But what is man? Or, rather, who is he? This question, being a large field of enquiry, is beyond the scope of this task, although its resolution in regard to the origin, nature and purpose of this seeming mystery is central to the understanding of many a human question. It is in this regard that I venture the following passing comment. It seems to me that the Lord Himself, again, pointed the way to the truth of this matter when he said “… For God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.” If man must worship spirit in spirit, it suggests that he must have an element of homogeneity, that is spirit, with that spirit or he himself is spirit. For only the deep can call to the deep, as they say.
The Apostle Paul spoke of seeing a “spiritual body” of Christ after His resurrection. The fact that man is not blood and flesh is validated by the Transfiguration of Christ, which featured the materialization of Moses and Elijah beside Him. Moses and Elijah had died and long before then! A medium evoked the spirit of Prophet Samuel for a battle-weary King Saul. These days, we hear of extrasensory perception, (ESP) and of out-of-body experiences.
Several books in the Life after Life genre have also been written which depict that life, in tangible form, continues after so-called earthly death. We speak of someone being in “low spirit”; when he is depressed, or in “high spirit” when he is elated. What I am getting at, is that as the compulsion to motion affects material things, it also affects the spirit of man. The human spirit must be mobile. For in mobility lies the prospect of its growth and maturity, the purpose of its existence especially on earth. Christ rejected the dormant and sleepy `foolish virgins’: The awake, wise, and accepted virgins had kept enough oil in the lamps of their souls and were at the alert, waiting for the bridegroom. Being alert means living in the present, not exclusively in the past or in the future. In the past, means not appreciating events, such as the gift of life on earth, until they are gone with the beneficial messages they brought. In the future, means daydreaming about what only the future can bring, thus expecting from the moment what lies outside its calling, thereby stepping out of harmony with the environment.
Life on earth is a school for the human spirit. Events are flooding in by the moment which it is expected to absorb, make meaning of and draw lasting lessons from. A person living in the past or in the future misses these opportunities to mature. If the majority of people in a society is of this nature, that society may remain immature and undeveloped. Previously mature ones may retrogress and collapse, like the airplane which cannot maintain its flight power, once they fail to maintain their upward thrust in this motion.
Like the cloud forms constantly changing in the compulsion to motion, every person’s understanding of life is expected to expand in content and deepen in refinement. Thus, a man’s knowledge of, say, death, earthly possessions, marriage or the child today should be wider and deeper than they were about twenty years ago. Such a stagnation may explain the collapse of many long-standing, outwardly stable human relationships, including marriages. A couple homogeneous about twenty years ago when they married, may have gone their separate ways inwardly, today, and become total strangers, for one may have moved on from the starting point and the other ma have not; or where both had been mobile, one may have progressed at a far more rapid pace, which left the other far behind for the continued good health of the union.
What holds for the individual and a nation is true for humanity as confirmed in the admonition of the Revelation. A few years ago, I found myself spending my fortieth birthday in the town where I received my primary school education. And the path of my experiencing led to that primary school. To my surprise, about 30 years after my departure, nothing seemed to have changed in the neighborhood. Not even the school. If anything, the environment and the facilities were time-bound. And the people? Nothing, too, had changed about them. Their culture and traditions were hardly changed, reflecting a static inner state. Thus, the rush of wind, movement of the clouds, sea waves, and rumbles of the earth, should be a constant admonition that our spirits, be on the move in obedience to God’s command in His Language to Nature.
Every human being, deep within, is endowed with a keen sense of balance. We choose our clothes in a way that allows the colors to blend harmoniously. The same care is taken with materials in cooking, music composition, construction and design generally. Scientists balance their equations just as a good wife never allows family expenses to outstrip income. Motorists are familiar with the importance of wheel balancing, lest their vehicles become coffins on the road. Economists speak of the forces of demand and supply, striking a balance somewhere, and of balance of payments.
A balanced budget is the dream of any nation, and can be an election battleground. Nutritionists advise that our diets should be balanced. In journalism, editors, too, seek a balance by demanding that reporters furnish the other side of the coin in their copies. Like gradualism and motion, the small and the great cycles of events and life and arrangements on the basis of homogeneity, the fulfilment of a sense of balance in all things, small or big, represent a demand from Nature.
Our bodies, too, bear testimony to the language of God in Nature. And the lessons deriving from the way they function are invaluable for the proper functioning and welfare of the human society. For the single cell in the human body is like the individual in society; the tissue like a family, the organ like a nation, the system like a continent!
And since there is only One God, from Who flows One Power and One Will, pervading all He has created, what holds for Nature, His Work, ought to hold also for human societies, His Work as well. We all know we breathe. We take in air and then expunge it. Thus, we unwittingly obey the command of Nature that we must give when we take. For if we do not give, we cannot receive. Where we inhale and do not exhale, either out of greed or some other deficiency, we have cardiac arrest and may die.
Christ Himself taught us that it is better to give than to receive and that He had not come to oppose the law, but to fulfill it. He was certainly not speaking about any earthly law which He had found degenerate, but of a higher law, which bears the Will of His Father, whose perfection compels He Himself to submit to the law. The physical human body, like the human society, is a wondrous grouping of various communities.
In the case of the body, all the individual parts are independent but work joyfully and harmoniously for the benefit of the whole. We learn from it of how one part turns complex food into simpler usable substances, of how another supplies the fuel to burn them up to provide energy for the whole, of how yet another part keeps a store for the rainy day, of how one still removes the poisonous waste and garbage, and another keeps the life-giving blood in circulation, in deference to the law of motion, another recognition of the Truth.
We see how each part ceaselessly gives to the whole of its being, without losing its individualism of how it receives from the whole those provisions which it has no capacity to provide for its benefits, of how no one molests another or seeks to dominate it. There is also no question of covetousness. All simply contribute to the common store and take their provision from it.
Translated to human society, this natural organization (the unnatural is lifeless) implies that each people, each race, has something entrusted to it by Nature in the form of resources or abilities which it must give to others voluntarily, selflessly and joyfully for the general well-being of all, in this indispensable exchange, and which it may not restrict without threatening the existence of the whole. Giving should be voluntary and joyful.
But those who take must also give something in return, must not take advantage of the giver, otherwise the delicate equilibrium in the necessary give-and-take will be upset. The human body advises us so, whether in taking air from the atmosphere for breathing and returning it, or in the various give and take activities of the cells, tissues or organs and systems. Nature speaks the same language in the cycling of water between the land and the atmosphere, and in the mutual gravitational radiation pressure of the celestial bodies which holds them firmly and safety in their orbits in so-called space, otherwise planetary collisions will be rampant.