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The naked truth

By Tim Middleton

Let us face it: we do not like the truth. We will do what we can to avoid it and where we cannot avoid it, we will try to soften or lighten it. The classic comedy show: Monty Python’s Flying Circus did this in their infamous Dead Parrot sketch in which the complaining customer advises the pet shop owner in numerous different ways that the parrot he bought there was in fact dead — “it has gone to meet its maker; it is pushing up the daisies; it is no more; it has ceased to be; it is bereft of life; it rests in peace; it is an ex-parrot”. In a similar fashion people try to avoid telling an employee the hurtful fact that she is being fired by dressing it up in such terms as “a career change or an early retirement opportunity, a career or employee transition, or a normal involuntarily attrition”!

People often approach even less difficult moments as if they must walk on eggshells. Bad debts are described as “under-performing assets” and we all know what “innovative accounting” means. We now have to declare that people are challenged follically, horizontally, vertically, financially, chronologically and not use the words we all know they represent.

It seems therefore that, by using such euphemisms, we do not like to face the truth. Quentin Crisp defines euphemisms as “unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne”. Similarly, we try to dress truth up in fancy clothes to hide any deficiencies; we apply make-up to cover the cracks and spots. We photoshop any unpleasantness and airbrush any potential embarrassment. We try to soften the blow as best we can and be polite, without causing any offence or hurt. After all, truth, like people, must not be seen naked.

James A. Garfield explained that “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” And, of course, we do not want people to be miserable, even at the expense of truth. Yet, as Winston Churchill (and indeed others) is often attributed with saying, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”.

Let us face one naked truth full on; let us confront the stark reality, the bare-faced truth. Many teenagers here in Zimbabwe are taking nude photos of themselves and sending them to their friends on their phones. Many of those so-called friends are sending those photos on to other friends and acquaintances or even social media platforms without the knowledge or consent of the person in the photo. Many of these people are under-age. The naked truth of all this is that all of these people are committing not simply a moral deficiency (which is a euphemism for the biblical word “sin”) but also a criminal offence. It is pornography and it is under-age; there is no getting away from that fact.

The naked truth about taking and sending nude photos is that the actions do not only reveal the physical attributes of the individual but also the personal character of that person. We cannot hide what it says of someone who takes pride in, or risk of, doing so. The naked truth exposes the naked truth. Furthermore, such photos will most likely also be revealed to future employers or partners on their journey round and round the earth. We cannot hide from or dress up that truth.

There is perhaps an even more concerning naked truth regarding this matter; that is, many parents are entirely ignorant of the fact that their under-age child is baring their all to the wider world. Even those that may be aware of this are possibly ignoring it in the vain hope that nothing bad will result from it. Yet, startlingly and starkly, some parents are even defending their child, bewailing punishments that ensue, on the grounds that their child is losing out on their education. The naked truth, however, is that the child is learning far more important and life-changing lessons than any formal curriculum is able to offer; the sooner the child learns this, the better.

Euphemisms have been described as “the language of evasion, hypocrisy, prudery, and deceit,” (Holder 2008). Accordingly, we need to be strong enough to face the naked truth about ourselves and our children. Arthur Schopenhauer was perhaps correct in saying that, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” However, “In the long run, the most unpleasant truth is a safer companion than a pleasant falsehood.” [Theodore Roosevelt]

The naked truth of our true nakedness will be round the world before we have time to press the delete button, let alone put our pants on or push up the daisies.

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 
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  • website:www.atschisz

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