Is HONESTY a far cry in today’s world?

Jacques Derrida, French philosopher, talks of words like the present one honesty, as basically being only graphemes and phonemes, empty signifiers that have no meaning except by common cultural and social consent, which varies from place to place and time to time, for no sooner is a word’s meaning asked than all one can do is give another word for it as the meaning and this word is understood only because it is different from the previous one in the way it looks and is said. Thus the meaning of the word is deferred endlessly on an axis of differences that is phonemic and graphemic and one can never reach its essence outside the text that it is supposed to signify or refer to. Derrida’s theory of difference created a tremendous problem, especially for Marxists that they still have not solved. The metaphysical problem created by Derrida is solved only by Robert M Pirsig’s statement that “good is a noun”.

Honesty too is a noun, meaning it is only in embodiment or personification that its real essence can be found, not in speech or writing. Thus an Indian saint, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, once said that whatever he said would come true because he had spoken only the truth till then in his life and such a man’s or body’s words – since this is not related to gender – could even create the truth and make it happen. Thus, only embodiment here is seen as able to symbolize or represent truth.

But in India where is honesty embodied? Gandhiji, father of the nation tried to embody it for lawyers and for writers in his book My Experiments with Truth, Ambedkar embodied it in his criticism of caste in a tract like the Annihilation of Caste and his conversion, and Nehru in his dealings with children. But if we look to our social spheres, political and economic ones and our cultural and religious matrixes of today in India where do we find honesty embodied. We do not find it in groups or individuals anymore.

The youth are disillusioned by the fact that there is much talk everywhere against corruption but corruption continues. That is why Anna Hazare won an unexpectedly favorable response because they hoped that he would be an embodiment in our time of an honest person who is above the quagmire India is in due to the lack of honesty in all its spheres. This dishonesty has crept even into the closest of relationships and we could say that in a large measure it was brought about by exposure to too many things provided by today’s media which desensitizes people to virtues like honesty. Turning a blind eye to injustice, for instance, in rape cases, and not speaking out if one is a witness to such etc., has become the accepted way of doing things. A country without honesty cannot progress, one can say, without any doubt.

One Quote that come to mind to guide us to re-inculcate this virtue into embodiment would be :

This could be an incentive to begin with for us to become honest but the great country ours is should progress to: No legacy is so rich as honesty.

– William Shakespeare

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