You are a human being. Nothing more than that. And it’s enough to make you a liar. You are asking me what makes you are a liar?
You are a human being. Nothing more than that. And it’s enough to make you a liar. You asking me what makes you a liar?
Right from that moment that the father of the father of the father of the father of the father of the father of the father of the father of your father found solid expressions “in word forms” for things within and without them, you became a liar.
I don’t care about the language of your thoughts. Think in French, or Yoruba, or Arabic or whatever you call your mother tongue. You totally agree with me that words come from thoughts. Right? Good! Think up a word. Have you? Ok. What’s that word? Oh, the language of your thought is English and the word you have thought is “Book”? Nice!
That word “Book” is not a book. You only have a phonological expression for helping you bring into the open what you think should represent what you think.
You only have a “B,” a bilabial plosive, two “O’s,” a short vowel sound represented as a “u” and a “K,” a voiceless velar consonant. Does any of these look like what you know as “Book”? Certainly not.
Why then do you pretend to refer to “A number of pages bound together and covered front and back with soft or hard backs upon which the name of the writer or editor is written” whenever you mention “Book”? A “Book” is not what you make it refer to. You only found an object for your thought.
How about abstract words? Words that do not have physical existence except where they are written in a book or dictionary. You think of “Freedom.”
Kindly point to an object around you that means “Freedom.” You can’t find? We should then call “Freedom” a failure for not being able to make it to an open world where people can touch and use it. And you hear people all over the world saying that they are walking or fighting for freedom. Human beings are just complex – they fight for what they don’t know.
Oh you’ve found the painting wherein two chained hands break loose. It is what it is: a painting, not freedom. You have seen movies where prisoners have escaped, where slaves are freed, where countries attain political sovereignty. They are what they are: not freedom. But they are fantastic ways of selling you the thoughts of what you should attach the “freedom” concept to out there in the physical world.
When you need to tell me about “Book,” you don’t need to bring me a book. Just mention the word “Book” and I understand you. The lie has continued for so long that it now goes unchallenged. I am supposed to ask you: what is it in the word “Book” that actually looks like a “Book”? You see that you can’t show me that.
A Yoruba adage says “If a piece of leaf used to wrap up a bar of soap stays too long on the soap, the leaf itself gradually becomes a part of the soap.” This is the case with lies – the lies that have now become our truths.
French sees “book” as “le livre.” Spanish regards it as “el libro.” In German, it is “buck.” The Danish version is “bog or booke.” The Italian language recognizes “book” as “prenatare or libro.” It is “livro” in Portuguese.
The Norwegian word for it is “bok.” If the word “book” were truly a book, it would be represented in every language by the same set of words or letters in the same order. The differences we notice in the orthographic representations and phonological realizations of the word “book” in different languages are enough evidence of the lies we lead.
The constant thing here is the idea of a book: something that has two covers, made of printed words on several bounded pages and meant to be read. Anybody in any linguistic culture can think up this idea – that is a truth – the lie comes when they attempt a phonemic and orthographic equivalent of that idea.
The Chomskyan concept of linguistic competence and performance comes to bear here. People understand the grammar of the languages they speak, the problem often arises when they clothe their ideas in actual words. This does not matter whether the language is the speaker’s mother tongue or adopted or colonial tongue.
We often than not fail at articulation of our ideas. The ideas are the closest we get to the truths of our lives, the moment we try manufacturing the ideas in the fabric of our languages, we dent or colour the authenticity of the ideas.
In short, human languages are a bunch of lies. Plato’s analysis of the bed in the world of forms and the representative of the same bed in the material world adds credence to the fact of failure of human languages in the articulation of his experiences. Just as the artist creates a poor copy of the bed so do all human languages create poor copies of the ideas (truths).
We continue to pretend, to accept the lies that things are exactly what our languages say they are. The place of language in human advancement is unprecedented, but it’s not exactly a world of words as languages make us believe.
It is a world of ideas. Ideas became the concrete things we see around us. That is why we must employ sound ideas in the course of running the world; that is if we desire a better world. Words uttered have the capacity to alter but the most beautiful words in the world cannot take the place of ideas well executed. The truth of humanity lies in ideas just as its lies lie in the words of languages.
I continue to wonder how we cannot severe our truths from lies. Great minds birth ideas and wrap them in words that do not in any way represent the truth of creation of the product of their ideas. Our science and technology, the school system, the economic and political systems are all built on the premise of lies.
What is smart in a smart phone? The smartest of smart phones cannot stand the dumbest of human brains. No matter how smart a phone is, it was designed by human beings, it has to be operated by a human being. The best gizmo is a robot and robot it will always be. The expression “smart phone” is therefore one of the technological lies of the 21st century.
The smartness should be rightly attributed to human beings not their inventions. The school system is built on countless lies. In school, people are fed with words and words and words. You know what they say about being a man of many words. No wonder our graduates are long on words but short on creative actions.
Now you know why the drop outs employ the graduates. When you are thirsty of actions, you cannot stand long boring lectures, you just want to do! Political and economic lies are worse. They keep people in perpetual poverty. Political and economic hit men peddle the lies that keep people down in the mud.
They tell us many lies, the reasons we must go to war, the reasons we must have a country of our own, the reasons we must produce our commodities. Many of these reasons are their lies. And we buy into them as we follow blindly, these traders of lies.
Perhaps, a little lie, a little truth is the best way to keep the world in one piece. But jets of lies have since taken off while the chariots of truths are somewhere lost in the thickets of bigotry, religion, cynicism, ethnicity, pride, avarice and kleptomaniac.
Pure truths, if ever achievable, are not capable of keeping the world as one. If we knew why every historical figure in every land did what they did, we would perhaps understand that many of them do not deserve being revered as heroes.
If we knew every genuine reason for every action, the world would soon sink. But we need our truths to be as close as possible to the lies. Do you now agree with me that you are a liar? You don’t? Please read again. Or better still, think again.
Omidire, Idowu Joshua is a poet, critic and editor. He has written and edited for notable individuals and companies.