The Secret History
“If the main pillar of the totalitarian system is living a lie, it’s no surprise that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth. This is why the truth must be suppressed more than anything else.”
You can see it in the mozaic. He has that certain glint in his eye that spells revenge. They say that history is told by the victors. That’s the clean version. The OTHER version is what happens when the state chronicler keeps another set of books that is not for public consumption until such time as he deems it safe. It’s that deep down desire that is so good in human beings, the need to tell the truth.
If you want to read the National Enquirer version of the Byzantine Empire, you might take up an unusual little tome called “The Secret History”, by a gentleman named Procopius, who was the official historian during the reign of Justinian.
The secret history is a tell all, by someone who saw the inside scoop and didn’t want to let the victors get away with their own self-aggrandizing version of events. Hence, Procopius told the whole gritty truth, mostly with intent to impugn the Empress Thedora. It pretty much brings the Biblical injunction to life from Luke 12:3, “Whatever you say in the dark will be heard in the daylight. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.”
Procopius was given to rhetorical flourishes and knew how to turn a phrase. He said of the Empress, “her charity was universal”. He was not proclaiming philanthropy, but rather alluding to Theodora’s lurid sex life, by which she controlled the emperor and therefore the state. Justinian's wife Theodora is described in graphic sexual detail as a loose and immoral woman. The secret histories reveal some escapades that are saucy enough to make a National Enquirer writer blush, and more that could not be read aloud in polite company.
Procopius notes Theodora’s lowly upbringing. Her early days working as a circus actress are vividly portrayed. He notes: “by constantly playing with novel methods of intercourse she could always bring the lascivious to her feet” and Theodora would also “invite both those who had already enjoyed her and those who had not been intimate as yet, by parading her own special brand of gymnastics.”
Whistle blowers are important to any political establishment because they remind those who have forgotten, that there are never really any secrets - somebody knows. And they may find a way to let things slip, even just for sheer personal satisfaction of balancing falsehood with a bit of truth injection. They remind us that politicians can be whores… literally.
We live in an era that has been deemed “fake news”. We hear versions of what others would like us to imagine is going on in the world. Behind all that, somebody knows. What is spoken behind closed doors will someday be shouted from the rooftops, because there is something beautiful about truth that people just cannot stay away from.
I have come to doubt much of what I hear, especially in the mainstream media. There is nothing like getting lied to that will make you like the truth, and rejoice when it is told. There are no fence sitters on these matters. You are complicit with whatever version of truth you ascribe to. Your version of truth better have the ability to survive a shakedown.
Personal tell-alls get personal. They verify that most things in life actually ARE personal. It is hard to deal with falsehood up close and not feel offended or tainted. Eventually, you will either join in, or rebel. You could vent with boring stuff a forensic accountant might be interested into, but describing personal proclivities points out the moral weakness of the one criticized. You can only assume by extrapolation, the moral rot that is hidden.
Watching a government in action can be like watching an accident in slow motion: all too predictable to sensible and honest folk. You can only sigh because you can rarely as a citizen stop that freight train. You can only wait for things to come to their logical fruition. Where bodies are buried, they start to stink. Where corruption has robbed a system, you end up broke. Eventually all comes to the light of day.
There is an Overton window depending on the times, where a certain amount of moral rot in high places is assumed. There is a pendulum that seems to swing back and forth, where the level of corruption gets to be too much, and the pot boils over. Nothing inspires the urge to truth-tell, than wanton falsehood vaunting itself in public. In Canada, we have perhaps arrived. I look forward to the tell-all that comes out after Trudeau is done. I will feel validated. I am also wondering if it will be written by his wife. It might be the ultimate revenge. Certainly there has been sufficient smoke on that dumpster fire we call government over the last six years, to convince people that something might indeed be very, very rotten in Ottawa.
There is a reason why Jesus said “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.”
Government and ethics are very different conversations, which may also explain why to call someone a politician is not generally considered to be a compliment. Our current government takes that to a whole new level.
Telling the truth is sometimes tawdry by nature. It exposes the unsavoury nature of those who would stand on a pedestal and tell everyone what to do, but whose own virtue is a hollow pretence.
And so we need whistleblowers and prophets to keep it real. Isaiah the prophet suffered from the same Truth deficit in his own times. He proclaims “Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.” (Isaiah 59:14)
Happily there is cure for this. The cure is to practise at home, the thing that is notably absent. Tell the truth. Live a life that is true, that denies falsehoods. For in doing so, “…we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” 2 Corinthians 10:5.