If you use material found in this book without permission from the author or publisher, we will hang you. Burning down your village and pilfering – but not necessarily in that same order – may also be involved, but no waterboarding. Information of a general nature requires no action. When in doubt, contact the author. Mentioning him and the book is greatly appreciated.
Published by Swiatek Press, Inc. 71 Georgian Lane #3 Buffalo, NY 14221
ISBN: 0-9817843-5-6 Printed in the United States ALL RIGHTS RESERVED in memory of Father Jack Weimer,who inspired us to seek the truth also by Robert S. Swiatek
1. You can’t handle the truth 1
2. Critics rave 13
3. LWL, BBL and ETC 29
4. A writer’s concern with truth 37
5. History detectives and historians 49
6. You cheated; you lied 57
7. The play is being reviewed 69
8. Breaking up is hard to do 77
9. Kill the groundhog 87
10. Health care, vitamins and drugs 95
11. That’s funny 115 12. Science versus technology 127
13. I challenge you to a debate 135
14. Some statements aren’t precise 141
15. The Rashomon effect 147
16. Conspiracies 153 17. Can governments be trusted? 167
18. What a pyramid! 177
19. True or false 183
20. Is truth attainable? 197
References and recommendations 207
At the beginning of all my previous books and in just about any book you read, there is a common warning to people not to plagiarize or pilfer material without the permission of the publisher or author. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the words that start out with, “No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, etc.” Note that the last abbreviation just before the closing quote mark is not part of it, but it is an acronym that describes just exactly what those words are. If you’ve read a book or two of mine, you know my interpretation of ETC. If not, I’ll explain it in chapter 3.
It’s obvious what those words of warning intend, but you won’t see them at the beginning of this book because it’s nothing but a waste of space and words. I really don’t want people to take a page or two of this book and publish it or call it their own, but how can I stop them from doing it? Much of what you read here is common sense or knowledge familiar to us, so I have no copyright on that, and anyone is free to pass that information on. If you see something that makes an impact and want to use it, feel free to do so and if you want to mention my name and this book, I won’t object to that. If you glossed over what I put in place of those words at the beginning of most books, you may want to return to see the few words I wrote, which are closer to the truth.
Sometime during 2008 – in the midst of my publishing adventures – I thought about what books I would write next. I thought about republishing my cookbook, as well as publishing the first book I wrote, a computer mathi
effort. Another possibility was a book of essays that remained unpublished, which needs updating. I am seriously considering a book on cancer, and in early 2009, I began another book off to the side in the for seeing eye dogs only series. The project I couldn’t wait to begin was a book on truth – what is it and how do we find it? Because of the effort of bringing six books into print last year, I acknowledged the fact that I couldn’t think of the book on truth until the beginning of 2009, which I began in earnest on January 1.
My decision for doing this book has to do with writing, but it also applies to each of us in many ways, whether we look for the truth, or want to make it a part of our behavior. Someone said that if you told the truth, you’d have less to remember. I can’t argue with that but many people take care of that problem with the words, “I can’t recall.” When they utter that phrase, they may be sincere, but others are just not willing to relate what happened. One of the words you can find on my web site is excellence, which can’t be achieved with laziness and the use of falsehood. Of course, we all have good intentions, but sometimes fail for various reasons.
In April 2009, I stopped in to the local library to return some books and checked out a single book and one DVD, Be Kind Rewind, which is a clever title. I’m probably reading more into it than what’s there, but I really loved the movie and highly recommend it for a few reasons, other than the title. It starts with Thomas “Fats” Waller, the legendary musician, and it mentions that he spent time in Passaic, New Jersey, a city in which I rented a studio apartment in lateii
1968. I wasn’t there very long, as I moved to the town of Clifton nearby, before I eventually moved back to Buffalo. The movie covers a few subjects besides music. It deals with movies, neighborhoods and trying to save them, as well as offering some outrageous humor.
One point that surfaces in the movie is truth. Miss Falewicz, played by Mia Farrow, points out that you can make a movie even though some of the bits aren’t true. They become reality if one believes in them. That’s obviously not true – I’ll spend more time on that thought later – but this approach can accomplish something in defining a person, even if some of the specifics are a bit off. What takes place in Be Kind Rewind shows that Hollywood takes liberties but inspires us to knowledge in a few ways. Viewing the life of Weller, even if only seeing a small part of it, can move viewers to read a book about him, thereby uncovering some truth.
Sometime shortly after I began college in September 1960, I happened to enter a cinema. That may have been what triggered my interest in movies. I will reference a few throughout this book, since they relate to the subject matter, offering numerous lessons for us, as do books and television. Along with the information comes deception in all these venues, so it’s up to us to separate the truth from the lies. People understand that some people can’t handle the truth – many of us, in fact – but there are individuals who don’t let that get in the way of their lives. Others find it almost impossible to lie. You won’t find many people who don’t ever not lie, and others who always speak honestly, but we also need to consider scenarios where something may be trueiii
Now that Barack Obama is president, there may be more truth in the nation’s capital. Well, maybe not, since we still have the comatose Congress and their compatriots, the lobbying lecherous leeches hanging around. I would prefer many of these people to simply be hanged. Sadly, politicians don’t have a monopoly on deception, greed and power, which are some of the reasons for statements that just aren’t true and promises that will never be carried out. We also have lawyers – some people have referred to them with the similarly sounding appellation of liars – marketers, agents, businessmen, CEOs, preachers, accountants and salesmen. In addition, I’m sure you know a few people who take liberties with the truth. B.S. is not unknown to them and these are people who never graduated from college or did so with a B.A.
My journey to explore the truth will cover many of these people as well as relationships, which none of us can avoid, unless we live in a cave. Let’s just pray that it has cable or a satellite dish. Television is loaded with deception, especially commercials, whether they are of the thirtysecond variety or nauseating infomercials. You may have discovered that much of this blather is filled with lies. Even the regular programming has descended into depths never reached by television with reality TV, which is another annoying oxymoron.
I’ll delve into comments from critics, whether professionals or family, friends or otherwise. Before my first book was published, I was well aware of critics who panned a movie or book without seeing or reading it, respectively.iv
They’re still around today, and as I have discovered, it gets worse than that. I’ll also bring up the fact that many people just don’t want to hear the truth. If you are a writer or if you merely open your mouth to say something, there’s a good chance you could offend someone, even if you tossed out a compliment. Sadly, people are offended quite easily, even by words that weren’t meant to do so. We all have heard of great people who are attacked for the good that they do. I’ll also mention the need for keeping one’s mouth closed on occasion, which interferes with individual growth but is necessary. Another concern is that you can lie without uttering a word as well as the fact that what someone says may not be precise.
I’ll also talk about the differences between science and technology, a difference that at one time seemed nonexistent. A related field that on many occasions uses facts in the wrong way has to do with statistics, studies and surveys. Illusion plays a great role in one’s beliefs, but perhaps we are simply overcome by what we want to believe rather than by what has actually occurred. The health care profession forces us to look closely at drugs and vitamins and one wonders whether any of those pills are necessary or effective. I couldn’t leave out a consideration of conspiracies and need to wonder if those who deny their very existence aren’t part of the conspiracy itself.
You may have seen the PBS program, History Detectives, which in the summer of 2009 returned to the air. I made it a point to record the show when it was on and I will talk about the process used by this great team of researchers to uncover the truth and simultaneously shed some light onv
the history of an artifact. The research endeavor is something of great importance, so I will look at the role of historians, who sometimes fail to uncover what really happened. Going right along with that is the thought that maybe truth isn’t obtainable. However, with fingerprints, DNA evidence, as well as the advanced technology available today – questionable at times, though it is – it might appear that the truth really can’t be hidden, even if it takes some time to uncover it.
I mentioned excellence earlier. As a writer, I can’t produce a book that is completely free of errors – those miscues don’t necessary equate to lies. However, one of my goals is to minimize the mistakes, which means diligence, editors and proofreaders, who themselves are also capable of missing something which is not fact. It goes with the territory and can’t be avoided. They really aren’t to blame – it is my problem and that’s why I myself edit and proofread each of my books, more than once. The extra effort means that the truth is not likely to be distorted, which goes along with the idea of doing the best you can.
This quest has been the inspiration for the book. We need not be writers to strive for what’s right – something that people actually debate. Each of us looks for and expects honesty from others. When it is not achieved, we are very disappointed, but realize that our friends and family are human. Mistakes are part of life. As we shall discover, the idea is quite complicated. Just as it was my intention to have a book cover that is black and white, the gray is missing. Truth may be black or white, but gray more aptly describes what people think is the truth. It also is the color of how wevi
apply it to our everyday lives.
The first title I thought about using was Objects in
Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. People love titles
that I choose for my books, even if they don’t buy any of
them. Potential customers chuckle at the front page of the
book, with its title and cover. Some naively ask me if these
are children’s books, but they are probably confused by the
illustrations, which tie in to the subject matter and bring out
the fact that each of my productions has my sense of humor.
This characteristic may sell books, but it has great
ramifications as far as the truth is concerned. Just as potential
customers misjudge the nature of my books, people misread
others and their books as well. In this case there is a
misreading of the book even before opening it.
I didn’t settle on that title, but rather a variation on it,
which might result if one fails to heed the implications of the
original title. The mirror image idea reflects the fact that
truth is hard to achieve. Notice that the mirror on the
passenger side of the car has the words that were my first
choice for the title – indicating an inaccurate outlook –
whereas the left or driver’s mirror seems to be quite truthful.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that we’re
talking about the distortions and lies brought about by people
in government on the right, whereas their counterparts – on
the left – seem to have a better picture of the situation. I’m
not the one who engineered these mirrors, so don’t blame
me. I wonder if the misrepresentation is still present to the
person sitting in the passenger seat up front. If so, there’s no
reason for this problem, and another title would have been
necessary. My second choice was Objects In Mirror Are
About To Smash Into Your Car: A Treatise On Truth , but I figured it might be too long, so the final title is what you see on the cover.
In the spring of 2007, I purchased a 2007 Toyota Prius, which turned out to be a complete assault on truth. I should have known better since I was dealing with a car dealership as well as a criminal corporation, which had “toy” in the name. At the time the company was actually number one in the pack. Unfortunately, they weren’t leading in the way they should have been and were like all the rest. After two years, I had had enough of the lies and traded in the car for a Honda Civic hybrid. One of the lies was the camera in the back of the Prius that displayed the scene behind the vehicle whenever I shifted the car into reverse. Along with the distorted view came constant beeping – another annoyance that I can do without – and this picture didn’t have the warning about the objects in the mirror. However, relying on it rather than glancing behind would guarantee a call to my insurance company. There were other technological deficiencies in the Prius, such as the gas gauge, inaccurate calculation of the mileage, displays that disappeared when you wanted them to remain, and another that wouldn’t leave, even though I was hoping that it would.
I’ll be referring to a few movies and books that fit in with our discussion of the subject matter. One book that is appropriate is Daphne du Maurier’s Rule Britannia. The 2008 flick, Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, is worth mentioning and one that you will not easily forget. Each has much relevance when it comes to revealing the truth, though in slightly different ways. Theviii
movie and book are not unlike the journey we are about to embark on, which will not deal with the technicalities of mirrors, but rather with the complexity of uncovering the truth. It will be a long and involved endeavor and a complex one. Finding the right mirror to see the true picture will be of utmost importance to us.ix
The above words were uttered by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 movie, A Few Good Men. Sadly, most people can’t stomach reality very well, when it comes to statements applying to them and to other matters. Some people aren’t bothered at all, others will accept the truth with few qualms, while still others may not be that happy, but will still carry on. The last group finds it the most difficult to cope with under these circumstances.
Obviously, political correctness (PC) – a label that I wish was never coined – may enter into the picture. Politics is a nasty affair, but something that can’t be avoided. Handling the truth would be a great deal easier for all of us if people would exercise restraint and refrain from uttering a word. This is in spite of the fact that an individual might feel he has to illustrate just how smart he is. When someone tries to impress me, they usually don’t. One of the rules of email etiquette I posit is to not answer every email that you receive. I’m sure you have been the recipient of correspondences that upset you and you may have felt that you had to reply, but not in kind, if you know what I mean. The prescription I had in this instance was to stay silent, and if you really felt that an answer was warranted, wait a day. By that time you probably would come to your senses and figure that action was neither necessary nor productive. I included a bumper sticker in my last book of 2008, here’s your free gift – send $10 for shipping:My silence could mean you are
No matter who you are, there will be times when each of us will be bothered by the comments of others. Everyone would be better off if people concerned themselves less with always speaking one’s mind and just had more consideration for others. We’re all in this together and none of us is perfect, so we may be too tall or vertically challenged – PC for the obesity thing or a subset of it – too talkative, too controlling or deficient in some way. We are all aware of our shortcomings, so we need not be reminded of them. This admonition is not contrary to the idea of always being truthful if we remember that we have the ability to keep out mouths closed on numerous occasions. This goes right along with the rule of being less negative and more just the opposite, despite what we may be facing in our lives.
When you visit a foreign land, you may not talk much – especially if the natives don’t speak a dialect that suits your understanding – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t insult someone. Your verbal responses as well as other gestures could have a different significance than the same behavior in your own land, resulting in offending the home folks. Traveling to Europe, Asia or South America is a great thing insofar as travelers experience other cultures and witness how others live. Thus, it is not an option to stay in one’s own state and refuse to travel, if being a globe trekker results in passing out insults, even unintentionally. The real solution is to learn more before you go, so as to avoid embarrassing moments abroad.This phenomenon of telling the truth, no matter what the consequences, can be attributed to a few causes. Some 2
people say what they think, and they have always been that way. They have been brought up with the idea of righteousness and they figure that what they observe and take note of must be relayed to others, especially those they can help. The thought of improvement is a good one but in many cases, it would be appreciated if the advice came in private – one on one – as opposed to where all could hear. Feelings need to be considered. Ironically, the people who have no concerns about what they say to others – regardless of the veracity – aren’t very pleased when a similar situation occurs in which they are on the receiving end. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Another explanation has to do with the situation in the country, within our own family or within our own life. I will return to this idea in the chapter on critics, but you can see that something that transpires in the office may bring the delivery of abuse on a spouse or children later in the day. They certainly don’t deserve this. Of course, there are instances in which a long-time friend does something with results that we weren’t expecting. On one occasion I met a gentleman whom I had a great deal of respect for. One day the Sunday news pointed out that he had been making off with funds that didn’t belong to him. I was disappointed to say the least. Each of us has experienced this same situation, maybe even from a family member. Obviously, this upsets people unless scruples never were a part of your makeup.
Friendships can be broken down into a few classes. The first begins and is long lasting – something we hope would be true of marriages. The second type is one that develops and grows, but then ends only because someone3
moved away from the other. That could be the end of it or the friendship could resume at a later date. The final type is one that ends – this could certainly apply to either of the first two relationships described – either with or without fireworks, even when it’s not the Fourth of July. In each of these cases, the title of this chapter could apply, that is words could be uttered that should have been held back. On too many occasions, a retort is not worth the effort.
No matter what kind of relationship you are talking about, one needs to understand that no one is perfect. Thus, our friend may do things of which we don’t approve, even though it may have been acceptable earlier in the friendship. Life is too short for bickering and fighting, so we need to accept others for what they are, realizing that we ourselves have faults as well. Too often, brothers and sisters refuse for years on end to see each other or talk. No family is spared this behavior, but it shouldn’t occur. Whatever caused the rift really wasn’t that significant or important. Forgiveness is necessary in all our lives.
The twenty-first century doesn’t help matters with all the advances that have been showered on us. I discussed in great detail the failure of email in Press 1 For Pig Latin, my book on the deficiencies of technology. You might disagree with me and feel that communication is better than ever. Consider the individual who has a small dinner party and sends out four invitations using email. Three of the parties respond, with two saying they will attend with their spouses and the third says she will be there, alone. The last invitee doesn’t get back to the host, so the invitation is sent a second time. Still there is no response and the sender figures that his4
friend is busy and can’t make it. The dinner takes place and a short time after that contact is made between the missing party and the person who cooked the dinner. There might be some hard feelings, or maybe the two come to an understanding of just what happened, since the email was never received.
Perhaps the host should have called the intended guest, but suppose that had been done, a message left at the household, but the intended person never received it. Answering machines have been known to fail and a family member may have forgotten to pass the invitation along to her parents. She simply forgot. If the dinner was at the end of the year, a third option was to send a Christmas greeting with the invitation inside the envelope. Until the end of 2007, I had a great deal of confidence in the United States Post Office. After experiencing the loss of books that I had sent across the country – I know because I tried to track them – I’m not that enamored with the service. In fact, it has only gotten worse. You know these feelings if you read some of my books, especially the ones on missing intelligence. Thus, each of the three options – email, phone and regular mail, could fail.
My cousin takes no chances. He emails, followed by a phone call, in which he may have to leave a message, and finally he sends a letter. It is highly unlikely that all three correspondences will not get through, but it could happen. However, I would never employ all three means because of the reaction on the part of the recipient. I don’t think it would be too accommodating. Yet, what choice do we really have?As a writer, I certainly put down thoughts that I 5
should have held back. At times I do this for a laugh, but also to enlighten. Some people need to be exposed because of their behavior – either ethically or rationally. In early 2009, I became a big fan of Jay Leno and The Tonight Show. Jay tells it like it is, and at the end of 2008 and the beginning of the year 2009, he assaulted corporate America – especially the CEOs – the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, Sarah Palin and that guy who made off with the money and infuriated many people. His name, appropriately enough, is Bernard Madoff. In his honor, New York City artist Alex Gardega is selling a habanero hot sauce called, “Bernie in Hell.” Leno’s comments on these people was just part of the monologue, offered to bring some laughter into our lives, and I might add, to inform us of what’s going on in the country. This is needed because the media has failed the public in what they should be doing. Maybe they figure we can’t handle the truth. This doesn’t bother Leno, as Jay pulls no punches while lambasting NBC, the network that pays him.
When you mention, “Tell it like it is,” one person who comes to mind is the late Howard Cosell, an individual that you either loved or hated. He was known primarily for Monday Night Football, which may never have been such a huge hit without him, and his relationship with Mohammed Ali, aka Cassius Clay. The two fed off each other and were responsible in some ways for the other’s success. Cosell pulled no punches and perhaps he should have uttered those words of Nicholson that grace the title of this chapter.Another type of star that figures into this discussion is the stand-up comedian, who relies on character studies to 6
obtain laughs and a paycheck. So many comics force us to look at ourselves but some take it to another level altogether. Don Rickles is one of the attack people, who makes fun of just about everyone, at times in an abusive manner. To his credit, we know that he speaks to get a laugh – I have recalled some hysterical moments watching him, even in early 2009 when I roared – and he always remarks at the end that he was just kidding. In fact, he does that more than once during a performance. He is not the only one with this style of humor.
Another similar comedian, who had me laughing on so many occasions – I was blessed to see him in person at his club in New York many years ago – was the late Rodney Dangerfield. But he was different because he made fun of himself, with such lines as, “My wife likes to talk during sex; last night, she called me from her hotel.” Another gem he offered was, “I get no respect, even from my dog. The other day he was playing with a bone – it was in my finger.” Dangerfield saw that we’re all imperfect and should laugh at ourselves. He was similar to Rickles in many ways, but different in that he was the victim, so he spared his audience. Rodney, we miss you!
In my books, I’m not too kind with the government (legislative, judicial or executive), corporate America, with emphasis on the banks and management, and you are may be aware of my love for the publishing industry as well as my admiration for health care. You might agree with me that they a