Sunday, 15 July 2012

Plato is my friend but truth my greater friend

The title of this entry comes from a latinized quote attributed to Aristotle: amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas. There are different versions and phraseologies attributed to other sources to be sure but the fact remains that the sentiment is a noble one and should rightly be a timeless ideal character building exercises strive for (whether religious or secular).

I'm here not talking about petty "truths" about this or that person nor about dogmatic "truths" of organized religions and corporate propaganda, but of the notions of integrity and honour in our systems of governance, economics and education.

I was watching Power&Politics the other day where Rob Russo and John Iveson were part of the panel with Solomon and they were discussing the financial stresses that universities are increasingly under and whether they should be accepting corporate donations that invariably carry obligations to the particular interests and partisanship of corporate "beneficence". Of course, the panel didn't have much time to talk about these issues in-depth but their discomfort with such arrangements was rightly palpable - though unavoidable, they surmised.

Suppression of knowledge and technological innovation (especially what are called green technologies) are notoriously part of these deals with the devil when suppression of them serves their immediate and dogmatic interests. But so are climate change science, human health (big tobacco, asbestos, etc.), and environmental/ecological integrity equally vulnerable.

The thing that struck me as almost entirely absent in the discussion is the "too big to fail" mentality that corporations in trouble now seem to really like to fall back on, including large universities. Commercialized technologies, like automobiles, communications and computers, do not really change in their basic platforms after they're invented - the putting on of lipstick to the pig becomes then the "next big thing" - if one goes beyond the propaganda wars between corporations that ensue after the thing is perfected.

Substantive innovation and revolutionary change, in fact, become the "enemies" of large corporations when they've invested so much treasure and R&D into their own products. One of the reasons for such price escalation of 50 cent widgets has to do with R&D itself where public interests are entirely non-existent (because public or non-partisan accounting of the true costs have been made illegal in most westernized, free market countries), especially in pharmaceuticals and medical technologies where one may be charged up to $800US for a long piece of plastic tubing (for sterilization one supposes), or "medicines" are developed and fast-tracked into market though the side-effects are often just plain disturbing.

I was watching Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo deCaprio and the gorgeous Djimon Housou last night with my aippakuluk, and in the special features part of the dvd some interviewee mentioned that in the US, especially, journalism has become more interested in corporate partisanship and commercial "possibilities" than the truth so gross atrocities financed by unchecked consumerism go unreported if not outright suppressed and denied.

Canada is not immune, nor is it entirely innocent and unsullied.

Lucre is our friend but we should never lose sight of the fact that rocks, oil and money have no nutritional/spiritual value, nor social value where the public's trust is long abused in the interest of greed. Plato is my friend but trust/integrity my more valued friend.

Jay

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