06 June 2015
When I first read Ayn Rand’s ‘Night of January 16th’ in college, my mind struggled with the unresolved denouement for many days. As a member of the audience-jury how do you arrive at the absolutely correct conclusion of Faulkner being guilty or not guilty based on the conflicting character testimonies given by the witnesses. Isn’t one’s verdict coloured by the subjective nature of the belief-system you are sympathetic towards? The realisation started dawning that the actual truth can never be a simple case of black and white.
Some years back the double murder of a young school girl and the family retainer made headlines and spawned much debate and discussion in our country’s media. Again many a times i found that people’s opinion on the guilt of the parents often depended on their personal perspective of morality and ethics.
While reading an article on the same i came across an allusion to the ‘Rashoman effect.’ Further study provided an interesting insight into the origin of this term. Akiro Kurusawa the famous Japanese film-maker, made a cult classic by the name of ‘Rashoman’ in 1950. This period film explored the subjective nature of truth through its four main characters each providing contradictory and often self-serving accounts of the same incident (of rape and murder). Even the fifth character who in the end purports to be an objective witness is not above adding his own selfish motive to his narration. (Watching a version of this movie with English sub titles remains on my bucket list…)
Indeed every day in the news or in our personal life we come across so many examples where a single fact transforms into many versions of truth depending upon the number of eye witnesses and their interpretations. This understanding has helped me deal with so many situations in life…patiently wait for more facts to emerge before rushing in with a knee jerk reaction at the first account that comes your way. During my teaching years it specially came in handy while dealing with indiscipline and other complaints of high school teenagers.
In the final analysis does this mean we can never really know the pure objective truth or that there is actually no such thing as the absolute truth…sceptical me is still trying to figure that one out!!