I watched the Chernobyl series of 5 episodes and was deeply struck by the words of the courageous Russian nuclear scientist Valery Legasov,
“As scientists we are naive. We are so focused on our search for truth we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. Truth is always there whether we seek it or not, whether we choose to see it or not, whether we care for it or not. Truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. It will hold us accountable. This at last is the gift of Chernobyl. Though I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: WHAT IS THE COST OF LIES?”
Chernobyl: The Cost
Valery Legasov was assigned by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to lead the resolving of the Chernobyl disaster of 26 April 1986. The cause was human error and negligence, but more importantly, the design flaws of the RBMK nuclear reactor. Unthinkable in Russia. Viciously denied and suppressed by the USSR Politburo and KGB.
Legasov told the truth and paid for it dearly. He committed suicide two years after the nuclear reactor exploded. However, the cost of the lies of the political leaders was paid for by thousands of people who died over the years – to this day the official death toll in Russia is 31; unofficially it’s between 4500 and 90000. And nature itself paid the price: the 2600 square km exclusion zone of radioactive death.
In 2006 Mikhail Gorbachev wrote that Chernobyl was probably the true cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union, not perestroika and glasnost. WHAT IS THE COST OF LIES?
Post-Truth World: Lying Leaders
“That’s Russia! The West is different!” Another lie! We are in a life and death battle of truth and untruth, of honesty and lies, of moral integrity and amoral corruption, of ethical character and ‘fake it till you make it’ performance. We live in a post-truth world where lies are the norm. They are seen as the truth and truth is seen as lies. It’s the perverse form of the ‘politics of truth’. Power games for personal and national gain. Spiritual and political leaders are especially culpable in this regard, and the people suffer for it.
Presidents who routinely lie with predictable ease give permission and power to their leaders, to the entire nation, to lie. It’s a spiritual reality: an evil ‘principality and power’ takes over and thousands and millions of people follow such leaders with gullible worship in ideological blindness, thinking they are heroes.
A sure sign of a spiritual power, of ideological capture, is the irrational emotional defensiveness – even violent threats – when confronted. There is no ability to reason with rational and psycho-emotional objectivity. These leaders use their power, by lies and coverups (propaganda), to make truth the enemy of the people. The nation picks up the tab and pays the price. WHAT IS THE COST OF LIES?
South Africa: National & Personal
The price we have paid in South African for the decade of lies from Jacob Zuma and his network of patronage has been like a nuclear fallout. It will take years to recover. Now under pressure from the Zondo Commission on State Capture Zuma has agreed to come in July to answer questions. The spider of the national web of corruption is appearing. Pray for his deception to be defeated and for the truth to prevail.
It’s a serious spiritual battle. It’s not just Zuma and political and spiritual leaders – it’s each and every one of us. “The human heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things – who can know it? I, the LORD, examine and know the heart…” and will hold it accountable (Jeremiah 17:9). Indeed, God “hates… a lying tongue” because of the destruction it brings (Proverbs 6:16-17).
Legasov once feared the cost of truth, but now asks: WHAT IS THE COST OF LIES? Or we can ask: What is the cost of NOT standing up for the truth? What is the cost of keeping quiet? Do we love the truth enough – and the victims who pay the price of untruth – to confront and unmask the politics of truth? Do we call out people around us when they lie? Do we call out the lies of leaders? Do we drive back the suffocating darkness of lies by a relentless shining of the light of truth – not matter what it may cost us.
Some of our investigative journalists in South Africa are courageous heroes in this regard, such as Jacques Pauw in The President’s Keepers (on Zuma’s corruption) and Pieter-Louis Myburgh in Gangster State (on Ace Magashule’s corruption).
Defeating the Evil of Untruth
However, let me be clear: we cannot defeat the evil behind this darkness unless we are ruthless with ourselves. Unless you are radically self-honest and forsake any and every temptation to lie – even a ‘white lie’ to spin the truth, exaggerate, give half the truth, cover up – you have little or no power to defeat the power of untruth that is covering the land, the globe, like a suffocating blanket. You cannot challenge others if you yourself lie.
Whether we know it or not, like it or not, THE TRUTH will always eventually triumph. It will hold us accountable personally and nationally, sooner or later, in this life and/or in the life to come. If we are always utterly truthful, even to our own hurt, God will stand by us and will vindicate us in this life and/or in the life to come.
Then darkness will be driven back and light will rule in human society. The reign of the ‘politics of truth and love’ (love of the truth). The economy will prosper and nature itself will explode with fruitful life.