OPINION Chen WeihuaEditorialsOp-Ed ContributorsChinese PressColumnistsLETTERSSlidesPhotosLet truth be told in real and virtual world(China Daily)Updated: 2009-10-20 10:05Telling the truth isnt always easy.The Chinese say that while good medicine may leave a bitter taste in the mouth, it is good for fighting disease. Likewise, faithful words may offend the ear, but are good for conduct.I have read and heard countless stories lately about how subordinate officials and employees are unwilling to tell the truth for fear of retribution, such as offending their bosses and jeopardizing their career.A survey conducted by the Peoples Tribune magazine last year found that 77 percent of respondents believed telling the truth to their superiors would likely result in revenge, while 65 percent said most bosses don t want to hear the cold, bitter truth. About 44 percent felt that telling the truth would bring them more harm than good.What this means is that many officials and corporate chiefs dont get the truth from their subordinates. They instead deliver lies to please their superiors. This is because some leaders dont like bitter medicine or faithful words.That also helps explain why many people keep their lips sealed against dissent and their bosses scandals until the day they leave the companies.Telling the truth decades ago would have been fatal during political campaigns like the “cultural revolution” (1966-76). Linguist Ji Xianlin, who expired three months ago at the age of 98, was admired for his personal and scholastic integrity. Yet he was also called into question lately for his motto – “Never tell lies, but dont always tell the whole truth”.Never telling a lie would have been next to impossible during those turbulent years.But telling the truth today is imperative. Without it, the integrity of the individuals who make up society would be compromised, as such was the case with great master Ji.Renowned writer Ba Jin, who died four years ago this month at age 100, felt deep remorse in his later years about what he was forced to do during the “cultural revolution”. He told lies by criticizing his friends at various meetings. At night in those days, he would go to their homes to offer them apologies.Yet Ba, who wrote a book truthfully detailing his experience with the “cultural revolution”, is highly respected today. His work can be compared to Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau, whom Ba revered since his youth. Personally, I have a copy of Confessions signed by Ba Jin because Rousseau happens to be my hero, too.Modern China is starkly different from the days of the “cultural revolution.”However, speaking the truth, or being honest, is still sometimes not the best policy. This is greatly hindering social progress.The good news is that many people have found a good outlet for their candor. The Internet has become a platform where people feel free to speak from their hearts.Such a reality is reflected in the ever-growing belief that netizens speak the truth while some officials make only conventional remarks.An Internet poll showed that 99 percent of netizens said what they wrote online was truthful. Just 1 percent admitted they were fibbing.But the bout of courage demonstrated in the virtual world stems from the fact that 99 percent of netizens do not use their real names and there wont be the repercussions like the real world.At the same time, the Internet is a place without hierarchy. People can talk and debate on level ground, regardless of social status, age, profession and income.Being truthful in cyberspace is a good start. This courage needs to be extended further, out into the real world. Much more needs to be done to improve our corporate culture and the government system so that people dont continue to hold back the truth for fear of retribution.chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn

By 多哈

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