Truth Forum

Truth Forum: a New Kind of Civic Movement

Truth Forum Graffitti. PHOTO: New History Assisiation.
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Written by Editors

The Truth Forum is a proposal of the initiators of the Debating Encyclopedia (DE). We intend to publish it in the DE once it is operating.

States and parties holding the fate of humankind in their hands do not “seek the truth” in the Hegelian sense. Parties promote the benefits of their interest groups, and states their interests against other states. That is the justification and reason for their existence. They do not try, nor can they try, to defend the general good of humanity, to seek the “whole truth”.

Thus, disputes between states and political controversies between parties and politicians are fundamentally irrational, even when they rationally pursue the interests of their interest group. Sometimes that interest may also reflect the benefit of all humanity, but it is the exception rather than the rule.

In this sense, traditional non-governmental organisations do not seek the “whole truth” either. They are always “single-issue organisations”, even when they have multiple goals. As such, also non-governmental organisations are ”interest groups”.

The Truth Forum is a civic university in the sense that discussion and study – that is, the search for truth – is an end in itself in it. It differs from current universities in that it tackles the most pressing topics of the time, the topics that the most incite ideological and political passions.

The format of the Debate Encyclopedia guarantees a civilised, democratic and fair form for the discussion.

Debates in the Truth Forum help in creating enlightened public opinion, which pressures states, parties and international organisations to follow the laws and treaties and to make decisions that benefit the general good of humanity.

Past Era Truth Forum

Truth Forum in a Nutshell

Truth Forum debates follow the DE-principles. The aim is not to reach a consensus, but rather to help citizens to learn to form their opinions and worldviews as carefully as possible. It is the most democratic way to seek the truth of our time.

Epoch-making ideas have never been created from scratch. A serious debate on the state of the world is only possible if it is based on a critical and multifaceted evaluation of the ideas of the past era.

The aim of the Truth Forum is to help create an enlightened public opinion that can put pressure on politicians to make decisions which promote sustainable development.

By their very nature, states tend to water down the injustices of their recent history and break their own laws. We propose a permanent Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be established in all Democratic States, as well as a Citizens Truth Commission Forum alongside it.

Past Era Truth Forum

How to look for the “truth” about the past era? – We need to look at the opposing ideas that have most influenced the development of the era and find what principles have endured and distinguish them from what has expired and what is wrong. Which of the current problems are entirely new and cannot be answered by any of the past ideas? Such an analysis is essential when we start to build a new global view.

Different schools of philosophy give a different meaning to the concept of the past era. The period covered by the concept also varies between schools. – Such differences of opinion are part of the debate in the forum.

We refer to the period in which the worldviews of current ideologico-political trends, movements and parties were formed.

We are looking for an answer to the question “how did we get here?” – For example, what was essential in the birth of capitalism? Why has it become the dominant economic system? What are the different stages in the development of capitalism? What caused the rise and fall of socialism in the last century? How have the predictions of the past era about the future development of humanity turned out?

The Past Era Truth Forum is philosophical in nature. It builds a bridge between learning from history and political influence.

Political Truth Forum

The Political Truth Forum assesses the most important events and the ideologico-political debates in recent history from an ethical standpoint.

Who or which movements in recent history have gone against the current and criticised politics that subsequently turned out to be wrong? Who have been able to predict future developments correctly? Who have been self-critical and defended the rights of those with opposing views – and who have suffered because of their views and opinions?

What kind of recognition – apologies, financial compensation – should the state grant to such persons and organisations?

Even the most democratic states are rarely able to admit their wrongdoings and apologise to those who have been wronged – and even then, it usually happens after many decades.

When debating opinions relating to current politics, the ethical nature of the debaters is generally not at the forefront. But when it comes to the most intense ideological debates and major events in recent history, the question is not just about who was ethical at the time. The discussion is primarily about who at the moment wants to acknowledge and compensate for injustices in recent history, and who wants to water down or belittle them, or to counter the debate in one way or another.

Juridical Truth Forum

The role of the Juridical Truth Forum is to bring to light the illegalities of governments, decision-makers and officials which have become or are about to become a custom in the country; in other words, issues that are neglected by the judicial authorities.

Such a situation threatens the entire democratic form of government. There is an ever-present tendency for such illegitimate customs to emerge in even the most democratic states. Finlandisation is an instructive example of this.

Globalisation poses entirely new challenges to the principle of the rule of law. Speculative financial capital has risen to dominate the global economy. It carries forces that work not only against the rule of law but also against western democracy as a whole. The financial collapse of 2008 is an example of how speculative financial capital could bring entire states to the brink of an economic collapse.

Other examples are the structures in contradiction to the rule of law laid down in the EU Treaties, which allowed for numerous illegalities in the context of the eastern enlargement and the EMU.

Democracy in its present form cannot survive unless the principle of the rule of law is substantially developed.

A New Kind of Truth Commission

The following proposal will be discussed in the Juridical Truth Forum: every (constitutional) state (and union of states like the EU) should establish

(1) the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a permanent state body, and

(2) the Citizens’ Truth Commission Forum, which has a formal status in the society and which cooperates with the Truth Commission.

The implementation of the proposal will require changes to national constitutions and, e.g., EU Treaties.

It also requires developing and refining the idea of the Truth Commission. Furthermore, it requires a civic dialogue on the philosophy of justice and the stages in which the current constitutional states have developed. Otherwise, exposing individual wrongdoings and finding the perpetrators will easily be disruptive.

The development of international law is also one of the themes in the Juridical Truth Forum.

Literary Truth Forum

The Literary Truth Forum discusses human nature from the perspective of historical philosophy, moral philosophy, and literature.

How has human nature been formed historically (and prehistorically)?

Are human beings good or evil? What is the core of individual ethics, and how has it been discussed in the history of philosophy? How does individual ethics differ from social ethics? What is the so-called universal ethics?

What are the key concepts for understanding human nature, and how should they be defined? Which of the concepts are essential in explaining human nature, and which are merely descriptive?

For example: one the one hand “good” traits, as sense of justice, love of truth, honesty, self-knowledge, selflessness, benevolence, empathy, creativity – and on the other hand “bad” traits as envy, lust for power, deviousness, falsehood, self-deception, selfishness, self-love, complacency, etc.

Citations and contemplations

The forum gathers aphorisms, definitions, and various illustrative descriptions of the human being from, e.g., philosophers, essayists, fiction, movies, proverbs, myths, and religious literature.

Exemplary human destinies

Every nation has its own ethical history: what have truth and justice meant in different times and who have defended them and how in their times.

Who in the ethical history of your country (or the whole world) could and should be respected on that basis? What could we learn from their biographies, their nature, their destinies?

We can, and should, also learn from negative examples. But it is much more useful – and harder – to learn from people who have lived respectable lives. Or is it?

Video and images: Truth Forum Graffiti by Otto Toivainen, photo & video Erno Kaunela. © Uusi historia ry.

Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.

– From F. M. Dostoevsky’s letter to his brother. Konstantin Mochulski, Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, Princeton University Press 1971, 17.

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