Comment on honesty, bad consequences, and practical reason

What follows is an exchange that is related to the various remarks I have made about being honest with oneself and on honesty in general. I am sharing this with permission, without disclosing information about my correspondent.

Dear Prot,

Thank you for this discussion. I enjoy following your thoughts. I just wanted to add an idea that I missed in your monologue. That is of the retaliation for for being honest. In too many cases the environment is too eager to punish a human for being honest. This threat of punishment forces a human to mask their self in order to, for instance, to accommodate others at expense of being honest about yourself. Too often one finds themselves in a situation where being honest can hurt yourself. For example, I may be unhappy with how my supervisor threats me at the job. I confront them and tell them that I do not wish to accommodate their expectations that are unrelated to the job, but are related to my honesty. They disagree and pose an ultimatum: either conform or start looking for another job. The latter option would hurt me as it is too expensive to search for another job and I have obligation to care for my disabled parents and a new born child. Now, I love my child and parents and I chose to care for them, and I am being honest with myself in this labour. Loosing a job, then, would hurt myself and others. And I do not have resources to seek justice against the supervisor. In such a case, one is forced to mask themselves and deprive some facets of their being. I am curious of your though on this type of cases where one is forced to mask in contrast of being honest by the environment.

Hello there! I think your approach is correct, given the constraints. The principle is to apply practical reason and to know what the situation allows for. Being honest here means that you do not overestimate your power. Put simply, one must learn to pick their battles.

You are making a sincere effort of giving up some of your comfort or wellness for the good of your loved ones. That is honourable! Based on what you wrote, you have no doubt that you are labouring under an uneven balance of power: there is little you can do and no viable alternative is available.

There is a parallel here to the story of Ulysses (Odysseus) who was travelling back home but got shipwrecked on an island where a one-eyed giant lived: a cyclops. The cyclops took Ulysses and his crew captive and was planning to eat them. Our hero would be foolish if he were to challenge the giant to a one-on-one fight. Such a battle would lead to the demise of Ulysses. Instead, the plan was to wait patiently for the right opportunity to escape from the cyclops’ cave, fainting weakness in the meantime.

You are in a similar situation. Trapped in the cave of some ruthless giant. This cyclops has one eye that only sees the good of the business. The well-being of its people is, at best, secondary to that. So the giant treats you as replaceable. You basically are a cog to them. Maybe an expansive one, but a spare part nonetheless.

Practical reason has given you the answer which you are already applying: stick to what you are doing for the good of your loved ones. Though try to search for alternatives. Maybe there are ways to ease the pressure on you without compromising on your priorities towards your family. Conserve as much of your energy as you can and keep the fire alive.

Ultimately though, this is why I talked in a recent video about the “private and the political”. Many magnitudes in our human world are outside the control of any individual. We are always confined to the rules of a certain setting (the video is ~1 hour long, but this is the idea). As such, I am realistic in my thinking and know that many things will not come about easily due to structural constraints (i.e. even if we have the right attitude as individuals).

Can I publish this on my website? I will not mention your screen name here: will keep it anonymous. Though I would like to quote your message, to add context to my comment. What do you think? I can explain more, if you need.

Dear Prot, thank you! Yes, you can publish it. One clarification: this is not my personal situation; but, in my view, it is representative of many stories I have encountered. A disclaimer: my thinking is shaped by education is social work and sociology. Your advice is sound and I really like the reference to the Oddyseus’s story.