DAY 241: Truth

February 24th, 2018 § 2 comments

We all of us have our problems with it, being constantly required in everyday life to tell it, the whole of it, and nothing but it, so help us God; and while reference to Pilate and jests, or the post-truth era may get us some mileage, there are situations where the existence of only two alternatives (truth and lies) seems unnecessarily
simplistic. (And I don’t want to get caught up in the sixteen alternative theories of what truth is which, according to Wikipedia, the philosophers have to offer – I’m sure that every one of them is too simplistic, and not naked enough.) Here is one of the most hilarious ones I came


The Naked Truth  (Klimt)

across recently, in which one Robert Mugabe (remember him?) and Amber Rudd – her again, I fear – find themselves on opposite sides of the truth-question. I refer to the recent SSHD v JM (Zimbabwe) [2017] EWCA Civ 1669. Mr Mugabe has had a pretty bad press for as long as I can remember; but one of his good points, I feel, was that he wouldn’t let the Brits deport people to his homeland unless they wanted to go. How many other rulers in his position have allowed the deportation to go ahead, the better to imprison or torture the deportees! Not so Mugabe; and the Home Office is naturally waiting to see if now he’s out of the way they can start deporting thousands of Zimbabweans against their will.

Which brings me to J.M., a man who has little in common with Mugabe except a belief  that you shouldn’t be deported if you don’t want to. This was unfortunate, since once the Home Office had decided it had enough of J.M. (his AIDS, his destitution, his dealing in Class A and B drugs), they tried to send him back ‘home’ asap. Annoyingly, the Zimbabwean authorities wouldn’t accept him unless he signed a statement that he wanted to go. This he refused to do. He was interviewed by immigration officers on 1 October 2014 who recorded him as being “polite and courteous throughout” but he explained that he did not want to return to Zimbabwe. The Home Office therefore faced an unusual ethical prublem: they needed to require J.M. to say something (‘I want to return’) which was untrue.

At this point, is there any wriggle-room? Ms Anderson (counsel for the Home Office) submitted that, even on the judge’s construction of the section, he had misdirected himself in concluding that the Secretary of State was requiring JM to lie to an Embassy official. She submitted that, as the two section 35 Notices indicated, the Secretary of State was seeking consent or agreement and was not seeking to dictate that JM should use any particular wording to Zimbabwean officials. She said it was not the Secretary of State’s position that JM had to lie. Furthermore, when the Court put to Ms Anderson that it could be said that by saying: “I don’t want to return, but I will if I have to”, JM was giving his consent or agreement, she was constrained to accept that the Court could well interpret what he said as sufficient. The trouble is that while J.M. would sign the truthful statement  “I
don’t want to return, but I will if I have to”, the Zimbabwean authorities wouldn’t admit him if that grudging admission was the best he could do. What to do? Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive! In the outcome, the court decided that ‘the Secretary of State cannot lawfully require JM to tell Zimbabwean officials that he agrees to return voluntarily because that is seeking to use the general power in subsection (1) in a manner which is inconsistent with and contradicts the specific limitation in subsection (2) (g), under which JM can only be required to answer questions in interview accurately and completely’ (Got it?) And he even got damages for unlawful detention – which we could think of as a happy end except that he never should have been detained in the first place.

What do we deduce? Fist, as you might suspect, that the Government will stop at nothing, including forcing people to lie, in the hopes of getting rid of them. Second, that they can’t always get away with it – that given a nice judge on a good day, you might end up with a decision which has something to do with morality. But I wouldn’t count on it. Morality? Speaking truth to power? Among many examples recently, I suppose the one that comes to mind most strongly is high school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez telling a packed rally how much President Trump gets from his friends in the NRA.

The opposite of truth (or one opposite) is fiction; and fiction is what the minions of the Home Office usually think we are constructing when, traumatised and tempest-tossed, we get around to telling them our life-stories. Surely Dido

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 22.36.38

was more tolerant with Aeneas – to whom she had given asylum, despite his not being an obvious victim of persecution – when she (and everyone else, we’re told) listened raptly to his story:

Conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.
Inde toro pater Aeneas sic orsus ab alto:

Infandum, regina, iubes renovare dolorem,
Troianas ut opes et lamentabile regnum

eruerint Danai, quaeque ipse miserrima vidi               5
et quorum pars magna fui.

and so on. Did she find him credible? The horse? Laocoon? I doubt if they’d get past even a novice in assessing asylum claims.

So I suppose we have to go on remembering that, alternative facts or not,as the Ink Spots remind us it’s a sin to tell a lie.



§ 2 Responses to DAY 241: Truth"

  • KateH says:

    This is what comes of reminiscing about learning Latin. Any chance of a translation?

  • admin says:

    This comes of showing off by quoting Virgil without translating – I just assumed Google could do the translation for me. I’ve been given
    ‘O queen, you command me to renew unspeakable grief, [the usual demand from UKBA, of course]

    how the Greeks destroyed the riches of Troy,

    and the sorrowful kingdom, miseries I saw myself,

    and in which I played a great part.’

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