This is our truth, tell us yours
One of the most misused quotes of the twentieth century is Bevan’s ‘This is my truth, tell me yours.’
It implies a post modern approach to reality, that we are in a time of uncertainty and change where even the scientific method is routinely challenged by those who would have us believe in something less replicable or certain.
Truth and fact are not syonyms. If I hold certain unalienable truths as cornerstones of my world view they are responses to the facts I see around me, but they are products of those facts and my experience of them.
The point of this is to help explain my own view of myself as an unreliable narrator, and the way I understand historic sex abuse cases. Max Clifford’s lawyer, in his defence, mounted a powerful assault on the facts presented by some of the prosecution witnesses. The jury, in turn, appears to have decided that even if some of the facts were wrong, the truth was being told by the witnesses, and Clifford was convicted. In the process, the jury displayed a mature understanding of the difference between facts and truths, and trusted the narratives presented by Clifford’s victims.
I sometimes write about childhood abuse from the first person perspective. I am conscious that I am an unreliable narrator; how many of you can remember which day you started school, as opposed to how school felt at the age of five? I don’t know what day or date it was, but the first time I used the Victorian outside toilets with their urinal open to the air and two water closets behind shed doors with damp bubbling the thick emulsion paint on the walls I felt a sense of horror and a longing for my home and its warmth and security.
I know I am an unreliable narrator, but I only know that about me. I choose not to dwell on detail, on a quest for facts, because the truths and the narrative I have of my childhood is sufficient to help me live my life now. Understanding the difference between truth and facts, and ignoring the artificial distinction between fact and fiction (because fiction is full of facts) is an essential part of believing victims and enabling them to possess their own truths.