Saturday, June 6, 2015

Maggi and the Tyranny of Truth!

I love Maggi noodles.
Government says it’s harmful. Nestle's been saying it’s safe.
Who do I believe?

I was home alone, and hungry one night. A pack of Maggi stared at me from the kitchen shelf. Not knowing what to do, like a new age selfie kid (am I really one? maybe) I asked folks on Facebook to help me decide – to eat, or not to eat. 

You can view that post here - click to read

The answers were many. Some serious, many in a lighter vein, but all of them set to certain patterns. Patterns dictated by how seriously they took the threat of Maggi having an impact on my, or for that matter anyone else’s health.

If I were to classify the answers into 4 broad categories, this is how they would seem.

Pattern 1: Risky for your health. Don’t eat it.

Pattern 2: You’ve been eating this for ages, nothing happened till now. Eat it.

Pattern 3: You’ve been having worse. For instance Delhi air pollution. You are doomed anyways.

Pattern 4: It is all media hype. Government might be corrupt too. Eat it. 

The results seemed inconclusive. There was no singular truth.

What I instead gained from that post was a very valuable insight into the nature of truth, and what goes around it. I would like to share the same with you, especially since our perception of truth seems to have a profound influence on our behavior.

Did I eat that pack of Maggi eventually, will let you know shortly. But first; the story about truth, here it goes…

Truth isn’t an island:

Truth, whether it is about Maggi or something else, doesn’t seem to be an isolated entity. We arrive at the truth based on the facts available to us. On top of that rests our belief system. This troika of facts, truth and beliefs seem like a vehicle on which our lives run. Rather, it would be more apt to say…

Available facts and the perceived truth are the two wheels on which our belief system runs!

The bad news - facts unfortunately can be tampered with, miscalculated, or lack foresight. One minor aberration in the facts and our truth seems to alter, thereby putting our belief system in jeopardy, or let’s just say – on wobbly wheels.  

As Maya Angelou also said… 

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.

Interestingly, maybe to counter this apparent conflict between facts and truth, our belief system seems to be hardwired into our psyche. We show great resistance to changing our beliefs.

Instead, we try and balance the two wheels - usually by bringing in additional facts that seem to supplement the version of truth we want to believe in.

That’s what seems to have happened with the responses I got for my Maggi post. The outcome was nothing but everyone trying to reinforce their beliefs, by adjusting, bringing in, playing around with the facts convenient enough to support their version of the truth. Hence some believe Nestle is at fault, some believe the government is fooling around, some believe it is much ado about nothing, and so on.

In a soup:

Not just Maggi; the situation doesn’t seem very different when it concerns other areas of our lives too. Our preferences for certain people, activities, brands, political affiliations, movies, music, and what not. Everything seems to rest on this vehicle of facts, truth and our belief system.

There is no singular truth in this world. If ever there was something like that, there would be no conflict in this world. No terrorism. No wars. No fights. No nonsense of any kind.

But we are humans, and we revel in our glorious imperfections. I think I really don’t have to elaborate more on this topic. You can do the math yourself.

So did I eat that pack of Maggi eventually?

I am thinking - why should I spoil your suspense by giving out bare facts.

I shall let you use your powers of imagination - to believe, or not to believe, what I might, or might not have had for dinner that day. Truth can wait, does it really matter at all!

Till then, cheers!!!

Kartik Dayanand Boddapati