[Speaking truth to power] is a tired phrase, as we all know,
but when it was fresh and meaningful it suggested repercussions,
consequences -- maybe even death in some countries.
When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct chance that
power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or
-- if you're at work -- take away your office.
But in this country, anyone can insult the president of the United States.
. . .
Bush himself plays off his reputation as a dunce and his penchant for
mangling English. Self-mockery can be funny. Mockery that is insulting
is not. The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said
on a dais with impunity.
I'm a big fan of speaking truth to power, but is the kind of confrontation that can get you killed or worse, fired, the only means of getting truth in power's head? What about the jester--the only person talking sense to King Lear in the play King Lear? What about "constructive engagement"? What if I want to speak truth to power and live to tell about it?
The biblical Esther spoke truth to power, I suppose, but first she fattened power up quite a bit--ironically while she herself was enduring a fast. She wound up getting what she wanted. How do we determine what posture to take toward power when power needs a good truth-speaking?