Fly on the Wall: Truth and Audacity

Winnie The Pooh Meets Punk Rock Geopolitics

Truth’s magical pull accompanies us through all life’s adventures: true love, authentic vocations, and meaningful hobbies all require a ring of certainty for them to feel right.  Like following the North Star on a mission to become found when once lost, the nature of finding truth is above all about being tethered to truth as an idea.  John Lennon and Yoko Ono proclaimed: peace if you want it.  Truth, too, has more to do with desire, certitude, and purpose than we might expect.

While absolution from ambiguity can be a noble goal, the reality of truth’s pursuit is as much about state of mind as it is tied to facts in hand.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, truth-wise.  Witnesss A.A. Milne’s beloved The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh characters as they ponder a journey to discover the North Pole:

“It’s—I wondered—It’s only—Rabbit, I suppose you don’t know, what does the North Pole look like?”

“Well,” said Rabbit, stroking his whiskers.  “Now you’re asking me.”

“I did know once, only I’ve sort of forgotten,” said Christopher Robin carelessly.

“It’s a funny thing,” said Rabbit, “but I’ve sort of forgotten too, although I did know once.”

“I suppose it’s just a pole stuck in the ground?”

“Sure to be a pole,” said Rabbit, “because of calling it a pole, and if it’s a pole, well, I should think it would be sticking in the ground, shouldn’t you, because there’d be nowhere else to stick it.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought.”

“The only thing,” said Rabbit, “is, where is it sticking?”

“That’s what we’re looking for,” said Christopher Robin.

Now, for those among us (maybe just me!) who instinctively reach for our Freudian metaphors, there’s clearly unconscious sentiments at work as regards the value of, er, searching at once for a pole and a purpose.  But we’ll leave that aside for today and see what happens next in terms of truth as a concept.

Truth, in the sense of an object of inquiry at once provided by and yielding valid data, is clarified by Milne’s characters.  Truth can be lost, and it can be found; it may be eternal but only fleetingly—as far as consciousness goes, anyway.  Truth is a place or thing, a noun, but it’s also something existing in situ.  It’s contextual and presumably transcends consciousness; like the mythical tree that falls in the forest, truth is assumed to be there whether we like it or not.  Of course, just as we never prove with utmost certainty that the world exists without recourse to our senses, so too do one or many truths depend on our thinking minds—a mindless truth is beyond the pale of the knowable.  This latter, affective, component of truth matters oh so very much; the manner in which truth appears is inseparable from its context, its metrics of being, it’s vital ontology.  As Christopher Robin explores the nether regions of reality of his backyard, the One Hundred Acre Wood, he and his plush friends eventually come to a startling realization: they’ve had the North Pole, the truth for which they searched, right there with them for some time – in the boy’s hand, on his body as it were.  Let’s witness what happens when the comrades discover this fact:

“But Christopher Robin wasn’t listening.  He was looking at Pooh.

“Pooh,” he said, “where did you find that pole?”

Pooh looked at the pole in his hands.

“I just found it,” he said.  “I thought it ought to be useful.  I just picked it up.”

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin solemnly, “the Expedition is over.  You have found the North Pole!”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who realized that she need only click her hind heels (there’s only one sort of heel, the ones on our feet, but the in behind of oneself, temporally, like the person who taps you on one shoulder only to appear abreast of the other shoulder, is crucial) together in order to return home, the truth of the Milne’s North Pole is the truth of truth itself: a reality discovered as soon as we turn our attention to its presence.  After all, there is nothing in the universe that can be thought of or experienced without it existing – in the manner of its appraisal.  Truth in this sense appears as a most interesting philosophical specimen.  Truth as such appears as not only a place but also a way of seeing one’s reality.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that just prior to Pooh’s big discovery his best friend, Piglet the Suckling-Aged-Hog (post-farrow, I assume) was in fact facing mortal consequences from being swept away by risen river water.  The stark contrast between saving a life and discovering truth appears, perhaps, as a metaphor for the way in which events and circumstances frame and indeed bring forth the appearance of truths: life depends not on finding truth as much as on believing in things such that we act accordingly.  It’s for this reason that aspersions of misconduct are easily cast onto people who fail to pay attention to this or that issue or cause, the assumption being that if such wayfarers weren’t so self-absorbed they would duly take notice of truths that a particular consensus holds dear.  We ought not be too surprised, however, that when the going gets important key truths appear.

In life as in education, and certainly in fiction so wed to the requirement of a climactic crucial scene, truths have a habit of appearing when we need them most.  After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for instance, middle-aged punk rocker Joe Strummer from the band the Clash concluded that he needed to be more politically balanced given that, as he put it somewhere, “we’ve been attacked”.  His Iran hostage era punk anthem “Rock the Casbah” took on an added gravitas after 9/11: the literal truth in its lyrics conveys the reality of Islamic youth embracing rock and roll and generalized modernity – at the expense of the authoritarian pronouncements of their local religious leaders.

“By order of the prophet
We’ll ban that boogie sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
But the Bedouin they brought out an electric camel drum
The local guitar picker got his guitar pickin’ thumb
As soon as the Shareef had cleared the square
They began to wail
Shareef don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah, rock the Casbah”

Famously, Joe Strummer outlined his meaning: “don’t write slogans, write truths!”

Rebellion implicit in challenging the truth of this or that status quo thus appears as the means by which cultural changes occur.  Yet, what means one thing or implies one policy prescription can be applied in other ways.  “On December 22, 2002, the day Joe Strummer died, the United States began dropping leaflets and making radio broadcasts over Iraq in hopes of getting people to rise up against Saddam Hussein.  As they did in the first Gulf War, some US fighter pilots used “Rock the Casbah” as a soundtrack as they bombed Baghdad.”

The darker side of truth, its invisible shadow, is that each truth implies an addendum: “for who”?  S/he who deploys a truth is the key user of it and, to a great extent, the interpreter of its meaning and purpose.  So, too, the audience—each of us, as pupils and as thinkers, is tasked with making the truth of the world match our own experience.  Failing that, we must decide how to reassess our vision for how things are and how things might be.  Truth is not a patented item; no matter the intentions of what we say or do we cannot control how others interpret and repeat our reality.  The academic task of teasing out meaning from intent is core to an applied jurisprudence of our scholarly skills.  And hey, if we’re ever not sure what a thinker means then that’s when we can add our own interpretation!


D’Ambrosio, A.  (2006).  ‘Joe Strummer, Terrorist?’.  The Nation.  Retrieved from

Milne, A.A.  (1926/2022).  Winnie-The-Pooh.  Retrieved from

The Clash.  (1982).  ‘Rock the Casbah’.  Retrieved from