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To Tell The Truth
Written in 2004
I have written about how suicidal and depressed teenagers have learned that it is dangerous to tell the truth. This is one of the things they have in common. Recently I experienced this same thing in my own life here in Ecuador.
I was staying at a "hostal", which is a something like a low price hotel. I had already met the people who manage it. Their names are Maria and Francisco, and they are husband and wife. I moved to that hostal when I needed a place to stay because I knew them and I thought they would help me out more than someone who didn't know me. But after about a week there I realized that I was afraid to tell them things. I realized it was dangerous for me to tell them the truth.
It was dangerous because of their little negative, draining, discouraging, judgmental comments. Maria once said, for example, that what I was doing to help the homeless boys wasn't good for anything. In Spanish it was something like "eso no sirve para nada." And her husband told me that the person who was helping me was "too young" to do anything to help the boys and he also told me that she wasn't educated because she didn't say hello to him once.
My friend is in her twenties and is actually a high school teacher. Or she was last year, I am not sure she will return to teaching. She said she didn't like it because she didn't have enough freedom there. Which supports my belief that schools only attract and retain a certain type of person. And this is not the type of person who values freedom and individuality. Basically they only attract and retain people who follow the rules and who let others tell them what to do, and who feel comfortable telling lots of other people, i.e. their students, what to do.
Anyhow, Maria and Francisco would ask me a lot of questions whenever they saw me. At the beginning I would just tell them the truthful answers. But when I realized they disapproved of what I was doing and they had lots of judgmental, controlling and discouraging comments to make, I started feeling afraid to tell them the truth. I started feeling afraid to even see them. I would try to avoid them as much as possible. The day I decided to sleep someplace else, I knew they were going to ask me about it in the morning when I saw them again. Unfortunately, I still have a room there which I am using to store things. When I got close to the hostal I didn't want to go in.
I turned around and sat down and tried to think about what I would say when they asked me where I slept the night before. They knew I wasn't there because they keep the door locked at night and they are the only ones who have a key. And also, my door has a padlock on the outside, so it is easy to tell when I am not home. If I am inside, the padlock can't be on the door on the outside.
So I sat there and thought about what I would say. Would I lie to them? I didn't want to do that. First of all, I don't like to lie. I feel guilty when I do. And second, it is a small town and they would probably find out where I slept and know that I lied. Also, I thought it was wrong to have to lie about something like this to people I hardly knew. Yet I was sure they would have some negative comment to make. And I knew they would wonder why I changed hostals and I knew they would feel hurt that I left their hostal. So I thought about all of this for a while. I finally decided to just tell them the truth. So sure enough, as soon as I got inside, Francisco asked me where I slept the night before. I just told him the name of the other hostal as I unlocked my door. He didn't say anything, but I could tell by his silence that he didn't approve.
That is what I got so much of when I was living in the building called my home back in Indiana in the USA.
Disapproval. Silence. Judgmental comments.
I got way too much of all that and it sill affects me. I feel disapproved of so easily now. I feel judged so easily. But what can I do? I am aware of it. I understand it, but it still hurts. It still scares me. I don't feel safe around disapproving, judgmental people. So I don't feel safe anywhere in the world really, since there are people like that everywhere.
I have been to over thirty countries now and haven't found one that I really want to live in. Not one where I really feel safe. There is physical safety and psychological safety. Singapore was pretty safe physically, but not psychologically. I couldn't tell anyone there that I was depressed, for example. I couldn't tell them what I thought of Singapore either. But I will tell you in case you don't know. Singapore was the most depressing country I have ever been in. The most materialistic and the most oppressive.
Not many people are secure enough to listen to anything negative or critical about themselves or their country. That is one reason I left the USA. I found that people there didn't want to hear what I had to say about the country or the people living there. I am afraid I am going to run into the same thing here in Ecuador when people start to read my writing. So far not many people here are reading it because they don't understand English well enough. But sooner or later someone will read it and give me a hard time about it. I won't feel welcome here anymore. I won't feel valued. It won't matter if I am helping the children more than anyone else. The people won't want to hear the truth. They won't like it that I am taking pictures either. It is harder to deny a picture. I suppose I would be really dangerous with a video camera.
Which leads me back to the original idea: that it is dangerous to tell the truth.
Who wants to live in a place where it is dangerous to tell the truth?
But what can I do. If you know of a place where it is not dangerous to tell the truth, please let me know.
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