So what does speaking truth to power really mean?

It has been a week when the phrase ‘speaking truth to power’ was so carelessly, so brutally, emptied of meaning. It has been tossed around, played with, rendered void, and eventually became a joke. Every time it was invoked with a half laugh, I felt the words were betrayed.  While I do think it is good to betray the words then betray what they stand for. I am particularly fond of these words, that at least I’d like to bid them a farewell before they become utterly pointless.

The reason is-confession here- the first book I read for Edward Said wasn’t Orientalism, but was  “Representations of the Intellectual”. I came to know him first as a thinker deeply troubled with how intellectuals and academics struggle to relate ethically to a world in which they find themselves in, before I know him as a post-colonial figure of authority.

So this is how I understand “speaking truth to power”, it is such a difficult set of four words, that of you think of it long enough you would easily break down from all its weight.

The 1993 Reith Lectures, episode 5 (part of 5 episodes): Speaking Truth to Power. 

“In his fifth lecture, Edward Said considers the basic question for the intellectual: how does one speak the truth? Is there some universal and rational set of principles that can govern how one speaks and writes? He examines the difficulties and sometimes loneliness of questioning authority, and argues that intellectuals should present a more principled stand in speaking the truth to power.”