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How To Avoid Hypocrisy

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I find it nearly impossible nowadays to go more than two weeks without touching on some matter related to politics. Politics has always been a product of culture; but until recently the former has been mundane and boring enough to remain separate from our entertainment and spectacle driven popular culture.

That has all changed, and it didn’t start with Donald Trump. In fact, Trump’s rise is merely the latest sign that politics has become a pop culture phenomenon and therefore deserves the attention of every man.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article describing the prevalence of bullshit in the public sphere and why it matters. This week, I want to deal with another poison coursing through the veins of our society: hypocrisy.

Strictly speaking hypocrisy is not, as is commonly believed, saying one thing and doing another; it is rather saying one thing at one time and something quite different at another time. Hypocrisy consists of making contradictory statements; it is pretending to believe something you don’t really believe. With the unmitigated rage that exists on the left and right, the hatred, suspicion, and contempt that two sides have for each other, there is plenty of opportunity for people to compromise themselves by becoming hypocrites.

Hypocrisy is most often called for and sanctioned on the left. Left-wing intellectuals are usually the ones who call for people in their own camp to be dishonest about the way they feel.

The latest example of this rather disgusting practice concerns the widespread contempt that leftists have for Trump voters and supporters. “This is wrong”, says the pansy, weak-kneed left-wing writer, “lefties ought not to say that the people who voted for a man who now intends to strip them of the health care services and benefits that so many of them need are moronic and immoral. They ought to be nice to the Trump supporter, they ought to try to understand why they voted the way they did, they ought to show sympathy for them…” etc.

The latter line of thinking is not new. There has been a lot of talk about trying to understand Trump supporters. I have my own views as to why he got the number of votes he did. But such speculation is really beside the point. If you believe, as many leftists do, that Trump’s mendacious, abusive, and racist nature was on a scale that made him unsuitable for high office, then no amount of sympathy for the plight of his supporters could possibly change your conviction that it was stupid and immoral to vote for him.

Now I usually don’t go in for calling people I disagree with names or thinking that those who don’t see the world as I do are less intelligent than I am. In this instance, however, I sympathize with much of what my fellow leftists feel. In any case, no one should be conscripted into saying the exact opposite of why they feel. Trying to paint over real differences of opinion and feeling, especially when they are this intense and extreme, never works out in the end.

And all the talk of civility and winning over the other side with nice words is utter nonsense. Civility is a convention and social custom; it requires common sensibility and feeling. It cannot come about through mere whim and fancy; it can only be brought into being by the tendency of everyone in a particular group to be fastidious, controlled, and temperate in expression and action. We are far from having anything near this in our politics.

The call to be nice to the other side also rings hollow. It is usually predicated on the assumption that being nice will somehow get them on your side. To this I can only say that anyone who makes a political choice based on what their opponents say about them is not a rational and reliable person. As little time as possible should be spent on courting their support.

The plain fact is that politics in America is in a wretched and degraded state. There is probably little that can be done about it at the moment. But that is no reason for you to become a hypocrite. To avoid this you must spot the many clever ways that writers and other commentators have of getting you to say what you don’t believe. It is an intense and emotional time; it is okay for you to be intense and emotional.

About Christopher Reid

Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.

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