Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On hypocrisy and its misperceptions

Erroneous ideas about hypocrisy are a huge pet peeve of mine.

You hear it left and right. If someone fails, someone sins, someone violates their own principles, they're a hypocrite!

Leftists love to accuse people of hypocrisy without knowing the true meaning of the word.

Since their moral standards are relativistic, the only moral trump card they have left is to accuse people of not living up to their own principles. It's seen as a lack of sincerity to fall short of one's ideals, and therefore it indicates a lack of commitment.

And that lack of commitment is a sign of hypocrisy.

But you can be perfectly committed to your own ideals and still have fallen short of them. For example, if a person who has done drugs, slept around and did the party scene in his youth tells other kids not to do that, that is not hypocrisy.

Or you can speak out against gossip and then realize you committed that very same sin. You've fallen short of your ideal, but that doesn't make you a hypocrite if you resolve to do better.

Hypocrisy is the creation of a double standard. A hypocrite says it's fine for me to do X but it is not okay for you to do X. I'm special, you're not. I can live the double life, you, you peons, you have to live up to these moral standards for your own benefit.


That's why I was always annoyed at people who criticized Bristol Palin for talking about the importance of premarital abstinence.

People scoff at the idea that she could be a spokesperson for pre-marital abstinence, as if she were some role model.

Who said anything about her being a role model?

People teach principles in a number of ways. An ex-drug addict father is perhaps no role model to his kids on how to stay clean in youth, but he knows the perils of doing those very things that he warning against.

Bristol Palin had sex with some bozo, ended up getting pregnant and is now a single parent.

Is that not enough of a lesson to warn against premarital sex?

Now, if Bristol Palin had continued to have sexual relations, and started telling other kids not to do it, in the spirit that she's can have sex but others can't in order to give lip service to the ideal of chastity then that would be hypocrisy.

What this boils down to is that sinning or making a mistake does not equal hypocrisy.

Everybody sins. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody violates their own principles. Absolutely everyone.

But since leftists tend to be individualistic about morality, it's hard to condemn others for their sins. So what's left? Call them hypocrites!

Often these accusations of hypocrisy are based on nothing more than the suspicion of a lack of commitment. Like the dad who partied in his youth is suspected of not truly being committed to being clean. It's all for show. If he had the chance, he'd ditch his clean lifestyle and party all night long. It's only because he has kids he's being "responsible". So really he's a hypocrite.

We've all seen accusations like that.

Now, if the dad actually went out and partied, well no one would be able to accuse him of anything because that would be judging. You're not allowed to judge! He is allowed to live according to the light of his own morals. But when he starts trying to impose it on others (like his kids or at the ballot box) then his behaviour and his moral standards are fair game. And since there's no real basis for right and wrong, then the only standard of whether his values are worthwhile or not is his sincerity. And since he is not sincere (because no drug addict has ever left the party scene, gone clean and warned his kids about drugs and meant it) that means his values are worthless.

People think like that all.the.time.

And the biggest target of that kind of thinking is conservative Christians.

Why do you suppose the article The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion is such a big hit among feminists? Because the hypocrisy of a few automatically means that the morals of the many are automatically wrong! Christian values aren't judged by whether they are true or useful: they are judged by whether Christians are really committed to them.

You can't criticize people for being sinners. That would be judging! But you can judge them for being hypocritical especially in public matters in order to point out that they have no credibility. Never mind actually debunking what they've said. Truth is all relative anyway. Easier to just destroy credibility and not examine the message.

Yes, authority matters and credibility matters to a degree. What ultimately matters about what someone says is whether it is true in itself. Not whether the messenger has lived up to that message, or whether they are able to. A poor messenger makes for a bad PR exercise because people in general are intellectually lazy, but it's the job of people who are not intellectually lazy to judge the message by the light of truth, not by the actions or beliefs of the person saying it.