Friday, September 16, 2005

In Support of Hypocrisy

To the proverbial alien, just arrived on Earth, it would seem that our biggest ethical problem today is hypocrisy. Any proposed standard, normative or descriptive, is instantly scrutinized and criticized for hypocrisy and consistency-- one could easily come to the conclusion that the measure of an idea is not if it has any merit, but whether or not it is self-consistent. But to that, I reply, "Bah!"

Actually, I just like saying, "Bah!" But in this case, it's also how I feel.

The pursuit of hypocrisy above all else is the occupation of those little minds who are incapable of judging whether or not an idea is worthwhile on its merits. Instead, they pick it apart like buzzards, looking for any flaw they can find, any slight gap they can wedge their beaks into and shatter it like glass. If they can't have an idea, they feel, why then, neither should anyone else!

Not only do I obviously abhor this position, I contend that hypocrisy is not only good, it is necessary to the adult mind. Whether or not you are a fundamentalist Christian or an atheist, I believe you will concede that human beings are imperfect-- one look at the Top 40 charts should lay to rest any lingering doubts you may have-- and that we also should nonetheless strive to improve ourselves. This will inherently set one up for charges of hypocrisy, and a darned good thing it does. If we can always live up to all our ideals, then as far as I'm concerned, that's a sign we've set our sights too low. We must always strive to improve, and the only way to do that is to set our goals past where they are now-- otherwise, all we do is stagnate and decay.

We must always hold ideals we cannot match, but we must concomitantly refrain from berating ourselves for not living up to them. Instead, we must take time periodically to soberly reflect on our ideals, and our shortcomings, and attempt to address the latter to achieve the former. For most religious people, once a week services provide an ideal environment for this sort of reflection, buoyed by a sense of community support. Atheists can meditate and reflect in communities as well, though I confess to ignorance about what sorts of communities are out there to support them.

Sure, there are evil kinds of hypocrisy-- the father who preaches pacifism while abusing his family at home, for instance-- but I think there are always more fruitful avenues to argue against an idea that mere hypocrisy on the part of any of its proponents. And if not, why then I would argue that that hypocrisy is itself irrelevant.