“Hypocrisy is the state of falsely claiming to possess virtuous characteristics that one lacks. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.”
“Hypocrisy: the false claim to or pretense of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings.”
If you are among those who made the ‘mistake’ to (formally or informally) study politics, you must at some point have pondered the question of human hypocrisy. How can we be so confused and why are there so many lies involved in this business? The business of ‘power’, that is.
Without a doubt, the highest level of hypocrisy is seen among politicians, but it is not limited to this group.
We are all hypocrites, and not just in the realm of politics either. And I would guess that this is in large part due to poor intelligence more than anything else. Certainly there is no ‘evil intent’, at least not usually.
I came across a profound quote recently. It may have been George Orwell’s. Something to the effect that nationalism makes people blind to their own country’s violations against others.
The issue must be related to perspectives. We are never truly objective.
Depending on where you are born, where you have lived, whom you have met, what reading materials you entrusted to brainwash you, which media programmes you subject your mind to, and the kind of company you seek, you develop a certain perspective that is at the same time largely driven or informed by your desire to survive in life.
These life experiences come together in the end in the form of some value system that we are supposed to adhere to. This value system gives us a framework that helps us make decisions and form opinions on various matters.
But here is the crunch: Our value systems are simply not objective. They are by definition subjective. And more often than not, our value systems are shaped by our environment as much if not more than our own will.
It is no accident that working class people are more likely to support socialist policies while the rich espouse personal freedom and rolling back ‘big government’ as ‘values’.
It is also not surprising that people living in cold places are more likely to be socialist than those in hot climates. Geography demands it, as cold places require human cooperation for survival more than in warm climates.
Similarly, an Iranian living in America is not necessarily going to be looking for the Friday prayer venue every week. They are more likely to head to their favourite bar or restaurant, and thank ‘Allah’ that they do not have to assume the prostrate position in a big room full of worshipers.
The big question is: if this same Iranian were living in Iran, might he/she be heading to the Friday prayer?
You also get the opposite sometimes where a factory owner (e.g. Friedrich Engels) can turn into a socialist revolutionary while Joe the Plumber (or the Tea Party) can be a working class hero for the rich.
But these are amusing precisely because they are unusual. There is no way of predicting individual behavior with any certainty, but there is a way of predicting the behavior of the average individual within different groups.
And this should tell us all that we are not objective and our value systems are not as moral as we would like to believe. This is not to dismiss morality or idealism, but rather to highlight their limitations, especially in relation to the real world around us.
After all, we are highly insecure beings who invented God without ever meeting him (or even expect to other than after death!) so as to give us some security and comfort in a cold and incomprehensible universe. We really can be imaginative with our beliefs (virgin births, revelations, god’s messengers etc) and this is a form of self-deception, so why not forgive a little hypocrisy?
But hypocrisy in politics is on a whole different level. They say you know when a politician is lying by the fact that his/her lips are moving. This is not far from the truth.
Every single sentence uttered by a politician is likely to have an impact on people’s expectations and reactions. Politicians seek to manipulate rather than inform. They see it as their job to do so.
It is indeed a rare occasion when a statement made by a politician is meant to convey the truth of a situation. Quite the contrary: in order to manipulate society, every single public statement is designed to achieve a hidden purpose, and one that cannot be shared openly because it negates the value system that the politician and his/her voters claim to uphold.
So you end up with wars waged in the name of ‘peace’ or even ‘security’: illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 followed by a million deaths and torture and war crimes galore.
You get collective punishment of whole societies (a war crime) described as ‘smart sanctions’ for the purpose of ‘avoiding’ conflict: 3 decades of Western sanctions on Iran.
You get elected governments being overthrown all over the world often with support from the ‘democratic’ West (Egypt, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela etc).
You get a whole generation of politicians who believe being an idealist is the same as being a trigger happy warmonger with war after war on a permanent basis (Americans attacking Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, with the intention to move on to Lebanon and Iran).
You get the richest nation on earth having 50 million people on food stamps and without healthcare (so of course their leaders would block Iranians’ access to medicines).
You get a period of rapid economic growth and prosperity for the great majority of the world’s population described as a ‘global financial crisis’ just because several rich Western countries went through a recession at the same time.
You get the vilest types of Al Qaeda terrorists in bed with Western ‘idealists’ and Apartheid-loving Zionists to overthrow the only secular regime in the Levant and in the name of freedom too (Syria).
And you get Iranian ‘human rights activists’ suckling from the bosom of the greatest war criminals on earth (i.e. the corporate fascist regime in USA) and pointing a finger of condemnation at the Iranian ‘regime’.