It is customary, I know, to pick a dictionary and define the word before you go ahead giving out your unique ‘wisdom’ about it. Since, however, I have this irresistible urge to find out whether I have a common-sense, let me go ahead based on the common-sense definition of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is understood to mean behavior that is at variance with the stated moral position of a person. We consider a person a hypocrite when his thoughts and actions do not match his words. In other words, a hypocrite is a person who does not ‘Walk the Talk’. A further exception to this definition is that we are not outraged by the hypocrisy of a person who talks like a sinner and behaves like a Saint. You accuse someone of Hypocrisy only when the reverse is true.
All of us hate hypocrites and want people to shed their hypocrisy. I am afraid that this feeling that the world would be better off if people were not hypocrites is erroneous. We tend to tacitly assume that if people were not hypocrites they would end up ‘Walking the Talk’ i.e their behavior would be as moral as their words. What if they started “Talking the Walk’?
I know you tend to feel that, even if they did speak out the immorality of their thoughts, you would be better off since you would know where you stood with them. If that were all there was to hypocrisy I would agree with you. The thing is there are a lot of things that get done because of hypocrisy which would never get done otherwise.
Assume that most of the Companies in a sector actually care more for their bottom-lines than for customer service. As long as everyone keeps mouthing ‘Customer is King’ and does not vent their true feelings, they would not even know that the majority of the Companies feel this way – and the fear of losing market share to competitors keeps them paying lip service to customer care. What if this veil of hypocrisy is torn and someone speaks out about it? Your customer care service – if there is still one – would probably return an answer like this
Do you think we can hire an army of people to run around at your beck and call? We are in this for profits and are not a Social service. Our people are busy and will get around to your complaint in five or so years time.
I know everyone is very worked up with Khap Panchayats and their diktats about women. Whatever you may say about them, they are people who ‘Walk the Talk’ – their morals and actions are in sync. Assume that most of the political classes think and act like these people. Now, please tell me, would there even be a discussion on reservations for Women in Parliamentary seats? Would it be better for you to hear the political classes say, “As per our culture, the place of a woman is in the home. It would be against our culture to allocate seats for women in Parliament”?
I mean, it is only the fact that they need to pay lip service, at least, to women’s rights that is still keeping that Bill alive. If, once, that veil of hypocrisy is torn and they all start talking with no hypocrisy - like the Khap Panchayats – bang goes any miniscule chance of getting that Bill through. (Ah! Do not talk of their being voted out and all that rot. That assumes that there is, at least, one party which honestly believes in Women’s rights or has continued to be hypocritical! In the latter case, it would be hypocrisy that won the day for you)
Take this burning issue of corruption. Once again, it is hypocrisy that is enabling the legislation that, at least, can attempt to curb it. Assuming that most politicians take the sub-rosa earnings as their right and assuming that they feel free to talk of it, would you not hear them say things like, “You get your stock options and bonuses. We take it by allotting de-notified land to ourselves and in kick-backs. So what is the big deal?” If they started talking like that, do you really think that the RTI act could ever have been passed or would they have shot down the idea saying, “What nonsense! You guys keep your salary details confidential and you expect us to hand over the details of our sub-rosa earnings to the first-comer?” Need they even have thought of paying lip service to the Lokpal Bill?
The great service that hypocrisy is doing to our social set-up is immeasurable. So, till the time you can ensure that the elimination of hypocrisy will only lead to people “Walking their (current) Talk”, long live hypocrisy.
Disclaimer : I make no claims about the validity of the assumptions in the examples above!