I was thinking about the Herman Cain harassment scandal, and at the same time the Paterno scandal, and before that the Mark Sanford scandal, and Newt Gingrich with his 3 divorces, one while his wife was in the hospital with cancer. Before the scandal hit, of course, all of those men were prominent advocates of traditional moral notions of the family, fidelity, et al. I was wondering why the hypocrisy element of all those scandals seems to bother so many people, and at the same delight those who opposed the various scandalous figures from the beginning.
I think it has something to do with the innate human recognition that the morally upright life is extremely difficult to live. So often when lectures regarding the morally upright life are given, it seems like the attitude is not that of a penitent sinner who struggles with the same issues that he/she are trying to warn their listeners against. Instead, it’s “of course we need to preserve the family by banning gay marriage” or “of course you need to do X to be a good person.” When the lecturer falls, we secretly are happy to be affirmed in our inner belief that it’s not as simple to live a moral life as the lecturer said- our own lesser errors are excused by the difficulty and complexity of life.
I think this is wrong, of course-other’s falls don’t justify our own. But it’s very difficult sometimes not to feel this form of schadenfreude.