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.


About irreparabiletempus

God have mercy on me, a sinner.
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2 Responses to Hypocrisy

  1. David says:

    I think it’s interesting that some people might react to the hypocrisy that way. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard it described that way, and it makes sense if that’s how some people who agree with the social conservative messages think about the hypocrisy.

    But I don’t think that explains why the vast majority of “those who opposed the various scandalous figures from the beginning” find the hypocrisy so delightful. It’s much simpler than that. They simply disagree with the lecturer’s conclusions over what counts as a moral life. They especially disagree with insulting other people’s views and identities in order to score political points, and even worse, to use the government to enforce one’s own version of what counts as moral. The critics believe that it is immoral, for example, to construe gay people as a threat to the health and safety of America’s children and to blame them for the fact that straight people get divorced — and most especially, to do that just to be popular. The scandal confirms that the politician’s hurtful words and political positions were the product of fundamentally immoral behavior: falsely turning other people into immoral monsters in order to score political points.

    In other words, when the lecturer fails, most of us are happy to be affirmed in our inner belief that the lecturer was wrong and himself immoral in his attempt to use the government to force his lectures down our throats. It’s not about it being complex to live a moral life. Quite simply, the real lesson is that politicians should stop giving false lectures about how terrible and threatening other people are in order to inspire votes from ignorant hatred and fear.

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