Monday, January 23, 2012

In Praise of Hypocrisy: 1

This week I shall blog my essay "In Praise of Hypocrisy", a satirical essay that I once sent to newly-elect President Obama, and also to his opponent, McCain. It was sent along with a cover letter giving congratulations to the election's loser, and condolences to the winner. (You read that right.)

The essay is seven pages long, and I shall blog it at one page per day for seven days.


       In Praise of Hypocrisy

            An essay by Nathaniel S. K. Hellerstein


            What is Hypocrisy?

            Hypocrisy is artificial excellence, counterfeit merit and fiat piety. It’s the pretense of having some virtue that one does not in fact possess. Its symbol is the mask, or the bubble; a surface concealing emptiness.

            According to de Rochefoucauld, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.” And just what kind of homage? Merely the sincerest form; imitation.

            Most essays about hypocrisy condemn it as a vice, indeed as a corruption of morality itself. They warn us of the hypocrite’s dishonor, criminality and malice. Those moral warnings are admirable; but this essay praises hypocrisy as a virtue.

            I write this contrarian essay in honor of a certain politician. He inspired me by force of example. And who is this avatar of absolute hypocrisy? I decline to state. (That’s so you can judge the case fairly, since you don’t know who I’m talking about.)

            It all started with me fuming at the latest reports. The scandal du jour was particularly stinky, and I’d share it with you now if only I could recall that one outrage out of so many. The crime itself didn’t bother me that much - I’ve grown jaded by their antics - no, what got to me was the criminal gang’s attitude towards their crime. Their sheer effrontery. The cover story was shoddy; they didn’t even try to make sense. What disrespect! What brazen hypocrisy! So I fumed.

            Then I stopped to think. What use was my indignation? Why wear myself out with invective, and to whom was I to address it? To the powerless? They’ll merely agree. To the powerful? They’ll merely ignore. Since it’s pointless and rude to speak truth to power, why not instead say something nice to power? Rather than criticize hypocrisy (and corruption, deceit, criminality, malice, and so on) why not praise it?

            That’s how this essay got started. Therefore I dedicate it to a certain politician so worthy of being honored here that I refuse to stain these pages with his infamous name.

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