Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Amazing Hypocrisy of a House Divided

I’ve written before about the hypocrisy of the fundamentalist.  I called it, “Radical Fundamentalism and the Evolution of the Rattlesnake”.  And earlier still, "Whale Wars Must Go".  However recently, I’ve been compelled to think more about the fundamentalist and why, despite many of their excuses, they remain,  the largest group of hypocrites in our society.  For this essay I will not examine the fundamentalist as terrorist as I did so before.  Rather, I will examine our homegrown fundamentalists on the left and on the right and ask why they do not realize they are hypocrites.  It is this blind spot that causes the divided house problem...or the inability to live together in civil society...which is something, thankfully, that is not a majority view. Andre Gide's quote above captures that blind spot succinctly enough. Nevertheless since I’ve heard this house divided problem come up again and again along with rumors of a coming civil war it must be addressed.  To the coming civil war I say hog wash. But not without placing the blame on the fundamentalist hypocrite with the blind spot. Thankfully our country is eons away from such a fate because most of us are not of this ilk.

The fundamentalist doesn’t acknowledge their hypocrisy for two reasons.  First, in their world view, they are correct.  Regardless of how they may fall, or fail, even if they recognize their hypocrisy,  their world view is still correct.  This is the hypocrisy when we see certain fundamentalist groups rally against gay marriage, animal research labs, and abortion clinics.  In their minds the affront to their principals is so grave, whereas what they know they are doing is wrong, bombing clinics, starting fires, or spreading a message of hate, they believe their transgressions will ultimately be judged as a lessor sin or they are protecting something sacred and will ultimately be proven right, and thus forgiven for their trespasses. They are in fact, lying with sincerity. So, they believe, they are not being hypocrites if they choose to commit the lesser of the two wrongs and do so with a clear conscious (this is not the case of the sociopath).  In the immortal words of George Costanza, "Remember Jerry, it's not a lie... if YOU believe it".  In the book, the Logic of Political Violence, a leftist manifesto by a confirmed eco-terrorist, the author seems to compel his followers to believe that change ultimately justifies the means used to achieve such change.  So they know they are hypocrites, they just don’t care about the double standard (this is dangerous because the author is a sociopath trying to influence others who actually have a conscious).

Not much we can do to attack the willful hypocrite other than to appeal to that side of them that has the ability to empathize provided they too are not sociopaths.  Beyond that, if we cannot evoke empathy, it is a lost cause and no matter how much we scream and yell about the double standard it will have no effect. This is why, in many churches, no matter how many times the church leader will admonish a congregation, that they without sin, may cast the first stone, anticipating no further stones, they are aggrieved to witness, stones, too numerous to count, still come sailing in from the pews.

As an aside, there has never been another public venue devised than the venue Facebook has become for public stone throwing. With the introduction of the “Dislike” button on FaceBook public stone throwing may have just taken a turn for the worse. Zuckerberg will have created an even more polarizing option. It seems to me, the better approach would have been to just change the “Like” button to an “Acknowledge” button. After all, that’s really what we want to do anyway...tell our friend we acknowledge we have seen what they have posted. If we agree, disagree, or just want to show sympathy, “I acknowledge you” is the right message to send. Feedback, positive or negative can always be provided in the commentary. We all just want to be’s the number of “Likes” that matter. We don’t really believe, everyone who clicked on “Like” actually “Liked” what we have posted, the fact that someone has passed away in the family, for instance, in most cases, is not a “Likable” event.

But I digress, let’s get back to the fundamentalist hypocrite and why, of all the hypocrites, they are the most dangerous.  Since everyone of us may have hypocritical tendencies why are those who are more radical in their stance, worse than those of us who believe in a cause, but don’t necessarily speak out as vehemently?

Why is it the fundamentalist hypocrisy that causes the divided house problem and not our own?  Independent of any political or religious leanings I give you the narcissist.  Simply put, a narcissist is someone in love with their own reflection.  It is too simple to say a narcissist is a selfish person as many a seemingly unselfish person can still be in love with their own reflection (someone willing to martyr themselves is a good example of this behavior - it is my opinion that Kim Davis meets this definition).  Nonetheless, narcissists exist.  Thankfully they are only about 10% of our population.  They are selfish, and evolutionarily and ironically speaking, are those most likely to preserve our species because they are bent on their own survival and would either kill, or be killed, rather than give up their way of life.  As they preserve themselves, so too, they will preserve the species.  This is the principal of the selfish gene, manifest in human behavior.  And if we ascribe to Richard Hawkins's world view, we all would be narcissistic.  It’s wonderful to know that we are not...and speaks volumes to that numbskull’s major mistake.  Other evolutionary forces are at play that permit cooperation and compromise as survival tactics.  We can argue the sources of altruism, but, we can’t argue the fact that altruism exists.  Biblically speaking, “Greater love hath no man than this, then a man lay down his life for a friend” and in Trekkie speak, “The needs of the many are greater than the needs of the few, or the one”.  Altruism lives on the left and the right.  Altruism exists in nature and thus could be considered a natural law.  That said, let’s not make a mistake and infer, communism or socialism for example would be in the best interest of the many.  Society has proven, at least heretofore, that capitalism is a superior economic system.  And capitalism combined with the some type of political system that approaches a democracy is a superior way to live freely. Although capitalism is the best economic system ever devised it is still not perfect. Capitalism still exploits everyone and everything and the winner can, and will, take all if left unchecked. Same with a democracy. In a pure capitalist society monopolies will be the norm. It has always been recognized that monopolies require some level of control because what emerges at the top is far more nefarious, and many times more so, than any evil, such as laziness, that will emerge at the bottom in a welfare state, for example.  Is, for instance, the weed dealer or prostitute on the corner, who happens to currently be incarcerated, more evil than the Bernie Madoff’s of the world?  (Notwithstanding the most likely scenario that the actual Madoff is a sociopath)

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. Those at the bottom of the ladder have no power whatsoever. Most on the conservative side of the aisle believe that liberals are simply trying to liberate them from whatever they have scratched together, in their own lives, from hard work and have not benefited, in their own lives, from the same hard work. Of course they have…of course they have homes, and savings, and retirement accounts… But they try to do so with more of a balance toward those who have been less fortunate.  For everyone but the narcissist, there is a strong desire not to exploit the weak, those who have no voice, the natural environment, or other things, that if left in the open would be exploited for the narcissist to survive. To exploit anything or anyone at anytime is anathema to my sensibilities. Ironically, that means, I myself, am subject to erring on the side of being exploited. And, of course, that has happened many times. To be clear, I would rather be exploited than to be the exploiter. This isn’t a balancing act. It can’t be. If I live a life striving to be balanced on that front it means I must exploit a little, to keep or hedge back on that being exploited from myself, and that doesn’t work. There is no hedge, there can’t be…it’s all in. You can’t exploit, ever. But inevitably, it happens.  Shopping at Walmart, for instance, cannot be easily avoided,  thus we exploit indirectly.

The United States has always been a house divided.  Safe to say that most of our founding fathers, were not the hypocrites of which I speak and were able to live in a divided house.  That continues to be our great strength. From the very beginning we have been divided…but we unite as a Country for the common good. Our division and our diversity is our greatest strength. The liberties and the freedoms we protect are the envy of the world. To not recognize that this diversity is our strength and to believe that this diversity is something that could lead us into another civil war is a far more frightening to me than the erosion of the family, for instance. An extreme bifurcation of philosophies based on an unbending hypocritical narcissistic fundamentalist world view is the danger. It is not the speaking of one language that unites us. It is not attending one church that unites us. It is the desire to be united that unites us…period.  That desire compels us not to be offended by others customs and beliefs and at the same time to do our best not to offend others. To offend visitors in our home is something I would try not to do. They are guests. Contrary to what is believed to be the sin at Sodom and Gomorrah, the true sin was one of in-hospitality. We sin the same way, as a country, if we close our doors to the very same people that built this country…those looking for the freedoms and liberties of a united states. 

When those people come, as we and our parents did, and their parents did, they will come to unite with us. If that desire to unite disappears we cease to be The United States of America. We become something else…a nation of fundamentalists (both narcissistic and hypocritical) which with the headlines we have been receiving recently, is how most of the world sees us anyhow.  As a country,  we would do better to change that world image.