Monday, May 24, 2010


The question I am mulling over today is this:  Are some people particularly likely to be hypocritical about a given topic or are hypocrisies somewhat randomly spread around?  Is there some kind of personality that is very likely to hold conflicting viewpoints and not notice or be bothered by doing so?

It was brought on by a conversation that I had over the weekend with Good Old Days who was going on about the ills of our modern society.  In particular she was upset that there were planned demonstrations that were going to be a nuisance for the upcoming G20 summit.  Her solution for the demonstrations was for the government to figure out who planned to demonstrate and take them up to the northern parts of Canada for the duration of the event.  She also blamed demonstrations (among other things) on 'imports' aka immigrants.

I was completely floored by this.  For one, Good Old Days is only second generation Canadian, her parents were immigrants and she clearly thinks they had pretty much everything figured out correctly.  I don't think that this is simple racism because I have not observed that in my other interactions with her; I think it is that she simply thinks of immigrants as all terrible and subversive and her parents as fantastic with no recognition of the contradiction.

Good Old Days' attitudes towards government are traditional Conservative.  The government should stay out of people's affairs, not tax them and not interfere.  However, she also wants them to track people's histories, political affiliations and other characteristics and preemptively arrest those who might do something embarrassing or annoying like protesting and cart them thousands of kilometers away.  The idea that the government would record things about her or take her away without any crime or cause is anathema of course.

What causes people to have the sort of mindset that allows these contradictions?  I suggest that religion is the prime candidate -  it should come as no shock that Good Old Days is a Christian and has been so for her whole life.  Generally organized religions push the idea of Faith As A Virtue, which is specifically that belief in something that is logically unsupportable and even self contradictory is a good thing.  It encourages people to believe what someone else in a position of authority says in the face of all evidence or reasoning and praises the ability to maintain that dedication through any circumstance or revelation.  I have no statistics to back my claim but being trained through childhood to accept statements at face value without any critical thinking seems certain to cause a person to be susceptible to holding hypocritical viewpoints.

There may well be other factors that contribute.  Certainly old age could be correlated since the older we get the more challenging it is to learn new things and change our minds.  I do think that the age correlation is weak just from considering the selection of people that I know; even that may be tainted by the fact that hardcore religion is on the wane in Canada so older people are more likely to have been exposed to it.  Most likely education would be a factor since the more one learns about a topic the harder it becomes to ignore incompatible viewpoints.  Perhaps exposure to different cultures and lifestyles would even be helpful in reducing hypocrisy since the more you hold your own habits and norms up to scrutiny the more challenging it becomes to assume that your beliefs are infallible.


  1. This doesn't seem like Hypocrisy to me, I'm not sure this persons wants a different standard to apply to herself compared to other people. Her point is view seems to be hinged on the idea that it is readily possible to know the difference between good, hardworking immigrants like her parents and lousy social-system-leach immigrants like the kind she sees today. It is possible to know who deserves to be arrested despite not having committed crimes and shipped to the remote north experience a week of what *real* hardship is like, and who does not deserve this fate. We all agree that murderers should be arrested while at the same time not thinking that we should be arrested ourselves, but that doesn't make us hypocrites unless we are murderers. Since she isn't in the good-for-nothing category or the entitled-young-people-trying-to-embarrass-the-government category, she can say what she wants about people who are without being a hypocrite. On the other hand, she is just plain wrong.

    As Penn Jillette said, "There are worse things than hypocrisy. By being a hypocrite you are basically doubling your chances of being half-right."

  2. And what would you call the ability to continually spout contradictory statements with total conviction? Occasionally in the same sentence? (The best was the statement "I don't touch caffeine" while sipping a cappuccino and talking about how often she likes to drink tea...)

  3. Sthenno has a good point. When I wrote this initially I was aiming for hypocrisy and ended up halfway between hypocrisy and self serving jerk. Even though I was aware that my post wasn't quite perfect it was getting late so I just hit the button and went to bed. Such is the penalty for writing on a schedule I suppose.

  4. Again, I'd say simply contradicting yourself regularly isn't hypocrisy, though it certainly is bizarre. Totally out of touch with reality?

  5. 1. a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.

    This is the first definition of hypocrisy in the online dictionary I used. I think it is entirely applicable in this case, though I also think the definition I had assumed was incorrect. I had thought the definition more along the lines of maintaining simultaneously incompatible viewpoints while the dictionary makes it out to be more of a moral issue - oriented around deception.

    It is clear to me that Good Old Days has an idea of her own virtue that is not accurate, which is hypocritical according to this definition.