“Ostentation is the signal flag of hypocrisy”. When I look around the world including our personal or professional ones, people are able to project their image successfully in contrary to their true personalities. We preach one thing and practice another thing. One rule is meant for us and another for others. We say certain things we do not mean and do certain things we do not intend to do. At the top echelon of the professional world, mediocrity thrives on hypocrisy by way of appeasement and flattery. For example, the advent of hypocrisy is deeply rooted in our political systems which to some extent is plausible, as the true meaning of politics have changed over the period of time to ‘dealing with people in an opportunistic, manipulative or devious way’.
But what about the existence of hypocrisy in our daily lives including our personal, social, and professional lives? Is it necessary to be hypocritical for survival or it is one’s inherent nature to manipulate? Do we become hypocritical in order to gain advantages or to fool the system or the people? Can we survive in this manipulative world without becoming hypocritical? What are the advantages and disadvantages of becoming hypocritical? I have tried to weave my mind through this abstract topic in order to initiate a discussion and in turn expose ourselves with our day to day hypocritical behaviours and unnatural tendencies.
The question that may also be raised is does hypocrisy provide leverage in our lives and if so, then is it sustainable? I think hypocrisy may provide a stepping stone in making a wrongful entry or falsely projecting an image, and in the absence of credibility it may erode quicker. Any action—verbal or physical is not tenable for long if it is not based on solid moral foundation and this moral foundation is re-enforced by one’s knowledge, experience, merit, intelligence, hard work, truthfulness, greatness, honesty, integrity and gentleness. There can be several examples of non-sustainability of hypocrisy but the recent case of Bernie Madoff, a former US businessman, NASDAQ chairman and an investment adviser who duped people for billions of dollars by his Ponzi scheme, is still fresh in our memories. His case also demonstrates how so-called white collared intelligent and successful people at high places including banks and government organizations become susceptible to hypocrisy by getting lured towards the false facade created by these con men. This also proves that greed and hypocrisy are closely related terms.
At a micro level, it would be quite interesting to cite examples of hypocrisy prevalent in the society by identifying them under different categories. However, these categorizations cannot be generalized in the presence of exceptions.
1) Hypocrisy in Personal Life: In some families, a child grows by watching how his or her parents backbite other people, whereas they want their children not to talk foul about others. They do not want their children to smoke, drink or watch adult movies but they are allowed to do so in their full knowledge. They look for an opportunity to manipulate the system or the society but they want their children to be honest and truthful. In the process, they do not care about impressions they are creating on their tender minds. The hypocrisy is also visible in adult relationships and their thought processes. We want our partner or spouse to be chaste and faithful whereas we are allowed to be deceitful. We may not love our spouse but must make pretentions on Valentine’s Day. We may call them honey or darling twenty times in a day without meaning an iota of its essence and may go for a divorce the very next day.
2) Hypocrisy in Social Life: I remember how in smaller towns and villages, people used to pay respect to the elders because of their age and wisdom, to teachers because of their knowledge, and to the farmers or professionals because of their experience. It did not make a difference to us whether those people are rich or poor, well dressed or in tattered clothes, living in a mansion or in a hut and driving a car or riding a bicycle. We respected them because of their originality, simplicity, magnanimity and contributions to the society.
Now, our modern world is entirely different which is built on the basis of hypocrisy and pretentions. We run after things which shine although it may be contrary to the proverb that whatever shines is not gold. We go by the dress of a person, what kind of house the person has, what kind of car a person drives, how smart a person is in demonstrating his or her wealth or affluence, and how articulately a person presents his or her words. We are least bothered to know the reality of a person or reasons behind these facades. Whether the well dressed person driving an expensive car and living in a mansion is an illiterate or a criminal who has amassed wealth by foul means does not concern us. As already said we are laid to believe that whatever glitters is gold. This belief is the outcome of our hypocritical nature which has been enshrined by our modern education system or so-called modern society.
Another example of hypocrisy in social life can be that when we meet a person we go by the words of flattery. We like sycophancy so much that those words of praise about our education, position, beauty, success, wealth etc sounds music to our ears and we get ourselves elevated by deceit. In this process, our intelligence takes a backstage and our craving for falsehood takes over.
3) Hypocrisy in Professional Life: Being a former banker, a financial consultant and having some knowledge of macro economy, I strongly believe that the world’s economy is suffering not because of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere but because of the greed of a few on the top and a hypocritical society who tends to lean towards the sycophants. It has become a modern corporate culture to promote the packaging more than the substance itself. People on key positions want to promote those who are willing to fall in line instead of those who have their own brain and have the ability to call a spade a spade.
Selection criteria’s are based on degrees and not actual knowledge or worldly experience. One may be highly experienced and capable of obtaining several degrees but cannot get the job because he or she does not meet the robotic parameters. Hiring managers look for the keywords in a resume more than the true capabilities. Merit overtakes the vagaries of the computers. Manipulations take over the quality. And once these robotic presentations are appointed, then in the race of achieving nonsensical targets for themselves and resulting bonuses for their bosses, they ignore certain parameters which in turn triggers these financial debacles.
4) Hypocrisy in Public Life: It would be audacious to dwell upon this topic in public life as the entire system is built on following suit. In the hierarchical system, people have no option but to follow authority. Therefore it is very important who is on top and how the system is functioning in the absence or presence of sycophants. If a system is marred with sycophants and corrupt officials then naturally hypocrisy would be the call of the game.
5) Hypocrisy in Religious or Spiritual life: Believing in God or praying to the almighty is a state of mind by which a devotee tries to connect with the supreme power. For this it is important that our mental horizon is filled with purity and able to provide an aesthetic environment for the almighty to get in. These purities and aesthetic environments are created by certain austerities and self admonishment which requires practice of high moral and ethical standards. Now, if the mind is filled with dirt’s of anger, ego, greed, hatred, jealousy, animosity, dishonesty or negative thoughts, how would one be able to invite God in their mental horizon by way of prayers? It is something like trying to build a place of worship on a heap of garbage. Therefore, prayers without penance are nothing but hypocrisy of par excellence where people not only try to fool themselves and the society but also God.
Therefore in order to develop a qualitative society, we must guard ourselves from the ills of hypocrisy. It may give short pleasure or success or may open the door of an opportunity but its resulting effects may cast a shadow on our society and professional world for a long time.
Being a poet as well, I have written couple of lines on Hypocrisy and it is posted on my other blog and if you have an interest, then you may visit : http://www.mypoemsinenglish.blogspot.ca/
I will look forward for your valuable comments in order to have an intelligent and thoughtful conversation on the topic.
Suman Saran Sinha
B.Sc., LLB, CMC
Certified Management Consultant