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By the way: When hypocrisy can be dangerous

Sebastian Partogi

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, May 3, 2019  /  01:58 pm
By the way: When hypocrisy can be dangerous

The gap between knowledge and behavior is very wide indeed. (Shutterstock/rudall30)

One day a friend of mine, a smart and talented young writer, suffered from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which sent her into tremendous pain.

As the pain was so unbearable, she notified her boss that she had to skip work that day, the first time in her eight-year career.

Yet when she opened Facebook, she was flabbergasted upon reading her boss’ most recent status which accused her of being a “crybaby”, who was so weak she had to call in sick for a “menial and petty” reason like PMS.

My friend felt betrayed by the status. The thing is, her boss is a female, who paints her public image as a human rights defender who sides with marginal people, specifically being a feminist. And yet...

And it's not just my friend, this same boss often puts down other people she considers less smart than her.

This is not an isolated case. It happens all around us but many choose to turn a blind eye.

Another friend experienced a similar thing. He worked for an organization that upholds civil society values – freedom of expression, the protection of marginal people and pluralism.

And his colleagues were book-smart, intellectual people who liked to shoot their mouths off talking about highbrow issues and concepts like substantive democracy and had the privilege of traveling the world due to their job.

My friend assumed his colleagues must be very humane. How wrong he was – they were very harsh people.

His supervisor, in particular, was selfish and wanted to win at all costs. He did not hesitate to dump all high-risk and difficult projects on my friend’s plate and backed off whenever my friend faced difficulties and backlash when executing these projects.

He would also be very quick to blame my friend for being incompetent  – washing his hands clean of the problem.

The gap between knowledge and behavior, I was once told, is very wide indeed, probably like the gap between heaven and earth.

I remember several years ago I read two stories exposing two sides of the same coin: about a popular feminist activist who was hospitalized after being badly beaten by her husband (and she still remains married to this man); while in another case, a male human rights activist admitted to beating his wife so badly she needed to be hospitalized.

I have also committed hypocrisy, when I did not walk the way I talked or wrote.

Recently, my anxiety problems relapsed yet again and one of the ruminations that depressed me was just how fake I was as a writer, writing on the importance of humility while at the same time I was behaving like a narcissistic megalomaniac: constantly bragging about my achievements and name-dropping high-profile names with whom I came into contact along the way.

Painful as it was, this awareness eventually prompted me to continue practicing self-awareness and mindfulness so that I could align myself more with what I believed in by puffing up my social image less and instead focusing more on the person right in front of me – be truly present in my relationships with others. Easier said than done, I know.

Many people have come up with excuses for hypocrisy: “Oh, you cannot expect their behavior to match their intellectual capacity. Oh, at least when this country is in trouble they all unite in one voice to oppose evil politicians. Oh, you should instead admire their work and not their personalities; at least they produce useful writings that can enlighten readers. Oh, everybody has their own weaknesses.”

And oh we let them get away with their hurtful comments and actions with our excuses.

Probably, the great work they have done for humanity can compensate for their human shortcomings, but I do think hypocrisy can be dangerous.

Hypocrisy can be dangerous especially when you fight for civil society, there are many people out there – typically the privileged and powerful – who want to see you stumble.

Remember that the job of taking you down gets easier when you are the one committing the sin yourself.

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