Another Take on Hypocrisy

Some ten years ago, I attended a memorial service for a woman who had died from a heart attack – the last of a series over a year or so.  The church was filled to overflowing, and everyone had wonderful things to say about her.  She was excellent technically in the position she held, and, as a single woman, she had even fostered a wayward teen girl and tried to set her – and her daughter – on the path to a more productive life.  She worked hard and long at her job, and she was helpful to her colleagues. But she had one fault. She wasn’t averse to pointing out when she was given a stupid or non-productive assignment, and, worse, she was almost invariably accurate in her assessments.

The result?  Her superiors piled more and more work on her while effectively cutting her pay and status, and because she was in her late fifties or early sixties trying to support herself and two others, she had little choice but to keep working.  For whatever reason, the one colleague with whom she worked well had her job abolished – only to have it reinstated a year or so later and filled by a man [who didn’t last all that long, either].  Employees in other departments who tried to be advocates for her were either ignored or told that it was none of their business… and, besides, she brought it on herself because of her sharp tongue. After her first heart attack, as soon as she could, she went back to work because her position wasn’t covered by short-term disability insurance, and she was too young for Social Security.  She died, of course, some months later, after she’d lost her house and was living in a trailer.

Just another sad story, another one of the countless tales of people who have run afoul of adversity after adversity. Except… a goodly portion of those people who had offered tributes at her memorial service were the very people who had effectively undercut her and driven her to her death.

They praised her talents, but hated her honesty.  They praised her charity toward others, while practicing little toward her.  And, in the end, after the memorial service was over, she was quietly forgotten, and the once-wayward teen moved out of town, and life went on for the men who had driven an honest, if acerbic, woman to death.

Why do I remember these events?  Because, in reflecting on one woman’s death, I see them played out on a larger and larger scale, day after day, when the voices of honesty and reason are drowned in a sea of rhetoric, often quietly fomented by those who created so many of today’s major problems, especially the politicians and the financial community.  At the same time, no one with the power to resolve the situation wants to or to recognize the embarrassing facts about their part in creating the current problems… even while romanticizing the acts and deeds of deceased politicians with whom they often disagreed while paying lip service to hard-working Americans whose real wages have declined over the past decade.

But then, maybe calling the acts of the perpetrators and their subsequent rhetoric mere hypocrisy is too generous.




8 thoughts on “Another Take on Hypocrisy”

  1. Joe says:


    Values seem to be what one wants other people to practice for one’s life to be better, not something one must practice oneself. I think of the born again Christians who told me they are too bad to actually practice what they preach, but being born again means God will forgive all their sins, so they get to go to heaven anyway.

    Similarly, people give recognition to others based on their own self-interest. Look at Obama’s “Nobel peace prize”. Or consider Pat Tillman or Jessica Lynch’s stories. You’re a hero if you satisfy someone else’s narrative.

    Contrast the number of Wall Street Occupiers who have been arrested for sleeping in a park, with the number of Wall Street Insiders not arrested for destroying the US economy.

    And of course, the last 10 years have shown how much our leaders truly believe in our fundamental rights of freedom, due-process, and international law. But hey, we’re special, the beacon of freedom!

    You’re right, it’s everywhere.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    If we didn’t already know it, whether for lack of design or because there are those that are uncaring if not actively malignant out there, the universe is _not_ a fair and just place – the physics and even the socio-dynamics doesn’t give a damn about you or me except for what looks good about us.

    That’s not a fault specific to religion or capitalism or anything else. That those blamed more is perhaps indicative only of that they aspire to or are credited by some with more. It’s simply a fault or at least a tendency to a fault present in each one of us. If we know it’s there, we can choose to resist it and act better than that. But attempts to compel rather than just persuade us to do so will never meet with more than limited success, may cover up as much as they improve, and will only reduce the freedom necessary for people to find their own answers.

    The waste described is twofold: that few enough people to make a difference showed compassion for a productive and compassionate person, and that the person never learned to manage the stresses they were subject to in a way that preserved their live and thus their ability to continue doing what they did well. My mom grew up on the losing side of WWII, lost friends and family members to the egregious abuses of the authorities, smuggled food to those in hiding, had to go to considerable lengths to protect others from their indiscreet statements, etc. Much of what I’ve just said I’ve only heard second-hand. Yet she somehow handled levels of stress well beyond what I suspect _I_ could handle, and is still as healthy as the years allow. While there’s much that should have been done that wasn’t, and in no way to I mean to blame the victims, clearly not everyone stands up equally well to the challenges they’re faced with.

    The tragedy is when those that are willing to take on challenges even beyond their own well-being encounter so little support – not from formal organizations like government or even churches so much – any organization’s first priority eventually becomes its own continuity and the pursuit of power within it – but by the individual people around them regardless of whether those were part of organizations. There are people who are willing to burn themselves out to do what they think needs doing. I’m not one of them…I know I’d burn out way too easily; but when I recognize someone like that, I usually try to do what I can for them. Not for the whole world or country, just for a few people here and there.

  3. Hob says:

    I wonder what the cost analysis is for dishonest/non factual and truthful/openly logical actions in the workplace.

    The current situation implies that dishonest decisions are profitable, but I wonder if that is true empirically.

    In my own observations human tribes often exist like customers at a bar–there is grand philosophies, discussions, fights, loves between the drinkers yet they all profess to hate drunks.

  4. R. Hamilton says:


    Even though the greatest overall benefit is via cooperation, there are definite pressures toward betrayal.

    1. Joe says:

      That may be why the West with its belief in Heaven and Hell proved more successful than other cultures… That belief increases cooperation when people face prisoners’ dilemmas.

  5. HN says:

    On the subject of how important managers consider pursuing their own profits (and concomitantly their image/status), regardless of the cost, I found the recent chart by XKCD on money enlightening.
    I don’t know if URLs are allowed in comments, but it’s at
    Specifically, the enormous growth of the discrepancy of what an ordinary worker earns, compared to what a CEO earns, over the period from 1950 to now.

  6. Ryan Jackson says:

    Honestly, the problem is that dishonest behavior shows greater and bigger rewards, but isn’t nessecarily the better reward.

    Look at the crash that lead to the TARP program. The company I work for (one of the big four credit cards) Is usualyl seen as the underdog follower of the real companies. But come all the economic troubles. Those real companies needed to be bailed out, suffered massive charge offs and losses and generally spent the last few years recovering. My company, which had been more conserviative in its approach to lending, didn’t face these problems. We took TARP because it was asked of us and paid it back prompty. We aquired several businesses instead of selling off interests and looking for mergers. And come now, while we’re still the “little guy” in overall terms we’re on a track of steady growth and have been all along.

    But because we weren’t number one in raw profit no one really thinks of us are a serious success.

    People look for the size of the total success, not the actual percentage.

  7. David Sims says:

    I think of the leftists who defended Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” and Andres Serrano’s crucifix in a jar of urine as protected speech, but who then turn around and censor racist opinions on web forums. What blasphemous themes are to Christians, racist ideas are to leftists. But the leftists either don’t apprehend or else don’t care about their hypocrisy. I also think about Jews who want open borders for every country except Israel.

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