What About This? By Wayne William Cipriano

HYPOCRISY! It drives me crazy. I don’t know why. But whatever the reason, it truly rings my bell. And most “clanging” of all is when public “servants” (and I use that term in the midst of great laughter) behave as naked hypocrites.

I am speaking here of the politicians, elected or appointed, seldom found at the local level, almost always at Regional, State, National, International positions, who have attained offices at which they are no longer directly and individually responsible for whatever jobs they inhabit. They “oversee” others who do the actual work. They operate in groups, committees, parties, minorities, majorities, but never alone. And thus, they are able to look each of us in the eye, shake our hand, and tell each of us whatever they think we want to hear that will enhance their political lives.

“Truth” for these people is flexible, elastic, dynamic, fluid, even gaseous. They are truly pragmatic. Truth is whatever works best for them right now. For there is no future beyond the next contest, meeting, vote, election.

They justify all this by correctly observing that if they do not prevail right now, they can no longer deliver what they promised. And they can never deliver what they promised, because doing so would inhibit their chances to prevail. 

“Trust me,” they beg. “I will do what I promised in the long run. And I am so much better than those ‘others’.” (The others who promised just as vaguely, just as fluidly something different.)

Can these people actually be so caught up in their day-to-day trash that they don’t realize what such behavior looks like to the rest of us? Or do they understand and just not care, being so confident in their blind public support?

Sure, I know about loyalty. Loyalty up and down. And sometimes, loyalty requires that we put aside peccadilloes committed by those above or below us because of the “greater good”. That is a practical necessity of the social contract, because, as we all understand, each of us has a slightly different conception of what is ethically correct. And so, on occasion, we will do, or say, or be something that doesn’t mesh completely with others’ ideas of perfect behavior. And we will let all that difference slide. Sometimes though, very very infrequently, we might even modify our position on an idea in the face of new information or new emphasis. Rarely,  but it happens.

How often do our officials wrap their arms around a concept, stroke it, nurture it when they or one of their ilk demonstrate it, praise the concept in word and deed, or perhaps when one of them demonstrates poor behavior, defend it, belittle its importance, or just plain ignore it? But when the “other guys” propose that concept they once supported, or the “other guys” demonstrate that once-ignored poor behavior, we hear nothing but loathsome disdain. When the “other guys” do it or say it, they rise up in righteous indignation because, well, because the “other guys” did it or said it.

Do these officials actually believe we do not see what they are doing? Do these officials think we will not remember what they did? Are these officials so convinced our loyalty to them will overshadow such hypocrisy? Evidently, yes, since they continue to do it and we continue to let them.

When we were children we acted in certain ways to collect our parents’ admiration and respect, and to a greater or lesser extent to avoid the punishment that bad behavior occasionally earned us. As adults, most of us continue in those behavior patterns we learned as children and refined as we grew which have served us pretty well. We still desire the administration and respect of our fellows, and strive to avoid the punishments that accompany bad behavior.

Politicians and elected officials do not seem to operate under the same conditions. Other guidelines have taken their place. Well, really just one. Which, when you think about it, makes for a really simple calculus when these persons decide what they will and will not do or say.

Where as we might consider many different factors, some learned as children and others developed over a lifetime when we have to decide what to do or say or believe, politicians and elected officials consider only one. They do not think of punishment for bad behavior, because it does not exist for them –they have learned they can usually escape it. Their reputations, the regard, trust, respect from others, even their closest associates, even their “friends”, even their families means very little to them when compared to the one really important thing, the only thing: ELECTION.

Whatever they do, whatever they say, whatever they are is evaluated, designed, re-designed, sometimes moment by moment with that one thing in mind. Nothing, nothing at all means anything except winning the next election. It is the only thing.

I don’t like that. No matter who it is. “My guys” or “their guys.”

And when “my guys” do it, it’s worse! And I don’t support them next time, even when my lack of support may hurt what I believe in.

Yes, I know about politics being like making sausage, but when we all think like that, when anything and everything is acceptable as long as “we” win and “they” lose, as long as the sausage gets made, we end up with exactly what we have today: a sea of hypocrisy in which we are all drowning.

In an electronic environment where all the ethical warts are exposed almost immediately, you’d think these people would behave in ways that reduce or perhaps even eliminate those warts But what we have is doubling-down on those very behaviors that should” disqualify them from our leadership, as long as they can momentarily hide those behaviors in themselves and castigate the “other guys” for the same behaviors.

I can’t tell anyone where to draw the line that prescribes what behavior and how often from one’s zone of acceptance. All I can do is draw that line for myself and then be sure those elected officials, my elected officials, know that I am watching, I am evaluating, and I am remembering and that I do not think victory at the polls out weighs every other consideration.

What about you?