"Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised" ~ Tolstoy (1828-1910)
I should explain why I have decided to write this blog.
I have always been bewildered by the world that surrounds me. It makes no sense. This is probably because my assumptions are naïve. For example, for me, honesty is a fairly straightforward concept. It is not hard to tell the truth most of the time. Yet all around me I see people – especially politicians and those in authority – lying, cheating and twisting words in order to distort or hide the truth, cover their mistakes, or obscure their motives. And these are the members of society whom we need to trust the most. Why? Because we cede so much power to them and because they have such a huge impact on our lives.
The same is true of many who claim to follow the Christian faith. The gospel of love, forgiveness and charity is very simple. The injunction "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is clear and straightforward. Yet many Christians are very quick to condemn and impose their will on others. And many tolerate hypocrisy and bigotry with a frightening level of enthusiasm.
There are other, less dangerous, things that I don't understand. Fashion for example. Why are the colours and designs that were so popular in the 1960s and 1970s so reviled now? (Or are they coming back; I really can't keep up.) And why are the gothic shapes and flourishes of the Victorian era, which were until fairly recently covered up with hardboard and white paint, now so popular? St Pancras Station springs to mind, a joke – a bit of an eyesore – just a few decades ago; now one of the most loved landmarks of London.
Power of celebrity
I also find the power of celebrity inexplicable, although I too can be seduced by heroes. So maybe I can use my own experience to help untangle this particular conundrum. (I doubt it but I will try.)
Celebrity is connected with charisma and charisma is very important and very dangerous as we know from the example of Hitler. Yet society seems to crave leaders with charisma. It seems as if we have failed to learn from a recent – terrible – lesson of history.
Mounting body count
And how can we live with ourselves when our government has, in our name, invaded a foreign country. It disbanded the police force and army, and then watched as its own army was helpless to stop the civilian body count mount to a (minimum) estimate of 60,000. And that government has since been re-elected. When our politicians speak about this horror and there is little indication that they see these people as human beings. Where is the outrage that was expressed followed the bombing of the London underground? The number of people who died here was in the tens not the tens of thousands.
So it seems to me that I must be coming at the problem from the wrong direction. Instead of listening to what people say, I should look at what they do. If the theory which is supposed to explain how things work does not fit the facts, I should seek a theory which has a better explanation.
What I find distressing is that, in a world which is clearly getting better in many ways (far more people now have the opportunity to live rich and fulfilling lives, hunger and poverty are being pushed back in many parts of the world) serious efforts are being made to restrict freedom. We are moving from a time when the gap between rich and poor was getting smaller to one where it is getting bigger, a time when more people are spending a longer time in education but their skills and abilities fail to meet the expectations of employers.
In no way do I pretend to have answers to the problems which make me so confused. But I do want to share my reflections about them. I have ideas about how a few of the problems might be addressed, although I don't claim any special status for them. All I have done is try to think through why efforts to solve problems seem to fail repeatedly – and search for alternative ways of looking at them. The object is never to offer definitive answers but always to provide food for thought.
My perspective is Anglocentric. I have limited experience of how things work elsewhere. My focus is on the way in which politics and government works, and the way in which ordinary people like myself react to what governments and administrations do.
I hope you find this random walk through my mind maze interesting. If I succeed in throwing new light into some dark corner, I will have achieved my objective.
Image credit: http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk/show_print.aspx?Id=1018