The Hypocrisy of the Modern World

A senior software engineer at Google sent a memo around the company arguing that Google had created an “ideological echo chamber,” writing that “Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology.” Google’s response to the memo was to dispute it in word by proclaiming its commitment to diversity and open dialogue, and to affirm the memo’s assertions in action by firing the engineer who authored it.

If you do not see the irony in this, you are probably of the same mindset as the “dominant ideology” of academia, the media, and corporations (particularly in the tech industry) today. If you do detect the inconsistency, you’ve probably noticed an epidemic of such double-think. (Orwellian terms may be overused today, but only because they are increasingly applicable.)

The Google memo controversy is just one example of how we are told that we must be tolerant and accepting, allowing all viewpoints and ways of life to be expressed and lived… unless your viewpoint or way of life conflicts with the dominant themes of secular society, in which case you will be publicly pilloried, your livelihood and reputation threatened.

We are told that God is, as a recent incarnation of Sherlock Holmes put it, “a ludicrous fantasy designed to provide a career opportunity for the family idiot,” by the same people who very seriously suggest the possibility that we are all living in a Matrix-style simulation.

We are told that the child in the womb is not a human person, but it already has its sexual orientation firmly cemented, but not its gender identity. (This is a metaphysically incoherent set of positions, but, we are told, metaphysics was destroyed by the Enlightenment philosophers, though we aren’t told exactly how they allegedly accomplished this feat.)

We are told that to be healthy we must sacrifice, discipline ourselves, that we must effectively be athletes in training (or, in Greek, ascetics): no saturated fat, no high fructose corn syrup, stay away from carbohydrates and gluten, no GMOs or pesticide-laden crops—instead, eat large quantities of kale and sustainably-harvested saltwater fish, and you will live forever. In fact, they say, we ought to tax or outright ban certain foods that are less than healthy, and suddenly the price of your large soda goes up 12 percent. But any suggestion that other appetites might need to be curbed or controlled—that, say, the sexual appetite, which affects not only the health and well-being of the parties involved but also has the awesome potential to bring new human beings into the mix—is met with howls of “Keep the government out of my bedroom!” When asked why the government should be allowed into your kitchen but not into your bedroom, they will only scoff.

The word “hypocrisy” is often misused, or rather, imprecisely used. Too often, a “hypocrite” is someone who does not live up to the standard they profess; but this seems insufficient. No person adheres perfectly to their moral code. We are all sinners, in need of the mercy and grace of God. If the definition of “hypocrite” includes everyone, and doesn’t describe some constitutive attribute of human nature, then it’s not particularly useful.

But if we add another element to the definition, things become clearer. A hypocrite is not simply one who says “Do as I say and not as I do.” A hypocrite is someone who says, “It is fine for me to do this, but it’s forbidden to you.” Hypocrites hold other people to a different standard than that to which they hold themselves. It is not a matter of falling short of your rule; it is a matter of having a different set of rules for others than for yourself.

This is precisely what we see happening in our examples above. In every case one party thinks it is perfectly consistent to act inconsistently. In the name of open dialogue, Google fires someone for trying to open a dialogue. Calling God an absurdity, some propose as an explanation for the world a patently absurd idea. Saying the unborn child is not yet human, trendy social thought nevertheless claims it has certain traits only a human could have. Claiming freedom from external compulsion, the activist micromanages the diets of others.

At the root of hypocrisy is the desire for power over others. Hypocrites wish to enforce a rubric on everyone else while remaining unencumbered by it themselves. Hypocrites tend to use the “non-inclusive plural”—in other words, when they say “we,” they mean “all of you, but not me.” Politicians alone would provide us a plethora of examples: those who rail against tax breaks for the rich who also take full advantage of every one of those tax breaks and pay less than any of the “working people” they supposedly represent; who write a health care law that burdens the populace with mandatory, unaffordable health plans enforced by tax penalties, but from which they themselves are exempt; who fly around the world on private jets decrying pollution and wastefulness; who deny school vouchers and sing the praises of public education while sending their own children to expensive private schools; and the list could proceed endlessly.

In the name of freedom, conformity is imposed. It is the “dictatorship of relativism” of which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote. It is the ascendancy of the technocratic class who would mold a new humanity while remaining themselves unmolded, untouched, unfettered, as C.S. Lewis predicted in The Abolition of Man. This can only be combated by an alternative vision, one that will arrest hearts with its truth, goodness, and beauty: the vision of the human being as an image of God, possessing inherent dignity and worth and infinite value, made to achieve its end of union with its Creator. Such a being is not one to be controlled or manipulated. Such a being must be allowed to flourish. And that does not happen by being force-fed kale.

Nicholas Senz

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Nicholas Senz is Director of Faith Formation at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas and a Master Catechist. A native of Verboort, Oregon, Nicholas holds master's degrees in philosophy and theology from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, CA. He is on Twitter @nicksenz and his own blog, Two Old Books.

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