Value of Hypocrisy

I am a hypocrite and I proudly so. Hypocrisy is a prerequisite for civilization and the basis of courtesy. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice plays to virtue, since hypocrisy implies acceptance of the value you pretend to have.

 

Diplomacy, Politics & Courtesy are Hypocrisy Codified

All good diplomats, all good statesmen & most good people are hypocrites. They must work productively with people whose values they do not share, often with people they personally dislike. Would it be nobler to be sincere and express their “true” feelings, presuming they have thought through what the true feeling even are?  It sure would not get more done.

The right question is to ask what people CAN do, not what they can’t. Effective people look for common goals among opponents and common aspirations even among enemies. You need not agree on everything to work together on something.

Look for Agreement

In my diplomatic career, I have usually followed the maxim that – “You make friends shoulder to shoulder not face to face,” i.e. working together on common aspirations is better than talking about your problems. I do not want to disparage dialogue, but you should be looking for shared aspiration, not just airing grievances. Just talking about differences as often leads to finding more differences rather than resolving those you have already. “What can we do together?” is better than “Why don’t you like me?”

When I meet someone, I look for common aspirations – looking for the doors or windows – the ways in – not the stone walls that keep us out. This just makes sense. I do not know why you would do anything else. Yet, I find more-and-more people rejecting this. I hear people saying that they cannot talk to “those people” because “they” are unreasonable. Yeah. They say this w/o seeing the irony.

I joke that when I was serving in Iraq (2007-8) I ate lunch with guys who would have – maybe tried to kill me only weeks before. I do not think it was always just a joke. I have found common aspirations with communists, religious radicals, former (maybe current) criminals and lots of people who just hated people like me or what I represented. It was rarely pleasant at first and often never got better, but sometimes we found something we both wanted and could set aside our dislike to get it.

Feeling Righteous or Being Right

It is satisfying to be self-righteous, to assume that you or your group has a monopoly on “the good.” We all want to think we are fighting the good fight. After the fight, however, how many times have you regretted the need for the violence (real or intellectual).  Surveying the carnage and destruction after the battle of Waterloo, his great victory that he had anticipated for a decade, the Duke of Wellington reportedly said, “The only thing worse than a battle lost is a battle won.”

If we can (and should) look for common ground with foreign enemies, we certainly cannot deny this to our fellow American opponents.

It is NOT a betrayal of principles to work with opponents and find common purpose with enemies. In fact, it is affirming a greater principle of inclusiveness. It is how civilization works. Let’s maybe be less indulgently sincere. Hypocrites often get more done and almost always are more pleasant to be around.

And if you look for it, you may sincerely find good in those you think hate you and maybe you can hate the a little less and maybe learn not to hate at all.

 

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