In a Word . . . Hypocrisy

Where would we be without it? At each other’s throats, most likely

 

As a believer in society, I worry. The series of anti-social lockdowns we have endured this past year has left us all rusty in the essential skill without which no civilisation can survive, that greatest social virtue: hypocrisy.

Where would we be without it? At each other’s throats, most likely. Honesty is to be valued in transactions between people but it can be lethal in relationships. Therein its value is greatly exaggerated.

Were we to be truly honest with one another all of the time, we would soon discover – and whatever poet John Donne may say about no one being an island – that it is the most direct route to not-so-splendid isolation.

For instance, on one of my mandatory walks recently I met Mr Fury. Let’s call him that. He is, without doubt, the most consistently angry person I have ever met. Red of face, purple when it’s cold, he splutters his rage about whatever-you’re-having-yourself with such passion the spittle jumps Olympic lengths with the remainder surfing down his chin like the waterfall at Powerscourt.

In these Covid-19 times, he is probably the greatest potential threat to public health in our area. I hadn’t realised how much I haven’t missed him recently or how often I indulged him before this, out of politeness. Hypocrisy?

Or Ms Lemon. A person of such raw honesty she never leaves a reputation intact and who speaks with such acid even a naive virus would not survive her tongue. Or “Yer Man”, slithering about gathering information for the next stroke as he cuts more corners than any Celtic Tiger predecessor.

But pity the naive honesty of the man who wrote to Trish Murphy of this newspaper recently saying that, after 30 years, he realised during lockdowns that he didn’t like his wife anymore.

He now found her cynicism obnoxious, yet added, “I still love her . . .” and “I do not want to separate”. A classic example of the wheels coming off a useful hypocrisy thanks to the pandemic.

I have never understood people who love someone but do not like them at the same time. Okay, I may like Mr Fury and Ms Lemon for their good points but, if it wasn’t for a certain hypocrisy, I couldn’t stand them. Love them? Never!

Hypocrisy, from Latin hypocrisis, Greek hypokrisis for “acting, pretending”.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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