Hypocrisy over ability to be hypocrites


THAT'S MEN:Hypocrisy kicks in so quickly and easily

IT’S AMAZING to experience the speed at which hypocrisy kicks in. The other morning I was queuing at Dublin Airport for a 9.20 flight to Berlin. As I waited I observed a gentleman, who was seated among us, drinking a can of Guinness.

There, I said to myself, is a man in trouble. He is on the road to self-destruction. As the rest of us shuffled forward in the queue, he remained seated to give himself time, I realised, to enjoy his second can.

Tut tut.

Then I got on the plane. When I got the menu I saw Ryanair was flogging two brandies for the price of one. Oh well, I was on the way to Berlin after all, and it was the weekend after all, so I had a black coffee and the two brandies.

Now, what is the difference between my good self and the man downing the Guinness in the waiting area? None whatsoever. Worse, Ryanair sells its brandy in plastic bags – even that didn’t stop me.

Another example: The next morning, at a 60ish, hippyish hostel I observed a man smoking a cigarette. Then I spotted that he was wearing a bright red satin anklet. Then it struck me that his top looked like fake leopardskin. Then I saw he was wearing a blue, denim mini-skirt. Nobody paid the least attention to any of this.

But when I heard that other Irish visitors had been so surprised earlier by his appearance that they took a photograph of him I, the Great Liberal, was suitably disapproving. Surely they should realise that there was nothing here to remark on, especially not in Kreuzberg, Berlin’s very alternative sector, much less to take photographs of?

But I too had stopped and stared. I didn’t take a photograph of him but here I am writing about him in a newspaper. Oh, hypocrisy!

Freud and company maintained that what we most disapprove of in others is what we most dislike in ourselves and I am definitely living proof of that proposition. For instance, I can sometimes be very critical of people who don’t work hard enough – but anybody who has ever worked with me knows that this is the very category to which I myself belong.

All of which suggests to me that I should start an Irish chapter of Hypocrites Anonymous. Unfortunately, Croke Park isn’t available at the moment.

The abuse of men by their female partners went unacknowledged until the 1990s when evidence slowly began to emerge that women behave badly too. While the Amen organisation has campaigned vigorously on the issue, other domestic violence organisations have focused almost entirely on women as victims.

What proportion of men suffers abuse by females? It is impossible to say with any degree of accuracy because this behaviour is hidden and because definitions of domestic violence differ – some verbal ranting is abuse (just think of those Mel Gibson phone calls to his ex) for instance, but not all. A recent conference of the British Psychological Society heard that 6.4 per cent of men aged 20-24 in England and Wales said they had experienced domestic abuse. Other estimates are higher.

That conference also heard, though, that counsellors are still stuck with the idea that domestic abuse is perpetrated by men and don’t really know what to do when the abuser is a woman.

Kevin Hogan and John Hegarty from the University of Keele told the conference that both male and female counsellors were in a quandary when faced with this phenomenon. Hogan said male clients who had suffered abuse in the home had to educate the counsellors on the whole phenomenon. Many of the counsellors I know have heard enough horror stories from both sides of the divide to be unsurprised by stories of violence perpetrated by either gender.

The fact remains, though, that the concept of men as targets of domestic violence gets too little recognition in society.

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