I have never felt the not-a-hypocrite test of a person's character or social value was terribly useful. People who say "I'm no hypocrite; I'm a jerk and proud of it" are sending a signal they should be avoided. The problem is we aren't always in a position to enact that advice.

I distrust people who make a point of their alleged lack of hypocrisy. People who trot out radical honesty as a character attribute rarely do so as part of trying to engineer some larger social compact of radical honesty between peers. They typically do it as a pre-emptive defense of bad behavior in the society we're all forced to live in anyway. If someone has enough people around him excusing his behavior with formulations like "Well, that's just the way he is," then he can get away with all kinds of awful things and never be called on a single one of them.

One of the uglier problems with much of the counterculture as I experienced it was the way it shied away from confronting how there was not much of a line between the impulse to epater le bourgeois and the impulse to indulge in localized versions of the same behaviors that said scene was in theory trying to reject. It was cool to hate the prudery of straight society, but that almost never resulted in actual changes; too often it just gave people (typically men) an excuse to be exploitive, sexist pigs to others (typically women) in the same scene, and to never suffer any repercussions for it.

I guess the prevailing theory was: if I am upfront about what a scumbag I am, and you can't take that on face value, it's your fault. Problem is, this only works in situations where you have no lack of agency or autonomy, and where there are no power imbalances between people. Those situations exist nowhere except on paper. If the self-admitted scumbag in question just happens to have his arm around you, or is responsible for whether or not you get to go up on stage that night, or owns the place where you're crashing now because your last boyfriend threw a vodka bottle at your head and only just barely missed, him being upfront about his scumbaggery does you very few favors.

There was a time in my life, now long gone, when I believed the self-appointed gadfly, or contrarian, or professional pain in the ass was the model to aspire to. What better way to move the world than by goading it into action, and having a blast while doing it? Now I see how many excuses lurked behind that behavior, and what they were excuses for: excuses to be a sack of crap, now and forever.

Tags: psychology  sociology 

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2019/05/01 17:00.

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