Are we all hypocrites?

Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Jewish author in Poland (born 1902) who was nonpolitical, but he could not avoid encountering aggressive purveyors of Marxism in his own community. And what he noticed is that though they wanted utopia for mankind, they had problems doing good deeds on a personal  level

Singer found that the personal relations of these Communist friends of the species were always little hells of hatred and discord, and that it could be very disillusioning to follow great reformers of abuses beyond the thresholds of their homes. He soon came to the conclusion that some strange paradox of human nature always led those doctrinally committed to the transformation of mankind to lace the treacle of humanitarianism with the acid of hatred of real human beings.

Singer writes:

My enemies were Jewish youths, fledgling writers who lauded the Russian revolution, already glorified Comrade Dzerzhinski, and demanded death for all rabbis, priests, bourgeois, Zionists, and even Socialists who didn’t follow the Moscow line. I was shocked to see how bloodthirsty Jewish boys and girls had become….

An essayist notes about Singer that:

From his experience of the Warsaw Jewish Communists (including, as luck would have it, his mistress Runya)…Singer drew abiding lessons. Primary among them was the revelation that the pseudoreligious desire to save “mankind” invariably leads to cruelty on a massive scale. …

Singer is not the only person who has noticed a discrepancy in people who regard themselves as idealists for mankind, but who don’t practice it in their every day lives.

In an article titled: “An Environment of Destruction“, Jillian Melchior talks about the protestors against a pipeline in North Dakota. She says that after the protests ended:

The self-proclaimed “water protectors” left behind 9.8 million pounds of garbage, including abandoned vehicles, tents, portable heaters and plastic tubs. North Dakota scrambled to clean up their detritus, fearing contaminated snow would melt and run off into the Missouri River. Some activists also abandoned their dogs, including several puppies, when they left their frigid protest camp. It’s an odd way of protecting the environment.

She also notes that some protestors slaughtered animals belonging to neighborhood ranchers.

This puzzles me. Surely, if you care about our environment and about the Native Americans who live near the pipeline, and you travel a long way to stand side by side, taking on the corporations for a green cause, you must be a well-meaning, idealistic person. But it seems that you can’t even clean up your own garbage, so that those Indians you care so much about are stuck with it!

The same thing was true with “Occupy Wall Street”. The idealists who gathered together near Wall Street and other places to protest the abuses of capitalism must care about the environment – right? Except you read: “Occupy L.A.: 30 tons of debris left behind at City Hall tent city“, for example.

So that raises the question – why is there a discrepancy between the ideals that make people travel long distances to protest, and their everyday practical behavior?

Are these people who they say they are? Or maybe who they genuinely believe they are?
Stanton Samenow, a criminologist who has interviewed many criminals says this about them:

Perhaps the most surprising discovery in my early years of trying to understand the criminal mind was that, without exception, offenders regard themselves as good human beings.  No matter how long their trail of carnage, no matter what suffering they caused others, every one of them retained the view that he is a good person.
How does a one man walking crime wave retain the view that he is good at heart?

So if a criminal can believe he is good, how accurate is the self-image of the rest of us?

We could compare our behavior to our values, but Samenow says this: “I recalled a murderer who would not step on a bug because he could not bring himself to kill a living thing.”

Some of us feel embarrassed when we act like fools, or are bothered by a discrepancy between different beliefs we hold, or are troubled by a discrepancy between the way we act and the way we should have acted. But suppose we don’t see our own discrepancies?

I personally can meet in the same day people who are embarrassed or amused to look at me, people who look at me with affection, even enthusiasm on rare instances, and people who are hostile, and people who don’t care one way or the other.  Since there is a difference of opinion, it raises the question:  Do I know me?  Do you know you?

The Jewish Idea and its Enemies by Edward Alexander (1988)


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