Paradoxical behaviour is not always hypocrisy. In fact, the over-inflationary use of the term hypocrisy is but the well-intentioned yet misinformed expression of a culture in which saving face is paramount. If you’re resolute, if you’re steadfast, if you have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for, the world admires you.
I, for one, cannot claim any such certainty, nor do I especially desire it. Sure, it would be easier sometimes to just join a certain camp and never waver from a certain position. Yet, how intellectually disingenuous to claim to be in possession of the “one” truth or solution to any given problem and how unwiser still to hold on to the result of an equation even as the equation itself changes. New input, new output, one might think. Yet I marvel at the many rose-hued glasses available to what sometimes seems like anyone but me through which new input is altered in its perception to fit the same old result.
Laconic as I may be in spoken word, it does not seem too far fetched to compare me to a waterfall when I write. I am at once both liberal and conservative, hold opposing values all at once, try to further my understanding of issues big and small, may they pull me to the left or to the right. Certainty is scarce while hesitance is the order of the day most out of a year’s 365. A lackluster performance at making up one’s mind at best. Some may call it volatility, inability to come to a conclusion, a flaw of character or – worse still – lack of character altogether. Yet, I am very well capable of drawing conclusions, I just provide them with the caveat that they are not finite and, rather, subject to revision once new information is available that may alter my understanding of any particular subject.
So when I vote for one party one day and another come around next election day, when I drink tea on Monday and coffee on Tuesday, when on the occasion of frequenting my favourite restaurant, I choose to go off the beaten path and try a new dish on the menu… all of this could be seen as hypocrisy or at least as indecisiveness, yet none of it is. It is simply living free of the constraints imposed upon oneself ever too frequently by one’s opinion of what a steady, respectable man ought to think and do: that more than substance, it is form that counts. It is, thus, with pride that I can say that leading one’s life hopping from one paradoxical behaviour to the next is – more than eccentricity – to put substance over form and to thus exalt content above any principle of personal pride, foreseeability and respectability.
Respect is owed not to the man who never wavers from his position, but to the man who is brave enough to abandon a sinking ship when his intellect commands him to build a new ark, made of oak more flexible and yet stronger than that of the ship whose command he held no longer than two minutes ago. It is only then that he can say: steady as she goes, because she will finally go: ever onwards, onwards ever.
Of all the faculties one is endowed with, the ability to change one’s mind must in fact be the most precious one, or at least on par with any other abstract intelligence or problem-solving skill one might possess. To do away with the term “hypocrisy“, to recognize the human condition and to allow for swift changes of opinion may yet be the hardest but also the noblest task of intellectualism in the 21st century. The way forward is not a single street. It is a maze made up of darker as well as more brightly lit alleys. Allow yourself to venture each one and never cease to self-reflect.
Vires acquirit eundo.