A lover was writing to his beloved in the usual exuberant and effusive terms “I shall die without you, I can die for you. You are my idol; you are my temple where I shall worship till eternity.” In the Postscript he wrote “I shall see you on Sunday evening provided it is not raining.”
We are all hypocrites and do not know it. The world consists almost exclusively of people who are one sort and who behave like another sort. We are perpetually playing Dr Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde game and get so used to it that it ceases to be a game. It becomes our very nature.
Hypocrisy, it has been said, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. The belief in the existence of God and cardinal virtues is fostered in us from our childhood. But the pleasures of life have an irresistible appeal for us. We make the best of both the words by paying lip-service to God and heart-service to the Devil.
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil
The morning begins with prayers in the temple, mosque or church and the debt to God is paid. The rest of the day is given to deceit, corruption, lies and falsehoods. Satan gets the lion’s share of our attention.
Religion has been particularly the happy hunting-ground of hypocrisy. Outside the temple the following lines from the Gita are inscribed in bold letters:
Whoever offers me with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I accept that, the pious offering of the pure in heart.
In actual practice, however, the order of precedence is decided by the amount in the offertory box. All attention is given to the big donor; yonder woman who cannot afford more than a mite cannot find a place in this sun, though the son of God shines on all alike, the rich and the poor.
Jesus Christ laid stress on two things: “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Second “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”
Now these two things, nonviolence and non-possession, are exactly the things which his followers have thrown overboard down the centuries. War and Commerce have been the pillars of Western civilization. How many wars have been fought in the name of Christ, the austere man whose heart overflowed with love even for the sinners?
In politics as in religion there is abundance of hypocrisy. The politician is an acrobat. He keeps his balance by saying the opposite of what he does. To secure votes these acrobats will go to any length, make tall promises, which they never intend to redeem.
They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies.
Hypocrites are everywhere. People pretending to wealth when they have not six pence; assuming knowledge of which they are ignorant, shamming a culture they are far removed from, and adopting opinions they do not hold.
The fact is that it is easier to pretend to be what you are not than to hide what you really are, but he that can accomplish both has little to learn in hypocrisy.
The tribe of hypocrites is increasing at a fast pace. Snobbery, the twin-sister of hypocrisy is becoming the hallmark of hypo-culture. The world is being made safe for hypocrisy.
For dignity composed and high exploit
But all was false and hollow: though his tongue
Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash