Society doesn't value backing words with associated actions
“And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Authenticity is one of the most important qualities to teach young people. To be truly who you are, to be comfortable in your own skin and to walk your talk, is essential to not just personal happiness but is also requisite for building a better, more just and humane world.
Unfortunately, teaching authenticity is challenging in a society that is dominated by hypocrisy. Politicians manipulate, deceive and outright lie with such regularity it is almost amazing when one does not do so. Celebrities demonstrate to children and youth that it is acceptable to say one thing and do the complete opposite.
Although nowhere near exhaustive, here is a smattering of the political hypocrisy of 2013. Republicans claimed they wanted to avoid the government shutdown in the fall, yet many openly embraced the idea as a way of stymieing President Obama in general and of opposing Obamacare. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney derided Obamacare, yet it was very clearly based in large part on the model Romney introduced as governor of Massachusetts.
Then there is the Cheney sisters, who want to be “personally” fine with gay people but not politically so. And what about Florida Republican Trey Radel, who supported Gov. Scott’s initiative to drug test welfare recipients yet is a cocaine addict?
It is clear, however, that the hypocrisy bug has infected Democrats as well. President Obama, for example, pledged to usher in an era of transparency yet the revelations made by Edward Snowden make it abundantly obvious that he has authorized and continues to support privacy invasions previously unheard of. And, of course, there are Obama’s pledges about health insurance that were, quite simply, either signs of complete ineptitude or willful deception.
Supposedly assigned to protect and serve, many of the law enforcement officers in my home of South Florida seem to do anything but. In just one example of a litany, Miami Gardens police stopped and harassed 27-year-old Earl Sampson 258 times in the last few years while he was on the clock (yes, you read that right, he was at work) at a convenience store. They searched him more than 100 times, much of which is captured on camera because the storeowner, Alex Saleh, realized that the threat to his business did not come so much from local thugs but rather from the police themselves.
Not exactly a reliable source, Fox News has, however, shed some light on the hypocrisy of celebrities who speak out against various social ills while visibly perpetrating the same behaviors. Perhaps most notable was the star-laden Demand A Plan initiative, in which a series of celebrities, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, lined up to film PSAs requesting gun control.
These same celebrities – Jamie Foxx, for instance – are often featured in violent films that glorify gun culture. Both Jay Z and Kanye West have faced hypocrisy accusations for failing to admonish or withdraw their products from companies like Barney’s, that are said to racially profile. Not to be outdone, evidently just days ago, the supposedly vegan Beyonce showed up at an event wearing a fur coat and suede shoes. Ummm…maybe not.
Among the many nonviolent principles along which Mahatma Gandhi operated, the concepts of truth and authenticity rank near the top. Gandhi recognized that even his detractors might soften their positions if his actions echoed his words, his diet followed his espoused beliefs, and his consumption patterns were consistent with what he preached. In short, living what you believe is an essential component of nonviolent social change.
I believe the world would be a better place were authenticity to be widely valued and taught. Although we are all works in progress, I call on all adults to work diligently to be those role models—in both what we say and what we do—that our youth so desperately crave.
Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology and Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.