Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Blinded by pride, root of hypocrisy

LISTENING to the radio in the morning before writing this, I heard something which caused a marked slowdown in the intake of coffee, toast and marmalade.

It was a politician defending Boris Johnson’s dubious burka joke by pointing to Jeremy Corbyn’s presence at a wreath-laying ceremony in Munich. Or maybe it was the other way round!

Do you talk to the radio? Or even shout? When in Meldrew-mode I do so quite often and this morning I wanted to shout “I don’t believe it!”

Firstly, that is no defence at all. And, secondly, is this what political discourse is coming to in this green and pleasant land of ours?

Brexit seems increasingly likely to bring chaos, an evil war carries on in Yemen alongside many conflicts around the world, global warming, disease and starvation continue to do their work and you want to exchange accusations about dodgy humour and a memorial ceremony? Really?

Now that I have published my breakfast-table rant, it has itself become a small example of two of the ugliest kinds of speech prevalent among us, at least in the media — “calling-out” and “virtue-signalling”, terms which have become popular with the establishment of social media as a major (THE major?) means of communication.

“Calling out”: The online Urban Dictionary says it means, in this context: “To verbally hold someone accountable for their words or actions.”

“Virtue-signalling” (same source) means: “Advocating a political or philosophical position and/or taking up a public cause, from a position of vanity, for the primary purpose of demonstrating your conformity with fashionable pop culture values.”

Now the voice of sweet reason whispers to me that politicians are in the public eye, that wrong should indeed be denounced, and that principled stands should be taken where principles are worthy.

So sniping at our elected representatives is an unworthy action for me at least. Instead, I need to look at myself.

“Virtue-signalling” and “calling-out” are games as old as language itself and nearly as universal. I find them easy to spot in others but much harder to see in myself, being blinded by pride, and that is the root of hypocrisy.

We were “called-out” on this long ago: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7)

I need that kind of ophthalmic surgery badly. How about you?

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