By R.M.B Senanayake –
Mr. Gamanpila of the JHU, sees no wrong in canvassing for the abolition of the Provincial Councils while continuing to hold office there-in. He has declined to resign from his membership of the Provincial Council. What do we make of this behavior? Should not a person behave in accordance with his beliefs? In common parlance this is called political hypocrisy. The concept of hypocrisy originally arose in the theatre where persons who were acting pretended to act out a behavior which in reality they were not. People who play a part are potentially unreliable, because they have more than one face they can display. So does not his continuing to serve in a Provincial Council mean that Mr. Gamanpila does not believe that the Provincial Councils are a useless burden and should be abolished?
Hypocrisy always involves some inconsistency in behavior and behavior which is not in keeping with one’s beliefs. The absence of self-awareness can turn into a kind of deception of oneself or the people. The only sympathetic view of such behavior is that it is due to some kind of self deception.
Any sort of person who says “do as I say, not as I do,” is a hypocrite. An alcoholic parent or a smoking parent who tells his grown up teenager not to drink or smoke is a hypocrite. A person who preaches the value of vegetarianism but himself eats meat is a hypocrite. People think that whatever your principles are, you should believe and act in accordance with them. In the modern sense, a hypocrite is someone who criticizes something that he also does, or someone who acts in a manner that he specifically does not condone. This is considered to be a bad thing, in most cases, and there are plenty of idioms that express it when someone is acting in this manner. “The pot calling the kettle black,” is a classic one, and “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” is an equally popular saying.
But in politics Machiavelli argued for political hypocrisy. He wrote that princes have to at the outset of their career lie and deceive people. He pointed out that such behavior is necessary during the early part of one’s political career where one is weak or dependent on others. He said in times of weakness or dependence hypocrisy is the preferred mode of conducting politics for republics as well as principalities. Machiavellian ethics are specifically political ethics and he argued that instead of applying a pre-determined set of moral values to politics as to every other activity or relation, the Prince should follow a set of rules for political activity that are justified by the unique character of that activity (politics). Certainly, he believed that the idea that political morality can be boiled down to a set of all-purpose maxims is itself an illusion.
Campaigning for something you don’t act out is hypocrisy. People think that whatever your principles are, you should believe in them and you should in your behavior conform to them. But hypocrisy has also come to describe public statements of principle that do not coincide with an individual’s private practices—indeed, this is what we most often mean by hypocrisy today, where the duplicity lies not in the concealment of one’s personal beliefs but in the attempt to separate off one’s personal behavior from the standards that hold for everyone else.