I ONCE got to know someone who was a philanthropist and humanist. He spent a lot of time overseas helping children in war-torn countries. His focus was on landmines and the kids who were being maimed as they played. He didn’t just give money; he gave his time.
I was in awe of his sacrifice — until I became friendly with his family, who shared very different stories of a dark and unforgiving man. His former wife was of the opinion that his altruism was a cover for a narcissistic need for recognition and adoration.
I thought of this story the other day when at a party. A Sydney businessman I know, Murray Baker, came up to me and started joking about how there should be an annual Hypocrite Day, where offenders in Mardi Gras masks could come forward with placards: “I’m a hypocrite and proud.” Religious clergy could announce their abuse of innocence. Molesting school teachers, scout masters or sports coaches could out themselves along with those convicted singers or actors who “worked” with young people.
Politicians who had sold their souls — having presented as men and women of character — could step forward. Leading the pollie parade could be my favourite: former New York attorney-general then governor Eliot Spitzer, who visited prostitutes while closing down brothels and places of immoral conduct. We could have floats like at Mardi Gras: one for lying politicians, one for corporate crooks, one for dubious clergy, and for royalty who act in a very unroyal manner. Or believers who kill in the name of God.
Those of us in the lower category of hypocrisy could have a floats at the back for the likes of sexual double standards: “I cheat with girls my daughter’s age while forbidding her to see boys.” Fair-minded racists: “I fight for gay rights but don’t like Aborigines.”
Perhaps we could all dress up and gyrate to music. Special guests could be Rolf Harris and billionaire banker Jeffrey Epstein (who could turn up with sex slaves on leashes).
Murray said it would be a relief to see the facade of social order torn down in one day of brutal honesty. It would certainly be educational in that it would rid us of the Pollyanna optimism we all carry that stops us dealing adequately with the true capacities of human nature — in ourselves and others.
For mine, I would out myself as an “angry Buddhist”; a peace ’n’ love preaching misanthrope who would like to see dinosaurs replace humankind again on Earth. At least they killed for food and didn’t run death camps and behead each other. I dislike this hypocritical part of myself. And yet in my defence, seriously, would anyone attending Hypocrite Day blame me?
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