Tag Archive | values

Not practising what one preaches

Today is a hopeless one, so I decided to take a sick day in, read a book in bed and try a new comedy starring my current favourite actor. Writing on the blog also fits nicely into a day like this, so here I am.

While reading someone else’s blog, I noticed the blogger criticising one man, who was defending traditional family values publicly, but not being able to keep his own family together. This sort of criticism is often used to discredit what a person is saying. Even the most intelligent people employ it unthinkingly.

But if one thinks a bit.

Consider the people that practice harmful behaviours and preach it. Apologists of paedophilia and zoophilia, for example. Western society being heavily geared towards moral relativism, it is unsurprising that people dare to justify even such behaviours or that criminals may garner sympathy for having had a “difficult childhood”.

The main thing is, however, do we want to have apologists for behaviours that cannot be considered particularly ‘healthy’? Should people really be preaching what they practise? Or should the people whose families did fall apart, who can’t quite avoid cheating or be monogamous, who can’t quite quit drinking or eat healthy, should those people really begin to preach cheating as a justified necessity, drinking as beneficial to one’s creativity, and being fat from overeating as a new lifestyle choice? I think I’d much rather people didn’t preach their weaknesses, but joined the ranks of the “hypocrites” who preach what they fail to practise but believe in as a value. Who try to encourage others and society to be better than they are (even if this is not a concious aim, but more of an attempt to save face?).

I suppose this dislike for people who don’t live according to their ideals comes from the fact that some of them sound moralistic.  And no one likes a moralistic attitude – “You think you are better than us, eh? Look at your own relationship!” “My friend’s daughter’s grandmother saw you eating a burger in McDonald’s! Your healthy eating business is a fraud!” etc. Or maybe it’s simply the easiest way of discrediting someone’s opinion.

Personally, I cannot imagine turning my worst weaknesses into things I’d advocate. If I were an apologist, then an apologist of well-intentioned hypocrisy for the benefit of society, our values and healthier lifestyles. We really don’t need to have paedophilia normalized. The people that cannot help it should at least publicly denounce it, not try to paint it in a positive light. I can understand why they do it – they want a positive self-image, but well. If you are a terrible person, you should deal with the consequences.

Having said all that, I, like anyone else, much prefer a person who actually manages to live up to the ideals he or she preaches. Yet I don’t see why we should automatically discredit someone’s opinion if they fail to live up to what they publicly support. People are not ideal, people are often weak, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have some standards and ideals to aspire to. Speech over and out.

My utopian dream: an empathic society

If I was all-powerful and could re-arrange the core values of society, goodness and empathy would hold top positions. Not intelligence, wealth or beauty.

I’ve questioned the almost unquestionable merit of knowledge and intelligence before. I do not dispute that knowledge and intellect are valuable and responsible for a great many wonderful advancements, but they are amoral. Intelligence without empathy can be extremely harmful, which is why, in my ideal society, it would take a second place after kindness.

I’ve recently had a few courses were intelligence has been discussed along with intelligence testing. I can’t help but think how distasteful it is to arrange people based on their IQs. Maybe university professors love studying IQ because their own is medium to high. They are among the privileged group thanks to their genes and beneficial upbringing. It would be less so if their own was 95 (an impossibility, but let us suppose). There are charts ranking occupations and education levels and the average IQ.

Imagine being among the low IQ people. Their good fortune sometimes is that they don’t realise their own lack. Of course, it has been found that the less a person knows, the smarter they believe they are. But there are certainly many exceptions. People who are painfully aware of how they don’t get math or understand complex academic papers. Who suffer for it and feel they are good for nothing. Intelligence testing and ordering people based on IQ feels as unethical to me as ordering people based on looks – having an attractiveness quotient. Not because of the testing itself, but because of the value judgements that come with it.

Most people want to be considered intelligent because it has prestige and power. They generally want to receive an above-average IQ score. When they don’t, they tend to get a tiny bit disappointed. Alternatively, they start claiming how tests are faulty and don’t measure real intelligence. They do it to defend themselves from the label of being only average in intelligence, or below average. Readjusting tests is not an answer. It is too superficial and maintains the hierarchy. It just disadvantages someone else. I deeply, fundamentally dislike a society where people are ordered based on who is better than the other. Hierarchy is not so bad in itself, but if value judgements are added, it is. Ego massage for those at the top, self-esteem killer for those at the bottom. That seems to be human nature though. Labelling and competing.

So if we can’t live without competing with each other and wanting to be better, I wish that we could compete with each other in empathy. That being empathic and kind would be the highest values a person could aspire to and that having attained them, people would be rewarded with the same prestige and honours that the intelligent, beautiful and wealthy receive in our society. Furthermore, unlike IQ, empathy is a lot more flexible. For the average person, it is a lot more receptive to cultivation. If being emphatic was prestigious and people were motivated to cultivate that part of them, the world would surely become a kinder place.

In the present world, it often seems to me people are afraid of being kind. It feels “too much”. People who are caring and empathic are not respected enough. It has no obvious profit in it. Being middle-of-the-way is a lot more desirable, lest you be deemed a fool or an altruist.