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Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is deliberately saying one thing and doing another. Pretending to be something you are not, or pretending to believe something that you do not. Lecturing others on family values while cheating on your spouse, for instance.

The problem with having values is that sometimes you fail to live up to them. This is normal, and not necessarily hypocritical.

The motto of my school is IN GLADIO VERITAS: Truth is in the Sword. Truth is the fundamental core value around which my school was built. This means that when a person is wrong, even the illustrious founder, any student can and should point it out. It means that when the research develops and we find out that we are doing something that is not according to the book, we change it.

It also means that it doesn’t matter who is saying it. The greenest beginner can point out inconsistencies and are encourage to do so from the first day. We show them the Book (usually Fiore’s Il Fior di Battaglia, but whichever source our practice is based on that day) and tell them that if the instructor says one thing, and the book another, they should ask why- and that sometimes the instructor will deliberately do something differently, to see if they are paying attention.

It’s useful to remember that even people you don’t like, or who clearly don’t like you, are not always wrong. It’s natural to discount the views of people you find unpleasant, or with whom you have a poor history, but they are sometimes right nonetheless.

But I’ll bet you anything you like that there have been times when I (and no doubt other instructors within the school) have failed to live up to that. That’s ok. We are human. You are too.

It is very useful to get in touch with your core values, and model your behaviour around them. But be prepared for the times when you will fail, and do not let them discourage you. You don’t lose by falling, you win by getting back up.

One of the best things Neal Stephenson ever wrote, I think, is from The Diamond Age in which Major Napier and Finkle-McGraw (or His Grace Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw, to give him his full name) discuss hypocrisy with Mr. Hackworth, one of the main protagonists in the book. The Diamond Age doesn’t have a table of contents so I can’t give you the chapter, but it’s on pages 189-192 of my 500 page paperback edition. I’m tempted to type the whole thing out here, but better not— I know Neal wouldn’t mind but his publishers might. The conversation is Finkle-McGraw and Napier’s ever-so-delicate way of letting Hackworth know that they know he has apparently fallen short of the Victorian ideals that he strives towards. The conclusion (from the point of view of the discussion of morality) is this passage, in which Finkle McGraw says:

“No one ever said that it was easy to hew to a strict code of conduct. Really, the difficulties involved—the missteps we make along the way—are what make it interesting. The internal, and eternal, struggle, between our base impulses and the rigorous demands of our own moral system is quintessentially human. It is how we conduct ourselves in that struggle that determines how we may in time be judged by a higher power.”

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