Couple of interesting observations from the last few days.

First is from Private Eye (Issue 1187, p6) this week that quoted some market research carried out by Playboy UK Magazine (!). The mag’s executives wanted to discover which newspapers their readers regularly buy:

One title led the field by a mile, and they are now drawing up plans for cross-promotions and other marketing campaigns using the newspaper. The Daily Star, perhaps? Of course not. The news organ of choice for Playboy readers is … the Daily Telegraph.

Well, i never… I may have to reconsider my subscription… of the latter, of course, not the former.

But i suppose it just goes to show what the vast majority of people think – namely, that what you do in private is nobody else’s business. As long as you look respectable (which you can do from wandering around with the Telegraph under your arm – after all it is still the UK’s most popular broadsheet), you can get up to all kinds of stuff behind closed doors. People seem to have failed to spot the moral quicksand we enter if we think that who i am behind closed doors does not affect who i am out on the street… Please note, I’m not being moralistic here, nor superior, nor even saying I’m immune from the temptations – merely stating what i think is the completely obvious. You tell me that porn never does any harm – well, I’ll just introduce you to the marriage partners who’ve felt betrayed and humiliated on discovering their spouse’s addiction to ogling other people’s bodies.

Second is from the BBC Online Magazine, about middle class criminality – which is apparently rampant!

Surveying 1,807 adults in England and Wales, researchers found that 61% admitted to having committed a crime at some point. Subjects were given a list of 10 petty crimes to choose from, including paying in cash to avoid tax, taking something from work, and exaggerating an insurance claim. Presumably, that 61% would be higher still if the list had included a wider range of crimes, such as downloading music and copying software illegally.
While only 3% of those surveyed have gone for falsely claiming benefits, one in three of us have kept the money when given too much change. The same proportion have paid “cash in hand” to avoid taxation. The report authors Susanne Karstedt and Stephen Farrall concluded crime does not belong to the margins of society and there is no “law-abiding majority”. The respectable middle classes, they say, are a “seething mass of morally dubious, and outright criminal, behaviour“.

Quite a statement that last one. I assume the authors had a tongue planted firmly in their cheeks as they said that – or at least most would expect so because we don’t honestly think these things constitute criminality, do we? But whatever we call it, the truth is, these things go on. And here’s the point.

WE HIDE IT WELL, don’t we!? If we’re good at anything, we’re good at masks. The ancient Greeks had it right, then. All Greek drama was done behind masks – anyone who has seen a Greek tragedy performed like that will know the incredible emotional impact such a technique can have. You are distanced from the actor and his personality, and instead forced to focus on the power of the play (and the script in particular) in conveying emotional, dramatic and moral truth. For there was a tacit recognition that an actor could never manage that dramatic ideal – the human being would always get in the way. Masks had their uses then. But as preachers just love to point out, the Greek word for actor was ‘υποκριτης – (and i usually cringe when preachers quote derivations because they are often if not normally off beam – but in this case it is more or less OK) from which we derive the word hypocrite. This derivation is OK because what we mean by hypocrisy is precisely the same as its root – it is acting. The inner reality doesn’t match up with the outer reality.

And here is the big shock. I AM A HYPOCRITE!!! And so, i suspect, are you! I make no bones about this. It’s just a matter of looking in the mirror, of facing facts. I have a feeling i will need to say more about this in future, but i leave this hanging for now (and for fun)! But i do think that this is an essential apologetic line we need to take more often than we do. This is not moral defeatism – for we Christians really should live better than we do. We’re told to live like Jesus, after all. It’s just that for all my aspirations, exhortations and public appeals, I’m still a moral failure in need of divine forgiveness (which i just happen to have found)! To pretend otherwise is hypocritical – and i do pretend you know. Far more than i would like to admit.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. David

    this is a great entry, mark–thanks for the insights.

  2. Kate Loe

    Interesing muse Mark, and interesting news!! However, I wonder if our society has taken things a step further. We have ‘progressed’ from hiding our immorality into subtly selling it as ‘reasonable’ and ‘progressive’. ‘Stealing’ from work is really what is owed us if we are to do our job properly, ‘cheating’ the tax man is giving ourselves justice and buying Playboy and the Daily Telegraph is – well just being human – right? Our closed doors are not so much closed as us opening them, letting others in, evangelising others with our sense of right and wrong – for if all sin, no one does wrong. A recent article in the BMJ proudly stated how in Norway there has been a 40% reduction in the number of Down Syndrome babies. The unsaid statement but accepted fact as ‘reasonable’, is that this is through abortion. The criminality is not hidden but assumes coercion. I AM a hypocrite and I hide behind a mask – but only because I claim to have set morals outside of my own consiousness ( ie those of Christ). For the individual determining their own right and wrong I wonder if hypocrisy or masks really play a part…..
    thoughtfully, Kate

  3. markmeynell

    Kate, a brilliant point. Thanks so much. Of course, there can’t be hypocrisy if there is no external standard by which you claim to live. No wonder so many people feel they have nothing to hide. And yet i can’t help feeling that there ARE still things that even today do get hidden away… Surely the experience of shame hasn’t exactly been eradicated in our society? Or am i being too old-fashioned?

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