It seems to me that the political philosopher Hannah Arendt nailed it when she wrote: “Moreover, if we inquire historically into the causes likely to transform engagés into enragés, it is not injustice that ranks first, but hypocrisy.”
Yes, hypocrisy as the principal cause of violence, transforming the “engaged” into the “enraged.” Arendt goes on to explain that, “Only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed and are not does rage arise.”
Are we not surrounded and bombarded by hypocrisy every single minute in America? Are we not the most violent -- ragefully violent -- society on the face of the planet? Do we not wonder why the richest, most powerful nation on earth does nothing to change conditions of poverty, starvation, and environmental despoliation?
Is it not enraging to hear the talking heads -- the politicians and their media -- speak daily of bringing “democracy” to Iraq while they brutally decimate the entire city of Fallujah and turn 100,000 human beings into “collateral damage” over the course of the invasion and subsequent occupation?
Is it not enraging to witness the new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, express dismay over the “impugning of her credibility” in the face of being caught in lie after lie regarding the justifications for invading Iraq?
Is it not enraging to have to listen to such phrases as “no child left behind,” “healthy forests legislation,” or “clean skies act,” while all the while education is being viciously de-funded, the peoples’ forests are being sold off to timber companies, and prior restrictions on air pollution are being rescinded?
Former Black Panther, H. Rap Brown, once remarked, “violence is as American as cherry pie.” If Hannah Arendt is correct, as I believe she is, then hypocrisy, therefore, forms the taproot of America’s founding.
Few people in America realize that the much-celebrated Liberty Bell cracked on the very first strike of its clapper. Why? Poor craftsmanship?
I would contend that the Liberty Bell cracked because the liberty it was meant to proclaim “left out” Native Americans, African slaves, women, and indentured servants. In other words, the Liberty Bell cracked because it could not contain the hypocrisy that was being required of it.
Why is this so important in our current circumstances, where the dogs of American empire have been unleashed upon the world?
The understanding as to the true nature of American democracy, as conceived and executed by the Founding Fathers, is vital if we who ache for freedom and justice for the people of the world, who ache for a loving relationship to our environment, are to imagine a way through these dark times. American democracy was founded solely on the premise of freedom for individual landowners and businessmen to profitably exploit human labor and natural resources without any restrictions from the British monarchy.
This was freedom for a very specific class of people only.
Hypocrisy was embedded in their vision of America, as noble proclamations of “freedom from tyranny” were cynically used to mobilize the poor and the small farmers in rebellion against colonial Britain. Read any of the books -- A People’s History of the United States; A People’s History of the American Revolution: Labor’s Untold Story; Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee; Before the Mayflower, etc. -- and it becomes readily apparent that every freedom that exists today was fought for and extracted from the very same ruling class that today aspires to global empire, the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding.
As progressives and social visionaries seek appropriate responses to this brutal engine churning towards a global Pax Americana, we cannot restrict our imaginations only to forms of democracy as envisioned by America’s founders or embodied in wistful longing for another New Deal. To do so would be to acquiesce to the continuation and reinforcement of the rage-inducing hypocrisies that inspire violence both within and towards America.
If we are to ever move beyond the violence that permeates America, and with which America is attempting to recreate the world in its own image, then we must take a long, hard look at the sticky web of hypocrisy that holds this country in thrall.
This is where the first blow for true freedom and justice must be struck.
T. Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in Depth Psychology and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by T. Patrick Donovan
Never Know Where the Visionaries Will Appear