Thursday, December 23, 2010

Father of Hypocrisy?

In the early nineteenth century, only the wealthiest citizens were entitled to vote in most European countries. In 1848, France extended the right to males from all segments of the French society, including the workers. This disgusted the young French aristocrat Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), who was going to note in his journal:
There is no form of rational and assured government save an aristocracy. A monarchy or a republic, based upon democracy, are equally absurd and feeble. The immense nausea of advertisements. There are but three beings worthy of respect: the priest, the warrior and the poet. To know, to kill and to create. The rest of mankind may be taxed and drudged, they are born for the stable, that is to say, to practise what they call professions.
In 1857, he published his anthology, Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), and wrote in the prefatory poem, “Hypocrite reader! My mirror, my twin!”

The general public was outraged but the elite – social as well as intellectual – came out to patronize their child.

Poets and artists had usually upheld faith – Homer, Rumi, Shakespeare, Goethe and others. Some, like Hafez, Mir Taqi Mir of Delhi and the British Shelley, had celebrated unbelief but only to protest against the hypocrisy of the self-righteous. Why did Baudelaire and his elitist followers openly proclaim hypocrisy to be their literary ideal?

Iqbal seems to have answered this indirectly in his private notebook, Stray Reflections, in 1910:
The imperial ambitions of the various nations of Europe indicate that the Westerners are tired of Democracy. The reaction against Democracy in England and France is a very significant phenomenon. But in order to grasp the meaning of this phenomenon the student of political sciences should not content himself merely with the investigation and discovery of the purely historical causes which have brought it about; he must go deeper and search the psychological causes of this reaction.


  1. Wow is this a pertinent and interesting topic for our time and our two nations!

    I don't have time for at least a week for the proper response and resultant research I'd love to do yet here are a few items some readers may recognize and which I plan to explore now further thanx to this post: Seth Pringle-Pattison The Spirit: God and his relation to man

    Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville Volume 2: 1834-1859

    Some immediate questions which come to mind:

    Could the elite be any ideology, practically, as long as THEY have the upper hand?

    Look at older "idealogists" and leaders who propose Democracy OR Fascism with little "wiggle room" inbetween for the SPIRIT, for faith and for AWE. Look at the fascists who are also so-called "Christian" or religion-oriented and yet could care less for the common man. (This despite the Christ who was the champion of the laborer, the farmer, the "common man" AS WELL AS the champion of liberty and freedom of expression (with law involving RESPECT even compassion/charity for ALL?)

    The above may have similar reflections applicable to ANY corruption of ANY religion and/or ideology?

    Plz keep going with this discussion which is not only relevant yet which needs to keep getting a expansive audience worldwide.

  2. Connie, thanks.

    Yes, of course, only the other day I was wondering about the insights of Alexis de Tocqueville. There used to be a time when Social Sciences were measured against reality checks, such as how accurately can they predict future trends of societies!

  3. Greetings,

    Thank you for this most interesting post. I must say that, in the photograph, there's quite a lot of bitterness visible in his eyes and mouth.

    All good wishes,