How can we explain the breathtaking COVID hypocrisy of the world’s leaders?
January 12, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — An ever-lengthening list of politicians and media personalities who have been fierce advocates of coronavirus restrictions have turned out to have flouted them. Recently the TV journalist Piers Morgan, who has turned publicly shaming minor celebrities for failures to toe the line on the epidemic into an art form, is now accused of popping off to Antigua for a holiday, against the rules. The Scottish member of Parliament Margaret Ferrier, who is facing trial over her bizarre journeys criss-crossing the country while she was waiting for a test result, had earlier demanded the resignation of Dominic Cummings, a government adviser, for doing something similar. It may be difficult to top the shamelessness of Gavin Newsom, governor of California, going to a party at a famous restaurant in breach of rules he had personally imposed on his state. But I think Neil Ferguson manages it: he was the U.K. Government’s scientific adviser, a man more responsible for the “lockdown” policy than anyone else in the country, who broke the rules in order to commit adultery.
At least Ferguson resigned. Although some heads have rolled, many other people are still in their jobs after issuing unconvincing apologies. It is not difficult to understand the anger of ordinary people at the behavior of these elite individuals, but as the restrictions have become ever more severe and of ever greater duration, there’s a real danger that there would not be enough seedy politicians and corrupt journalists left to do all those vital jobs if the COVID rule-breakers were sacked — and wouldn’t that be terrible?
These individuals are often described as hypocrites. The root idea of hypocrisy, as the word is used by Jesus Christ in the gospels, is a show of piety that does not come from the heart.
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all filthiness. (Mt. 23:27)
This isn’t quite what is going on with these individuals. Their sin is not exactly to make a show of being good, but to hold other people to rules that they don’t themselves follow.
This could be simply be a matter of weakness of the will. As Shakespeare’s heroine Portia remarks in his play The Merchant of Venice, “[t]he brain may / devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps / o’er a cold decree.” People know what they should do, they are tempted, and they do the wrong thing.
However, that doesn’t seem to be quite what’s happening, either. Consider Ferguson’s explanation of his action. While acknowledging that what he did was contrary to the letter of the rules, he told reporters, “I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus, and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms.”
In other words, because of his specific circumstances, he thought there was no need for him to follow the rules. The problem is that he did not want to give that room for reasonable judgment to everyone else. It is reserved to him, presumably because he is frightfully clever and important.
I think other members of our political elite might say something similar. It is important for them to travel, or go for holidays or have celebrations, because, so they think, they are Important People. What difference can it make if a tiny number of Important People break the rules, as long as everyone else follows them?
I think these elite rule-breakers are like the elites of wartime who pulled strings to exempt their children from conscription and their assets from taxation or being requisitioned for the war effort. Did they want their country to be defeated? Almost certainly not. They just didn’t want to make personal sacrifices to defend it. Other people’s sons could die, other people’s land could be built over by the army, other people’s businesses liquidated.
The Neil Fergusons and Gavin Newsoms of this world are not genuine, self-sacrificing puritans, nor are they hypocritical fake models of uprightness. They are bad in a different way. They are lacking not so much sincerity as solidarity. They want something done about the epidemic, but not by them. They don’t regard themselves as part of the great mass of people who need to follow the rules to “beat the virus.” The rules are for the little people, not for them.
When Buckingham Palace in London was bombed during the Second World War, just as the poor and densely populated area of docks and shipyards in the “East End” of the city had been, the British Royal Family still refused to move out of it to safer accommodation in the countryside. The queen remarked, “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.” The trouble with our elites today is that they have no wish to look the rest of us in the face.