The Hypocrisy of Spiders and Kurtz

by anonymous

Hypocrisy annoys me more than perhaps anything else; you should know that I am annoyed often and seriously, so that’s saying something. I have been increasingly bothered, though, at how hard it seems to be to avoid hypocrisy, even in the most noble, honorable, and well-meaning people.

Let’s take my husband for example. We’re newly weds (a year and a half) and in that shiny, awe-struck adoration stage. Basically, he can do no wrong. Recently, though, he said something that puzzled me. As autumn began to settle in, the spiders made their annual pilgrimage indoors, where they began to intensely annoy me. I hate spiders. Really, really hate them. Now, in spite of my staunch feminist ideals and the fact that I am and always have been an independent woman who prides herself on her ability to take care of herself, I decided that one of the perks of marriage would be that I no longer have to squish spiders myself; I deigned that a husbandly duty (no hypocrisy there …). When I asked my hubby to dispose of a particularly large and disturbingly striped arachnid that was taunting me from our kitchen sink, he said The Confusing Statement. He didn’t like killing spiders, as they hadn’t done anything.

Let me explain why this confused me. I’m a vegetarian. I refuse to make another living being give up its life in a hideous and cruel slaughter, no less, so that I can have a cheeseburger. My husband, however, does eat meat. He does his best to make sure it was free-range and had a good life, but he eats it. This is an area where we agree to disagree. This is also why I was (in my high and mighty vegetarian superiority) surprised that he preferred not to kill spiders. He explained to me, when I asked, that eating meat was necessary for health (a point which I declined to debate), but that killing spiders served no purpose. We agreed that relocating spiders outside (where they can freeze their little legs off in the Colorado winter) was more humane.

This got me thinking. How often am I hypocritical, myself? Why did what I initially perceived as hypocrisy on my hubby’s behalf confuse me? Why couldn’t I just roll with his opinions instead of making him explain himself? So I started mentally listing my personal hypocrisies as I drove to work, an endeavor that offers plenty of time for thought. Here were my first few entries onto my List of Personal Hypocrisies:

1. I am a vegetarian because of the Wiccan rede: “Harm none, to as you will.” I don’t believe it’s right to harm an animal just to eat when other food sources do just fine at keeping me alive and well. Still, I recently hurt another individual – someone who had been very close in my life – very deeply by cutting her out of my life entirely and telling her off in a rather blunt and cutting way. I immediately justified this causing of harm to another by explaining to myself that this individual had always mistreated me in our years of knowing each other and was, at the time I opened a can of bitch on her, in the process of mistreating me again. So I had no choice in harming her, as I did it to preserve my own well-being. That wasn’t really hypocritical, I decided.

2. I pride myself on being a lady: classy, refined, and well-mannered. My grandma was raised in a Russian noble family (before the Commies came along) and taught me the etiquette she had been raised with. That said, I also have a shirt that proclaims “Bitch” and I use the word “fuck” enough to wear it out. Still, that’s part of being a post-feminist – embracing the terms and roles that have been forbidden to us to neutralize their damaging effects. No hypocrisy there.

I went on and on with my list. It had become very lengthy when I realized that, for each entry on the list, I had an accompanying rationalization as to why it didn’t constitute hypocrisy. I had to go teach, which usually takes up my active mind, so I put my personal duality on the shelf for the day.

In my evening literature class, we were discussing Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Honestly, I dislike the text. It makes me feel like I want a shower to wash the sludge of humanity off. As we discussed Kurtz, though, a concept started forming, hazy and disordered, in the back of my mind. Kurtz, you’ll recall, is the embodiment of yin-yang. He simultaneously embraces his dual nature. Most of us want to show the world our glowy, shiny, happy side – the side that will be accepted and embraced and rewarded. We all, however, have that shadow side – the thoughts we don’t share, the ideas we don’t utter, the parts of ourselves we hide for fear those close to us will run away from and shun. Kurtz, though, let them both hang out, openly loving and giving free reign to his light and shadow, being a total person and a united human.

Still, he’s the icky character in the story. Does that mean, though, that he can’t have a good concept? Philip K. Dick loved exploring the concept of whether a hero was necessary for a heroic deed to be done. To turn that around, can a deed be worthwhile and admirable, even if the character doing it calls to mind flu-fevered sickness-level disgust?

As I drove home, down the same turnpike that saw my list of hypocrisies, I wondered if the real hypocrisy was the need to justify our own ideas, morals, and conduct to others. If I do something, think something, or say something, isn’t it enough that I know why? That I am comfortable in my own skin? Doesn’t the mere act of explaining and validating my perceived hypocrisies denote that I am not, in fact, comfortable in my existence and feel attacked and unaccepted? If I stand as a confident, powerful person, won’t I just do what I know is right for myself and say “screw it” if anyone doesn’t like it? Which action is hypocritical – having to justify myself or accepting the consequences of my actions when I feel grounded and content in them? I began to think I had it all backwards.

So I intend to go about my life drinking tea with my pinky up and yelling “fuck you” while I flip the bird to anyone I choose. And I refuse to explain why those actions do not represent a conflict.