Is an arrogant hippopotamus a hippocrite?

I never deny somebody calling me a hypocrite. I don’t know whether it’s symptomatic of changing my mind once I hear ideas that challenge previously held notions. It could have more to do with the notion of judging myself by my intentions and others by their actions. It could even involve conceiving a high minded ideal then sliding into a lazy frame of mind where doing what’s right cedes to doing what’s easy.

Remember earlier in the week when I was all galvanised over changing my viewing habits to include more people of colour? Well I marched right out and watched The End of the Tour, quite possibly the whitest movie out there.

I’ve never read anything by David Foster Wallace, so I can’t fall back on that. I simply wanted to switch off and watch a My Dinner with Andre road trip film where two white male intellectual writers discuss notions of authenticity, artistic merit, fame and success. Solid performances, enjoyable film. Did naught to challenge held ideals outside of my worldview. So that’s a net progressive gain of zero.

Here’s the thing though, it still made me think. It’d be the mildest stretch to say that I have attention seeking tendencies. I was a teenage drama kid who was loud and animated. I enjoy the sound of my own voice. I’m embarrassed to admit, but the concept of people coming to me for advice or to hear my views thrills me to no end. I love thinking that I know things or that I could wield any amount of influence. I want to matter and the way that manifests is a quest for validation buoyed by a frightening and uncharismatic sense of entitlement. I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does. Unlike everybody else, part of me feels like I deserve it and that part of me terrifies the rest.

Since childhood, I’ve thought of fame as desirable. The idea that I could be an opinion leader, that people could look up to me, has been intoxicating beyond all else. If I had any modicum of influence, I wouldn’t deal with it well. The more people told me I was special, the more I’d believe them. The more I’d believe them, the more I’d desire even more people to join the chorus. I’d get high on my own supply and tell myself I was worthy of the adoration. Fortunately if this monster ever threatens to rear its head, the balance kicks in.

The logical part of my brain knows I’d be awful, that any ego stimulation threatens to foist me into the realms of egomania. It’s the namesake of this site. It manifests in personal attacks, telling me that confidence is arrogance in sheep’s clothing. Telling me that I can’t, I won’t. It makes excuses and encourages me to believe them. I do. It limits my reach, but also my desire to do so. Consequently I end up in this bizarre limbo. Some kind of narcissistic self-loathing.

Please don’t see this as a call for sympathy. PLEASE. The last thing this world needs is another overly confident white dude. Humility is important and thankfully I’ve got enough people in my life that ground me and help with perspective. Hearing alternate voices helps keep the monster in check and it’s so important that I keep it up.

Perhaps as I age I’ll learn healthier ways of coping with my own mediocrity. Perhaps that’s part of what maturity means for me, the ability to understand how I can best fit into the social ecosystem that surrounds me. Perhaps it’s having the insight to call myself on my own shit, to know when thoughts are self-serving. Perhaps it’s the ability to discern the difference between confidence and arrogance, to ensure I walk on the right side. Perhaps it’s knowing when and where my views serve to help and when the best course of action is watching, listening, learning.

Perhaps it’s taking the time to do the latter, to stem hypocrisy before it starts. To stop seeking reflections of myself on screen and Do the Right Thing.


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