If you have any passing interest in U.S. politics, you’ll know that critics of Mitt Romney will point to how often he’s changed his mind about things. The right tried it – successfully, I guess – when John Kerry was the Democratic candidate, and accused of being a “flip-flopper.” I’m no fan of Romney, he seems thoroughly unqualified to be in charge of a country, but I find it interesting that in the world of politics, changing your mind is seen as a horrible sin that leaves you open to attack. The funny thing for me is when we have any sort of discussion, where there are two or more people arguing different sides, both are trying to convince the other that they are right. In politics, it seems to have (d)evolved into some sort of ugly PR who-comes-out-looking-best thing, rather than making a good, solid point. In other areas of life, if you accept new ideas and alter the way you think, it’s likely to be an advantage. But not in politics.
What got me thinking about this was when it crossed my mind that hypocrisy (misspelled and then auto-corrected by my iPod to “hippo racy”) is kind of like changing your mind constantly and simultaneously. You know when you have those cardboard discs attached to string, and when you spin it quickly, the red side and yellow side are spinning so fast, all you see is orange? That’s what I think the brain is doing when it’s being hypocritical. Kinda. Maybe not, but that’s how I think of it.
The older I get, the more I realise that I am hypocritical quite a lot in the way I think about things and people. For a long time, I’ve been interested in the idea that the people you dislike often are the ones you are most similar to, or display characteristics you dislike about yourself. It’s so easy to be hypocritical. And while I know it’s kinda wrong, I can’t help myself sometimes. Even when I try to lay out the arguments logically – like I hope to do shortly – I still can’t force my brain to not make a decision one way and stick to it.
The other night, I was at a baseball game here in Mexico City. One of the pieces of music played at every game, to gee up the crowd is “Rock and Roll, Part 2” by convicted sex criminal Gary Glitter. The people at the baseball stadium here love that song. Everyone’s dancing, clapping, shouting “hey!” And amongst all these happy Mexicans, there’s one scowling Englishman who wants to photocopy leaflets and give them to everyone at the game, informing them that they are letting their children sing and dance to a song sung by a man who liked to look at pictures of naked children. Yet, I love the KLF. And will happily listen to “Doctorin’ the Tardis,” a song that uses a sample of the Glitter song. That’s easily justified in my mind: the KLF/Timelords song was sampled a long time before we knew of Glitter’s crimes.
But, something that is hypocritical, that I am unlikely to ever change in myself, is my love of the Gill Sans typeface. The letter G in the image at the top of this page is Gill Sans. The typefaces used in all of the books I have done is Gill Sans. I use it all the time on both Flip Flop Flyin’ and Flip Flop Fly Ball. Some old well-respected designer, I can’t remember his name, once said that a designer should only use three or four typefaces. I’ve found myself going more minimal than that, and pretty much only ever use Gill Sans. Gill Sans was designed in 1926 by a British chap called Eric Gill. Gill had an incestuous relationship with his sister, sexually abused his children, and fucked his dog.
Another hypocrisy example: Chris Brown. Hideous man. If you can stomach reading about such things, it’s worth reading the police report of what he actually did to Rihanna. And his subsequent, hey-can’t-we-all-just-move-on stuff is bullshit. Don’t care what his records or like, if they are good or not. He’s a twat. And then there’s Phil Spector. An utterly wonderful record producer. He made a handful of my favourite records. His Christmas album is just delightful. “He’s A Rebel,” “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You,” “To Know Him is to Love Him.” Utterly fantastic. Yet he is currently in prison for murder. When he was married to Ronnie Spector, he seemed to behave like a psychopath, virtually keeping her prisoner. (If you like the music of the Ronettes and are interested, Ronnie’s autobiography, Be My Baby, is a good book.)
Both of these examples of hypocrisy seem to not hinge on what the people did, but what they produced. Gary Glitter: stodgy glam rock. Eric Gill: a beautiful typeface. Chris Brown: fairly run-of-the-mill modern pop music. Phil Spector: some of the greatest pop songs ever. It seems so wrong to me that I can make that distinction in my head. But I can and do. Very easily. I wish I knew why. But I guess, really, isn’t hypocrisy something we learn very early in life? How are we expected not to grow up being hypocritical when, as a child, we are told to “do as I say, not as I do”?