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Death, taxes and hypocrisy

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We're all hypocrites.

Each and every one of us has an occasion where we'll say the right thing and urge others to do that action, but when push comes to shove, we can't be bothered to do it ourselves.

So calling out hypocrisy is, well, kind of hypocritical. So what should we do? How should we act?

Certainly, we all need to constantly analyze our own lives and actions and strive for consistency.

But then again, keeping it internal would result in letting plenty of horrible, egregious and dangerous behaviour slide.

What's the line between "This hypocritical behaviour is annoying but ultimately harmless" and "This hypocritical behaviour is damaging?"

A recent column in the New York Times suggested that the sting of hypocritical behaviour is not "a failure of will or a weakness of character." Rather, it's that people's "outspoken moralizing signals their own virtue." Basically, it's irksome when people try to boost their own reputation by condemning behaviour that they later are found to engage in.

It seems like in modern times, in some cases, you just have to take the bad if it's outweighed by the good.

For the past several Januaries, a major Internet phenomenon has been Bell Let's Talk Day, an initiative designed to remove the stigma of mental illness and get people sharing their own experiences with the disease. The 2017 edition filled Canadians' news feeds, as the telecommunications company pledged a nickel every time a user tweeted #BellLetsTalk. On Jan. 26, the company announced it would donate over $6.5 million to mental health initiatives as a result of the campaign.

As well, in years past and this one, many friends have used Let's Talk Day to open up about their own struggles with mental health and have felt better for it.

These are all great things.

But last Wednesday, Maria McLean, a former radio host at a Bell-owned station in Newfoundland, claimed she was fired roughly an hour after she submitted a doctor's note recommending time off for mental health reasons.

Last year, Canadaland published a column from Karen K. Ho describing how conditions as a contract staffer at Bell's Business News Network not only accelerated her mental health issues, but also kept her from getting help as she was unable to take sick days and received no benefits. As she acknowledges, perhaps that's, unfortunately, par for the course for others in the same position. Still, maybe we should expect more from a company that so publicly espouses the benefits of mental health.

Would it be better if Bell scrapped the event and continued its business practices? Of course not. Ideally, mental health initiatives would be better funded through our universal health care and it wouldn't be left to private corporations' marketing wings to lead the charge for proper care. Also, hopefully the corporations would treat employees' mental health concerns with the respect they deserve.

Another example is one that many, if not all, Canadians have been guilty of at some point: proclaiming our superiority to the United States on a multitude of issues, often in a (contrary to popular belief) loud and obnoxious manner.

Even after Sunday's devastating attack on a mosque in Quebec City, with POTUS45 in office south of the border, it's easy for many Canadians to flaunt our nation's virtues. Unfortunately, many can casually dismiss six lives lost while pointing to the rash of gun violence in the U.S. It's not just that. It's rich to flaunt our virtues when any First Nations community lacks running water, when families are receiving anti-Semitic threats on their porches and KKK literature is seeing a steady uptick in distribution, just for starters.

The first few days of horrifying executive orders being signed and some despicable people getting approved to the American cabinet with — at least relatively — little resistance signals that, yeah, Canada probably is in better shape in many regards. Yes, we should probably be worried about the alt-right culture seeping in here. But we can't forget about the issues that have lasted for decades, before the rise of Pepe the Frog. Instead of smugly saying we're better and leaving it at that, let's actually work on being better.

And in our day-to-day lives, beyond obviously striving to align our beliefs and actions as much as possible, how should we deal with hypocrisy — both our own, and others'?

If the Times column suggests anything, perhaps we shouldn't try to hold our beliefs up as signs of our own greatness. That's not easy to do on a personal level and people who agree with you can view your beliefs as a sign of your character.

Instead of inflating our own egos, pounding our own chests and spouting our own puffery, let's just try to do the right thing because it's what's needed right now.

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