You Just Cant

In Taki’s Magazine Dalrymple discusses the difference between hypocrisy and cant, and the prevalence of dishonesty in pretending to love humanity.

Hypocrisy is, or at any rate can be, a social virtue….Cant or humbug, on the other hand, is always poisonous, among other reasons because it is designed to deceive not only others but ourselves. It doesn’t entirely succeed in this latter task because a still, small voice tells us that we are canting, to which our preferred solution is often to cant even harder, like drowning out something we don’t want to hear by turning up the wireless. That is why there is so much shrillness in the world: People are defending themselves against the horrible thought that they don’t really believe what they themselves are saying.
…Who will admit that he doesn’t love humanity, that it wouldn’t matter to him in the slightest if half of it disappeared, that he can sit through the news of the worst disaster imaginable (provided far away) and eat his dinner nonetheless with good appetite? No, in order to be a good person you have to pretend to be lacerated by awareness of suffering anywhere in the world and show your wounds like Christ showing his heart in one of the Baroque Spanish colonial paintings.


As soon, however, as we are in the public arena—at an interview, for example—we must start to mouth sentiments that are not ours in words that mean nothing. Suddenly we start to cant. We must display the wounds we feel at the imperfections of the world. We must award ourselves, and pronounce, creditable motives that we know perfectly well are not ours.

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