How to Deal With Hypocritical Activists, Politicians, and Charities | Nat Ware | TEDxOxford



phony philanthropist humanitarian hypocrite deceptive do-gooder fraudulent altruist charitable pretender however you describe them one thing's for sure there are few things in life that we hate more than moralizing hypocrites people who ask us to do charitable acts but are themselves hypocritical now in my line of work working with charities social enterprises foundations and aid agencies I hear the word hypocrite all the time when Bono the sunglass wearing tax avoiding mansion living jet-setting Irishman when he asked people to donate to charity what do we say we say hypocrite when Al Gore campaigns on climate change a man who many years has had a utility bill more than 20 times the average household we say hypocrite when the CEO of the Kony campaign was on one hand asking us to donate money and sing he cared but on the other hand was taking home a charity salary of $90,000 we said you guessed it hypocrite you see we hate hypocrites we hate people who purport to have certain beliefs that we don't actually think they have when their actions don't reflect those beliefs and I want to ask us should we call out people for hypocrisy people who we think are hypocrites should we give them that label now I hate genuine hypocrisy as much as the next person but I want to suggest and this is a big but I want to suggest that calling out people for hypocrisy is misguided at best downright dangerous at worst the key problem here is that often when we accuse people of hypocrisy it's not actually hypocrisy and there's a fume common mistakes that we make time and time again the first mistake that we make is that we assume that all charitable acts are equivalent say someone tells you that they support a carbon trading scheme we interpret that as just that person supports the environment and so if they don't recycle we say hypocrite if someone asks you for money for water purification tablets for a country like Myanmar we assume all that person supports fresh clean water and so if they don't themselves give money to build water wells we say hypocrite but the reality is that there are multiple different ways of solving every problem some that are far more effective than others and just because you support some approaches to problems doesn't mean you can or should or will support every approach that's the first mistake we commonly make the second problem that we often come across the second mistake that we make is that we compared to the extremes of selflessness and selfishness say you walk into a cafe and there's a sign on the wall that says we donate 20% of our profits to charity you probably think what a great cafe what good people donating a bit of their profits to charity and so when we have mostly profit making mostly selfishness but a bit of altruism we like it we think of it as a good thing but then if someone works for a charity if someone dedicates their entire career to a good cause if someone is mostly soft 'less but then takes home a reasonably decent salary we say huh hypocrite so we're flying with mostly selfish with a touch of altruism but not mostly our true istic with a touch of selfish you can be 10% altruistic but you can't be 90% which doesn't make any sense we prefer honest greed to imperfect generosity we compared to the extremes rather than comparing people to other people that's the second mistake the third mistake we make is that we assume that because someone supports a collective response to something individual action must follow and so if a politician says that they support government provided education but they send their kids to private independent schools we say hypocrite if someone was to say they supported a global ban on meat consumption and yet they themselves ate meat we might say hypocrite but the reality is it's totally rational often to support a collective response without necessarily wanting to be the one to act alone to act individually to bear the cost it's very rational for example if you act in a certain ways such as by taking really short showers or taking the train instead of a plane to save on carbon emissions you bear the full cost of your action and yet the benefits are dispersed by 7 billion people and so in order for it to be rational for you to do that the benefits really need to be 7 billion times the cost which is really going to be the case that's why initiatives such as Earth Hour often don't have a sustained impact it's not hypocritical to be rational the fourth mistake that we often make is that we assume that if someone really cares if someone really wants the best outcome they'll necessarily support the ideal policy so when Kevin Rudd the former Prime Minister of Australia said climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time and then he supported watered down environmental legislation we said hypocrite but the reality is sometimes you need to be strategic and if that ideal policy if the ideal situation would not receive parliamentary support if that would be scrapped by the next Parliament in a year or two then sometimes opting for the second best approach is actually more sustainable and actually better that actually has a greater impact another common mistake we make is that we conflate legality and morality if someone was to stand up and say they opposed prostitution they thought prostitution was wrong and yet then they voted for it to be legal we might say hypocrite but questions of legality and morality are very different you see if making prostitution legal meant that victims of abuse could come forward without fear of persecution or prosecution then it might be the right thing to do irrespective of whether you thought it was morally right or wrong likewise it's entirely consistent for someone to say that they themselves say for religious reasons don't believe in gay marriage but for that same person to say they think it should be legal because questions of legality also take into account of the people's beliefs and opinions and sexual preferences we shouldn't conflate legality and morality and the final mistake that we often make is we just don't distinguish between different circumstances when Obama came out and said that having armed security in every school wasn't the answer to gun violence the NRA responded not by attacking the argument but by attacking the person they ran ad campaign saying that Obama was a hypocrite because he had armed security for his daughters we often don't distinguish different circumstances my point here is that often when we accuse people of hypocrisy it's simply not hypocritical we assume that we know people's beliefs we assume we know why people are acting in a certain way but it's often arrogant to assume that we're too quick to condemn too slow to ask why but let's assume for a moment that it was hypocritical but these people did actually act in a hypocritical manner the problem here is that the existence of hypocrisy doesn't actually undermine the argument that is being made it's a convenient distraction but it's not a rebuttal I mean the argument that smoking is bad doesn't change because the person who is making it is a smoker you can know right or wrong without being morally perfect yourself and you should be able to ask people to do what is right that shouldn't just be the purview of the morally perfect and so if we shouldn't call out people for hypocrisy if we shouldn't focus on the charitable messenger what should we do I want to say that we should discuss and debate and critique the charitable message now with me I have two jugs one of those represents the person one of those represents the messenger in question and the other one represents the argument the message now when we call out people for hypocrisy when we use that hypocrisy argument when we use it to attack a person this is what happens it's easy to make them bleed it's easy to inflict pain after all they're a fallible person but what's interesting is that we don't discuss we don't critique we don't criticize the charitable message and so that's the status quo that's the situation we find ourselves in we're attacking the charitable messenger is all too easy and attacking the charitable message is often taboo why is this well I think we often think of charity as somewhat of a taboo subject we don't like criticizing indeed we just think of it as doing good that's why you can do a lot of things in the name of charity if you want an excuse to do a naked calendar do it in the name of charity if you want an excuse to do a marathon do it in the name of charity if you want an excuse to make three of your friends to force three of your friends to pour a bucket of ice cold water over their heads do it in the name of charity you see we find it difficult to criticize acts of charity we think of charity is one of the same but not all charities are created equal not all approaches to problems are equally effective one of the things that the organization I run 180-degrees consulting specializes in is measuring the social impact of different programs and different organizations and it's very clear to me that some approaches some charities are hundreds even thousands of times more effective than other approaches and so what that means is that it's more important to do the right act the most effective act than to merely do an action an action is merely a means to an end we focus on it when we accuse people of hypocrisy but focusing on the impact is far more important it's far more important because in a world with unlimited problems but limited time limited resources and limited money we can't afford to not have the greatest social impact possible we can't afford it we can't afford for doing good to merely be a feel-good endeavor it must be an intellectual endeavor as well let me give you one example so you have 42,000 dollars and you want to spend that money helping blind people you can spend that money in a few different ways one way is by not giving it at all a second way is by using the money to train a guide dog it cost about 42,000 dollars to train a guide dog and the third option is that you can use it to fund a low-cost eye surgery in a place like India which cause about $75 per surgery and so with that 42,000 dollars you can either help no blind people one blind person or 560 blind people I do not think it should be taboo to argue that you should not give money to training the guide dog Cooter's guide dogs are and as important guide dogs are for the people who use them and that you should instead give money for the low-cost eye surgery I know that sounds bad it sounds unethical it almost sounds evil once we've done the effective approaches we can do the less effective approaches but I don't think less effective approaches should come at the expense of the more effective approaches because as long as it is taboo for us to talk about the impacts of different charitable acts more people will be blind more people will be poor more people won't have access to health education and sanitation and that is something I cannot stand for I want to have the greatest impact possible and I don't think we have that greatest impact by focusing on hypocrisy or focusing on the messenger we have it by focusing on the charitable message that's the most important thing let me conclude time and time again when we can we target the messenger not the message the campaigner not the campaign the person not the argument the exact opposite should be true the key point that I'm trying to make here is that charitable messengers should not be the target and critiquing charitable messages should no longer be to be small minds rebut people great minds robot arguments I think Eleanor Roosevelt would agree so the next time that a politician a celebrity a friend a religious leader a charity worker ask you to do something that you don't want to do I want you to respond by rebutting the message not the messenger the next time that a friend calls out someone for hypocrisy I want you to tell them or about the message not the messenger by focusing on the hypocrisy of the messenger were being misguided but by focusing on the validity of the message were being productive we're helping to maximize impact and that is a cause worth fighting for thank you