Virtue, hypocrisy, the Pope. And Jeremy Corbyn

EDITOR'S BLOG: Sin is bad but piety has its downsides. And why do so many nasty people do well in business?

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 06 Oct 2015

We’re quite keen on virtue here at MT. We like to think that in business, as in life, the good girls and guys will come first in the end. However, it passes few people’s notice that there are plenty of seriously nasty folk out there who have done well in business. And succeeded because of rather than despite their unpleasantness (Stephen Bayley's thoughts on this are not far from the mark). It goes beyond sharp elbows, too. The number of successful business people I’ve come across who are rude, aggressive, vain and massively greedy is sadly legion. I’m not going to name them. We console ourselves with the thought that they must be unhappy inside.

Vice - the subject of October’s Management Today magazine - is both fascinating and full of business opportunity. Booze and cigarettes are hardy perennials for making cash, but it is sex that has been transformed by the advent of the digital age. Pornography was transformed by the online payment that it invented. Meeting lovers has been stepped up four gears by Tinder and Grindr. Illicit liaisons have been made far easier by the arrival of Ashley Madison, even if there appear to have been hardly any real women on the database. It’s easier than ever now to stray from the path of virtue.

Talking of virtue… Jeremy Corbyn. If Corbyn has a problem it is precisely his ‘virtue’. His piety. He is rigid in his adherence to the cause. He doesn't drink, eat meat, drive a car or sing the national anthem. He is a classic Puritan. On self-denial he’s like Lenin, who gave up skating and chess because they ‘interfered with my work.’ According to his first wife Corbyn is ‘a genuinely nice guy. The problem is that his politics are to the exclusion of other kinds of human activities.’

La Rochefoucauld said that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. Hypocrisy is what makes the world go round because to err is human. In the UK - thanks to the running dogs of The Daily Mail - there’s nothing more we love than exposing hypocrisy. This is one of the reasons why the gullible have flocked to support Corbyn. They yearn for ‘authenticity,’ rather than the fakery represented by that  hate figure Blair who fills his pockets post-power. Fear of being exposed as a hypocrite - far worse than silly stories about university misbehaviours -  is why David Cameron has sent his eldest child to a good state school rather than a brilliant London private secondary school. Never mind his dubious policies, it is Corbyn’s unattractive Puritanism which means very few will vote for him however ‘authentic,’ decent, and polite a guy he is. Everyone has fellow feeling with a sinner.

The Pope sure knows a few things about sin. His church has been beset by scandal and requires a major behavioural re-think. But this Argentinian papal version appears to be playing a blinder at the moment

His tooling around Washington in a Fiat was a brilliant PR coup both for the leader of the faithful and the Italian car manufacturer. Being a tawdry hack in constant search for revealing hypocrisy, I emailed a top bod at Fiat yesterday to check it wasn’t a diesel. Worse still a VW diesel. ‘You kidding?’ he replied. ‘It runs on holy water.’

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