In the last two posts I talked about the history of the word ‘hypocrisy’ and how this helps us understand why it so often used, and used so divisively, especially when discussing climate change.
Activist : “The government accepts that action on Climate Change is needed but does nothing to stop it.”
Interviewer : “But did you come to the protest on your electric moped?”
Conservative political movements on the right sense an implicit judgement in the “woke” politics of the left. And the left are judged for this very “wokeism”. We can trace the use of the word hypocrisy, as judgement, all the way back to religious awakening and the parable of Jesus and the Pharisees.
Today religion no longer has the same sway and what we call a moral right, or wrong, is far less clear. A variety of pluralistic beliefs fight for attention in what we call the culture wars and our sense of morality has a less concrete foundation. Perhaps this is one reason why hypocrisy is so often used as a defensive and neutralising term. When we reveal hypocrisy in matters of existential importance, be that climate change or political change, we are fighting for the viability of the moral framework of society itself, a framework that is feeling increasingly unstable.
But here’s the good news.
The fervent importance we give to hypocrisy, and exposing hypocrites, means that, fundamentally, we’re all concerned with the same thing – the inherent value of a system of morals, and the ethical codes and laws that spring from that. Both sides of the debate, left and right, Climate Activists and Climate Inactivists, by deploying hypocrisy so frequently and volubly, are both declaring that they want the same thing, a decent set of moral codes by which we can live by.
This is the common ground, the bridge that reaches over the faultlines, a place that, with a bit of listening, empathy and understanding, we can build a new set of environmental ethics. Not some kind of utopian peace camp, but a Venn diagram of what both sides believe to be important, from which we can build a path into the uncertain future, sunblock in hand.
Next week – the cyptocurrency of hypocrisy – is a little hypocrisy worth exposing a larger hypocrisy when all the all world’s burning?