I am a hypocrite. In the last week, I have continually advocated for the Global Climate Strike, writing about it on this blog, posting about it on social media, and organizing an event connected to climate change at my workplace. I take public transportation for my job as a leadership coach in Chicago schools whenever conceivably possible because of my concerns about climate change. I write letters to the editor every month advocating for the passage of legislation that will address the climate crisis. And this Thursday, I am flying to Hawaii with my family — taking a long-haul airplane flight, which is one of the most injurious climate actions one can take. How can I reconcile this action with my beliefs when they run so contrary to one another?
I cannot reconcile them, because I am a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite in the same sense as all of us who are part of modern capitalist societies but yearn for something else. My desire to visit my sister in Hawaii and meet my new niece cannot be reconciled with emitting less carbon dioxide. If I cannot achieve both of those goals, fulfill both of those ends, what do I do? I keep on living, embracing my hypocrisy.
This is a time for all of us to embrace hypocrisy of a particular kind. This is not the hypocrisy of believing one thing and doing another, where you preach what others must do but act differently when your own interest is at play. Instead, this is the hypocrisy of doing one thing but believing another, where we live as part of society but believe that we must change, and hold ourselves to account for doing so. This is not a hypocrisy that pulls us apart into amorality, but one that attempts to close the gap between our current reality and our own vision for ourselves. This is hypocrisy that is probably better described as a paradox — the paradox of radical love, wherein we are both critical and forgiving of ourselves and of others, where we live in this world but believe in a better world, and act to move us toward that better world in our own unique, imperfect ways.
Let us all have a vision that is inconsistent with our actions. It is only through that inconsistency, that hypocrisy, that we pull ourselves, our society, and our world toward our vision of what we can be — a world free of fossil fuels; a world that honors the needs of all animals, plants, and ecosystems; a world in balance.
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