Editor's note: This ran as an opinion piece in the Wanganui Chronicle on Friday, 27th December.
Beware those bearing H’s.
No, this has nothing to do with the spelling of W(h)anganui, although I suspect there is ample crossover with those who have come to embrace the word hypocrite when attacking individuals who speak out on climate change. In other words, it’s likely that the same people who do not want an H in Whanganui are more than happy to draw the mighty H from their quiver and quill as a first-line offensive against climate change activists and ordinary citizens who have the courage to bring up the issue in the press.
In our feel-good, consumer, deflect-blame Western culture, I reckon the worst thing you can call someone is a hypocrite. We all know that we do not live 100% by our values 100% of the time, but the last thing we want to hear is someone else telling us. I suspect it is part of a psychological defense mechanism.
Knowing this human tendency, the worldwide, corporate-funded climate change denial network has come to advise its “trolls” to use the term at every possible opportunity. Calling someone a hypocrite has become a common technique of climate change deniers when asking climate scientists or activists how did they travel to a certain conference, protest, or other event. It is meant to shut down the conversation before it begins by calling their credibility into question because they may have traveled by automobile or airplane.
In Whanganui, our Chronicle Letters Page climate change denial trolls – two of whom do not live anywhere near the River City – have learned this technique, presumably from an on-line tutorial from the right-wing Heritage Foundation or other such corporate-funded denial organization.
About six weeks ago, a local writer to the Chronicle – who appears to lack enough courage to use their first name when signing her or his letters – suggested I was a hypocrite for expressing my opinion that a predicted increased incidence of severe weather events would likely make clearing sand from the Castlecliff Beach car park more costly in the future. A prudent approach, I suggested, that would both save money (rates) and reduce pollution (carbon dioxide) would be to downsize the massive, underused car park in a managed retreat.
Of course the obvious response to this reasoned, win-win, eco-design solution is to call the messenger a hypocrite. Duh.
I have been called many things in my long and lonely life, but never a hypocrite. My street ‘cred’ is ‘legit’, yo.
I suspect that anyone who knows me would agree I am many things good and bad, but not a hypocrite. Regardless of political affiliation, it would be difficult to find a former colleague of mine willing to say I am nothing if not genuine in my words and deeds. Although I would not hold a candle to Buddha or the Dalai Lama, a colleague did once call me Bodhisatva. Go ahead and laugh, but this may be closer to the truth than you think. After all, I did teach Walter Becker’s son when he was in year 9, but do not remember if he took me by the hand during our parent-teacher conference*.
Although I share a car with my wife, I ride a bicycle and take the bus the vast majority of the time. I have traveled between Whanganui and Hamilton over a dozen times on board Intercity. When purchased a week in advance, the return fare costs less than half the price of petrol alone. Public transport reduces carbon emissions, and I have time to read, write and sleep on the bus.
I suppose this means those who wish to call me a hypocrite will simply say I’m self-righteous. With some people you cannot win, but that does not stop them writing letters to the paper, nor should it. Keep ‘em coming peeps, but please follow these simple instructions: do your homework first; only use quotation marks for direct quotes; include sources and references for anything that is not considered common knowledge; have someone proofread your work; Use your full name; and, above all else, don’t write anything that will end up embarrassing you in front of the entire city.
It takes courage to write something for public consumption, and I admire courage.
* In case you missed it, Walter Becker is ½ of Steely Dan.