I was buying radishes at the farmers’ market yesterday when this pretentious ass, you know the type, the kind who buys his veggies at a farmers’ market, tells me I’m cutting in front of the people standing beside me. Now, it turns out that there were two different lines depending on method of payment and the other people realized they were in the wrong line and switched over; though it wasn’t a big deal since the cashiers didn’t seem to enforce the distinction on check out. Anyway, this complete freaking idiot, the pretentious jerk who warned me about cutsies, sees the check out open up in the other line and proceeds to…cut in front of the people in that line.
It’s my pet peeve, this hypocrisy thing, although I must say it isn’t so much the existence of hypocrisy, it’s just the inability people seem to have in recognizing or admitting it. I’m a feminist from a philosophical point of view, but I’d have to be pretty un-selfaware not to detect my misogynistic tendencies. Ditto the issue of race. One of the reasons I moved here, to this house in this neighborhood 10 years ago was that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else or living anywhere else given my stated beliefs.
It was thrilling then to read, on my birthday no less, essays calling out hypocrisy (especially of the left, the left of which I am a part) regarding four of my current pet issues: climate change, immigration, “affordable housing”, and America’s illegal and immoral aggression all over the planet. The enormous impacts on our cities of these issues are obvious with the possible exception of the “illegal immoral aggression” thing, but I think the financial effects of 800 bases on foreign soil and a budget nearly equal to that of the other 95% of the population of the planet has an impact, not as much of an impact as the illegal immoral use of a missile blowing up my house and ripping my family members’ bodies to shreds as collateral damage (Tulsi Gabbard 2020), but an impact nevertheless.
On the issues of climate and housing, turns out if we build more housing, but it’s designed in an auto-oriented style then it will have a negative impact on the climate. What, what, what!?!?!?! Who knew? So the way in which we inhabit the land has an impact on our energy use and that relates to our carbon footprint? Whoa. So we could all change our incandescent bulbs to LEDs and, like, it isn’t going to accomplish anything unless our society allows externalities to be priced in to the cost of the way in which we live? The hell you say! Someone else can’t just do something differently so that I can continue to do what I’ve always done? Screw you then!
I was having this discussion with a friend and I pointed out that his habit of traveling by air kind of negates his bicycle use in terms of carbon footprint, later I acknowledged that my “excess house” certainly puts a crimp in my climate change bona fides. (But not before he outed me to his female companion as not necessarily supporting the equal pay argument of the USA Women’s Soccer team. Misogyny? I don’t think the curling team, men or women, should get what the soccer players get, and the lady figure skaters should get more than the men. It’s not gender, it’s the revenue stream each sport creates.)
How do I rationalize it, and is it hypocrisy? There’s an element of hypocrisy that’s roughly equivalent to what my wife and I refer to as admitting that “our generosity knows bounds”. Do I care about the poor and the wretched? Sure. I donate to worthy causes. All that I can? No. I could live in a room at the Y, eat at the soup kitchen and donate almost my entire salary to charity. Of course, that extreme sacrifice would have very little overall impact on the problem, but I would be sacrificing quite a bit.
So I rationalize doing what I’ve done living here by noting that most of the money I’ve spent on this house has been spent on improving energy efficiency. When the old roof needed replacing I paid for a white reflective one, I’ve insulated the attic and the basement from floors to walls to ceilings. The list goes on, I’ve written on the topic before and I’ve continued to the point that I’d say the house uses 1/4 the energy it used to. The next step would be to rent the basement apartment and either sublet rooms or make the place into 3-4 separate living spaces. Will I do that? If I have to. My “generosity” knows bounds.
Of course, just as I start to feel as though the whole world is getting on board with this anti-hypocrisy thing I read about a protest…in Northampton of course, about “closing the detention centers” on the border. Cool. How many random totally undocumented visitors are you willing to take in at your house in Florence I wonder? How many children in your child’s classroom? If you really think that totally open borders are a great thing, why don’t you live anywhere near a border or in a community with a huge percentage of refugees? Sure, the stories of the refugees are so poignant and heart-warming and they are such wonderful people; then why aren’t you relocating to live as close as you possibly can to where they live?
I know why not: because that’s the hard work. Confronting the difficulties and complexities surrounding culture and accommodation when things stop being just “poignant and heart-warming” and become part of the daily struggle to deal with realities of the conflicts that will arise.