You better take the walls of Jericho
Put your lips together and blow
Goin’ to the very top
Where the truth crystallizes like jewels in the rock, in the rock – Joe Strummer
A practice of satya, or truth, in relation to the climate is to adhere to fact, to be guided by natural reality, and to banish all the political and social compromises, reframings, and tech-wishful thinking. We see less and less hard denial these days (outside the halls of Washington), but we have to contend with all manner of soft denials, from allies and even parts of ourselves: with satya we end the taboo that keeps the urgency of the climate crisis out of polite conversation, and we won’t be lulled by promises of vague future fixes.
Satya is closing the gap between what we know to be true and what we’re able to say is true. The weight of conformity makes it difficult to speak truth, and sometimes even to identify it in our minds. It’s disorienting, slightly nauseating, and very alienating to know something is true but to look around and see little sign of that truth in one’s culture. But satya demands bravery, too. We push the truth up like crocuses through the snow.
Regarding the subtle practice of satya, the ongoing work is to level with oneself; I make a strong effort not to lie or misrepresent with words, but there are more obscure ways in which I am sometimes not honest with myself, and this dishonesty can ripple out. In recent weeks my practice of satya has taken the form of recognizing what I must do, how much energy I have, and what I want.
It’s happened that I move through the day or the week with a false impression of what I’m capable of, and then at the last minute I find out I’m exhausted and can’t attend something or complete something. So I try to be straight with myself by keeping lists and observing my feeling state so that I don’t falsely commit to things I can’t reasonably do, as well as being honest with people about why I’m not saying yes to them.
In activism, because so much of what we do is gratis, and can only be quantified by our good word, knowing one’s limits is no small matter, nor simply a matter of courtesy. Just as we don’t rely on vague, unsubstantiated belief in fuel efficient carbon capture machines (that are not trees), we can’t rely on comrades with unrealistic senses of their own capacity. It is good to speak encouragingly, to propel others and oneself forward, but if we are to be truthful, our good word must directly indicate our good action.
Get Down Moses, the late, epic jam of lifetime truth-teller Mr. Joe Strummer: