Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance And The Damage Done

I write in a serious mood. I am distressed about the state of my country, and my society, less so but still distressed about the state of the entire world as we know it. The major reason for all of the interlocking directorate of problems that plague us is that people are believing what they are told, and not thinking for themselves.

No less of a great man than Dung Chow Ping once advised the Chinese people to “discover truth from facts.” It was good advice then, and it served the Chinese people well, as they were waking up from the hypnotic phantasm that was Maoism. It’s still good advice.

Modern American Politics

In our benighted epoch of history, otherwise intelligent Americans are drinking the Kool-Aid of their choice and turning themselves into credulous robots. Any meme that enters the political discourse, from whatever side of the battle, becomes tomorrows firmly held belief among great masses of people. Many of these beliefs are deeply antagonistic to the best interests of the people who hold them.

I love the Internet, and I love to read people’s comments on matters great and small. I do not only frequent sites that mirror my own point of view, I take great pleasure in reading a great variety of the opinions of ordinary Americans. I regularly read progressive news sites and blogs, but I also read, semi-regularly lets say, the Breitbart sites and Weasel Zippers, among others.

The Leftie sites have their own Kool-Aid of course, knee-jerk Liberalism is alive and well. So is the phony Liberalism, the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” Liberalism that was so prevalent in my youth. Phony anti-racism, don’t even get me started. The Rightie sites take the cake though, in matters of the monolithic adoption of weird, counterintuitive, destructive ideas, hook, line and sinker, by people whose real interests lie elsewhere. The new Conservative media, and its adherents, represents the full flowering of cognitive dissonance in American politics.

Take Willard Romney, Please

The truth about American politics is out there, you don’t need to be an ivy league PhD to discover it. Most people ignore it though, most sign up for voluntary ignorance, preferring to stick with the talking points issued by their echo-chamber of choice.

I’m not here to explain it all to you, but let’s look at a prime example in the person of one Willard “Mitt” Romney. Willard is an obnoxious rich-kid with a weird sense of entitlement, a man who accumulated a king’s ransom in the private sector through dubious financial chicanery. He tells colossal lies on a daily basis. (Don’t believe me? Google “Romney” “lies.”) He runs away from any of the political successes that he can point too, there are a few, because they do not align properly with the new Conservative orthodoxy. He provides no descriptions of his plans for the country or the economy, sticking instead to generalities like “lowering regulation of business,” “cutting taxes,” and “restoring America.” He offers nothing but a more mean spirited version of the policies of the Bush years, now famously understood to have been profoundly destructive. He does this down to the last details, like school vouchers and the privatization of this and that. Oh, and “on my first day as president, I will take steps to repeal Obamacare.” Which of course the president has virtually no power to do, there is no mechanism for him to use to accomplish the banishment of a law that was passed by both houses of congress, signed by the acting president, and then validated by the Supreme Court. Maybe he plans to immediately declare a state of emergency? You couldn’t tell by him, he’s not talking. Oh, and flip-flopping, etc. And no one likes the guy. And his wife says crazy shit like “Obama wants to kill my husband.” She also keeps million dollar horses as an investment. It’s quite a list of what-not-to-like.

But, somehow, he’s running close to the current president in “the polls,” which themselves are a challenge for any thinking person to take seriously. And people repeat these silly things as good ideas. As might a parrot, after careful training.

Going To Canada

Does anyone believe that people are thinking for themselves? What is your evidence? Certainly not the rash of “I’m going to Canada!” comments that followed the recent Supreme Court decision in the ACA case.

Some misguidedly admired pseudo-conservative or other must have Tweeted that as a result of the decision he couldn’t stand it anymore, he was moving to Canada. This idea caught on like those Colorado wildfires, and suddenly the old Intertubes were full of comments and Tweets parroting the sentiment.

Think about it for just a moment: America (read: the Black President) is taking away my freedom! I can’t live in this new Socialist America! I’m going to Canada! Which of course is a genuinely Socialist country, with fully realized socialized healthcare. Which works, by the way.

“I hate Socialism!/I’m going to a Socialist Country!” “I hate Mitt Romney/I’m voting for Mitt Romney.” Or, if you ask me, “I hate losing my freedoms!/I’m voting for someone who will limit my freedoms!” Cognitive dissonance.

The Various Myths Of Jesus

This willful ignorance, this credulous preference for received truth, is not some new thing under the sun. It is nowhere more apparent than in the modern Christian religion, in its thousands of conflicting versions.

There is no doubt that Jesus was an interesting guy, and worth remembering fondly. If you focus on the things that he is credited with actually having said, as Thomas Jefferson suggested, the record is full of good ideas. He was a good teacher at the very least, and rates as a genuine prophet of social progress and tolerance. In this, he was in the mainstream of Jewish prophets, continuing an expansion of social consciousness that had been going on already for a thousand years.

Then he died, a very conventional human death due to blood loss, asphyxiation and shock, a typical crucifixion death. A wealth of literature grew up around him in the period that followed. The big question initially was whether Jesus was a Jew or was he some new thing, some other thing. Jewish officialdom lost interest, the Romans were tearing up the place, and the “some other thing” argument carried the day.

The divinity question arose later, and took on increasing significance. Within three hundred years, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire and Jesus had been declared divine, probably following the long standing tradition of Rome in the honoring of its great men. Of the early Christian writings, examples that were useful to this mythologizing were declared to be official; marginal or inconvenient texts became anathema and were forbidden, and where possible, destroyed.

Jesus then spent one thousand plus years mostly as a sword of power for the controlling elite. Since the Reformation, Jesus has become all things to all people, depending upon whom you ask. The good works and progressive ideas of a decent, straightforward, intelligent man were thusly co-opted and corrupted, mostly by men who’s prosperity depended on telling the masses of people what to believe, and then enforcing that belief.

By now the concept of “Christianity” is so malleable that the name of Jesus can be used to justify anything from helping the poor to demonizing the poor; from mere intolerance to murder and torture; from Brotherhood to Ethnic Cleansing. Those who accept these far ranging positions almost all do so on the word of someone else, without independent consideration. “Jesus hates Fags!” In a pig’s eye. “Jesus wept,” indeed.

Thus Endeth The Lesson

So my advice, whether you are choosing a religion or deciding whom to vote for, is to think for yourself. As that Chinese fellow said, “discover truth from facts.” You can do it! If you are in the guilty majority, please stop taking directions from unscrupulous, self-serving people who probably have their hands in your pockets as we speak.

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