Monday, December 8, 2014

No, Neo. You Can't Take Both Pills.

Actions speak truer than words. Always. People don't necessarily believe what they believe they believe. For example, if you were to poll a bunch of people on the question: "Do you believe that all human lives have inherent value?", you'd get quite a few positive responses. If you were to further question those "yes" responders, "Do you believe that money/market-based economics is a fair and beneficial institution?", many of those people would again, answer in the affirmative. (Let's assume that all gave, what they believed to be, honest answers.) This is a common instance of cognitive dissonance in action. That's because money/market-based economics depends on the belief that human life has no inherent value. How else can one justify allowing anyone to die for want of available resources, merely because they lack "proof", in the form of symbolic tokens, that their life is worth something? The saddest thing about it is, most of the people who answered "yes" to both questions, if they had to choose only one, really would prefer to uphold the first proposition. It's a safe assumption since, if they were not naturally empathetic, they wouldn't have said "yes" to the first question. But, cognitive dissonance is a phenomenon of the conscious mind; the subconscious mind can only accept one of those contradictory beliefs, and it will be the one that is most often acted upon. Since market forces are such a pervasive influence in most people's lives today, that means the second "yes" answer is the one most of us really believe. There are very harmful psychological/social consequences from this, and the cognitive dissonance involved, stops most people from even noticing. It isn't realistically possible for most people to avoid participating in the money/market system. But, it is possible to correct the cognitive dissonance by consciously rejecting any belief in its rightness/legitimacy. If you choose to do that, you will, henceforth, be participating under duress. That choice is going to result in psychological discomfort. Unfortunately, it is the necessary price of true social change. It's peanuts though, in comparison with the inevitable cost of remaining in denial. If you value free will, or the capacity for critical thought, there is absolutely nothing more important than consciously auditing your beliefs to expose and eliminate cognitive dissonance.
NEO: "What happens if I take both pills, Morpheus?"
MORPHEUS: "Nothing, Neo. Not a damn thing."