Disclaimer: I have never written a disclaimer for my blog entries before, but I do recognize that we live in a world with multiple views stemming from strongly held belief systems. It is not my intent to disparage or insult anyone. My intent is to uncover the underlying reasons for contradictory thought processes and to lay bare the human condition.
Let’s begin with a cliché, a definition. Hypocrisy: “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not: behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel, (Merriam dictionary).” It is the contradiction of belief and behavior that I’d like to focus on most, as well as the contradiction of belief and logic, which may indicate a contradiction with thoughts and reality.
What spurred this thought process? My periodic over-consumption of news and multiple formats of media in an effort to understand simple concepts, led me to question my own thought process and that of the most ardent arguers of their particular belief (i.e. the loudest and angriest of any argument, typically are the most passionate about their beliefs, even in the face of logical thought or factual information to the contrary). I watch multiple outlets and consume information from “left-leaning” and “right-leaning” sources in an attempt to parse the truth from the political message and from the inherent attempt to sell me the information. I know many who also gather their news from multiple sources, and by simply reading news from more than one source, they’re self-categorized as non-biased. This is the first glimmer of conflict, and thereby a peek at the initial thread of hypocrisy, within me and my kin, which may help understand the greater levels of hypocrisy by the most fervent arguers.
This led me on a hunt to better understand the ideas of bias, a subject I have studied at different levels, both in University and at multiple jobs (jobs where the idea of bias is important to recognize in order to arrive at fact). The most common bias that I encounter, both in myself and others, is confirmation bias (i.e. “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.”). Couple this with ingroup bias (our tendency to socialize with like-minded individuals), our observational selection bias (once we begin paying attention to “x” we see it more frequently and thereby conclude it must indeed be a more frequent event), and last, mash in status quo bias, which links well with cultural bias, there is little wonder we may perceive the world in a way that doesn’t match reality.
Finally, we arrive at cognitive dissonance. This is a psychological theory that can be explained as “mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.” (A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. California: Stanford University Press.) This discomfort would help explain the anger seen in the groups that most loudly proclaim their version of the truth, groups that appear to check the aforementioned boxes of biases. My fear, was that I too, fall into one of these groups.
How is it then, that one can begin to uncover the deep-rooted psychological mechanisms that attempt to keep us rooted in a rigid belief system? How do we look through the biases, uncover them, to find the source of cognitive dissonance in our lives?
I believe there are a few ways this can be done, with varying degrees of success. Please keep in mind, this is simply a blog post, part of this is anecdotal with an attempt to use research to refute the position (aka another possible example of confirmation bias).
Ask the right questions. Gauge your emotional reaction to these questions. Then, instead of defaulting to the usual reason you’d give for this reaction, dig deeper. Truly examine the cause of your discomfort. Have you always felt this way? If not, why not? Does everyone you know feel this way? If not, why not?
Meditation. This practice allows one to recognize the conscious mind for what it is, a buzzing ball of thought that can only exist in the past or the future. It is a construct that we believe defines us, and only by seeing the noise for what it is, can we attempt to seek greater peace in our lives, and thereby deconstruct cognitive dissonance.
Logic and numbers. Do our beliefs make logical sense. Are there fallacies we are purposely ignoring to maintain our belief system? Do the statistics we refer to speak the whole truth? If not, what other numbers need to be looked at to possibly further uncover the truth?
Below I have listed some questions that can act as a starting point to question our underlying presumptions. They are purposely chosen to make one think or to possibly feel uncomfortable. A note: I have no religion that I ascribe to. As for politics, I lean Libertarian, but I don’t vote that way if the candidate is unqualified or has a bad historical track record.
FINAL DISCLAIMER: This may not conform to existing Politically Correct Ideology or Religious Doctrine. If you know that you prefer a safe space for your thoughts or beliefs, then I urge you to look no further. This blog is NOT intended to be malicious or hurtful.
Why do some cities with the strictest gun laws have the highest levels of gun violence in the United States?
Why do some countries with the strictest gun laws have lower levels of gun violence?
Why are religious groups more highly prevalent in jails than atheists?
Is morality defined by culture? Is it defined by religion? Can it exist in the absence of religion?
Is race as much a dividing line as socioeconomic class?
Must I respect all people?
Must I respect all religious beliefs?
What if the religious belief does not comport to established laws of physics? Known scientific truths?
Is it okay to practice intolerance in the name of practiced beliefs?
What if the religious belief includes genital mutilation? Anti-feminist ideology? Believes murder is okay if it is against someone of another faith?
Is it ever okay to discriminate?
If not, define discriminate? (I discriminate between pens and pencils depending on my desired outcome)
Is it okay for a Christian, based on religious beliefs to discriminate against gays, or minorities, other religions?
Is it okay for a Muslim, based on religious beliefs to discriminate against gays, women, other religions?
Is it okay for a men’s organization to not allow women?
Is it okay for a women’s organization to not allow men?
Is it okay to ignore greater levels of third-world suffering to complain about first-world suffering?
When we talk about the struggle for equality, what does that really mean?
When we say the term “common sense,” whether it is for gun control, women’s rights, or equality, how is that term further defined? Does common sense mean the same thing to me as it does to those around me? To those in the next town?
Are we okay with a greater number of men dying than women? (in the workplace or in terms of longevity)
Does women’s equality include a greater number of women’s work-related deaths?
Does women’s equality mean the death of chivalry? Will it become socially acceptable to hit a woman? Will it become socially unacceptable to hit a man?
Is capitalism the root of all evil?
If so, why does it appear that we are living in an unrivaled period of wealth, historically?
Are socialist countries better off than capitalist countries? (China, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway)
Can socialism work in a highly diverse society? (Canada)
Can socialism work if there is not a shared culture?
Why do we hear mostly of terrorist attacks from young Muslim males?
Are other religious groups perpetrating the same number of attacks? (Hindus, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Zoroastrians)
If other religious groups are not perpetrating the same number of violent attacks? Why?
If they are, why isn’t the media covering this?
Is it ever okay to target civilians for death based on your personal beliefs?
Is it ever okay to perform violence in the name of personal beliefs?
Is a minority still a minority if it makes up the majority of a particular area?
Does multiculturalism make a society stronger?
If so, how?
If not, why not?
Why are some of the richest countries, with lower crime rates, higher education, homogeneous?
Why are some of the poorest countries with high crime rates, low education, homogeneous?
These are highly sensitive topics, drawn from the news and around the web. We read about suicide attacks for a political goal, race protests and inequality in a time of unparalleled equality (in the western world), rights groups protesting for greater representation that may or may not address some of the greatest areas of suffering and inequality in other parts of the world.
How do we assess, as an individual, and a culture, what the new paradigm should be? Do we base it purely on how an individual may feel at a given time, or do we attempt to create a new set of cohesive rules that can be standardized and regulated for the masses? Would this be possible in a multi-cultural society with competing and differing values? Does the escalating rhetoric of victimization and victim-hood promote or hinder progress? How would progress be defined (happiness quotient)?
It was not my goal to sway you one way or the other, but to simply question a belief system. To question the underlying social dynamic that may be feeding a certain narrative that may not correlate with a deeper look at statistics, history, and trends. Last, to think on how we can create a more cohesive (or at least, logical) narrative so that as a society and a species, we can move toward a new horizon more peacefully.