The Peace We Seek

The Peace We Seek

Shakespeare understood that we are, all of us, hypocrites – a series of contradictions. My newsfeed confirms that no amount of evidence can stand up against our ability to rationalize. We form most of our beliefs by working backwards – by first holding a belief and then fitting the facts to suit whatever our conviction might be. Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance revolves around the idea that humans will seek to eliminate dissonance in their lives. This dissonance would be defined as any set of conflicting beliefs. He hypothesized that this dissonance creates distress that people will seek to reduce. While I believe this to be true, I would argue that we do not typically seek to reduce the contradictions in our beliefs by carefully and openly evaluating them to determine what holds the most truth and value for us.  Instead, in a modern world driven by polarizations, we more often reduce intellectual contradictions through acrobatic rationalization – by redefining our realities and shaving off the edges of the puzzle pieces to make them fit together. Known by many names, including “confirmation bias” and “selective perception,” this well-documented process of rationalization has been the subject of decades of study in psychology.  And these days, it’s an epidemic. A Rationalized World This hypocrisy of convenience can be (and is) applied to everything. If I choose to believe (for example) that the people of Palestine are all terrorists, then no amount of logic will be able to dislodge that belief. We use this internal technique – some cognitive alchemy of self-righteousness and apathy – to dehumanize each other every day....
Romancing Our Stones

Romancing Our Stones

We are a culture obsessed with facts. Or worse – with the truth we believe is hidden within them. We act like facts are a thing to be extracted – carefully framed and selected pieces of historical data, distilled and hardened into raw materials. They are the material we use to build our reality. We pile them up around ourselves. They are also our weaponry. On every side of every conflict we cling to our facts like stones that we can hurl at each other to justify more violence. I’ve heard “get your facts straight” spit out across arguments and comment sections over and over again – as if the most complex wars could be remedied by correcting a flaw in someone’s quantitative data set. If we have any stones left we stick them in our ears so we don’t have to listen. And through our soliloquies masquerading as debate, the only thing that becomes clear is that the more of these “facts” we think we have to throw around, the less we value the lives and experiences of others. I can savor my pride and my vengeance while believing you will choke on yours. But our fate will be the same. The Emperor’s new clothes were stitched with the threads of our finest facts. We build our walls with whatever variety of stones we have at hand that can create the most distance and make us feel safe. With morals, with religion, with nationalism…anything that can divide us so we feel superior to the injustice we witness, as opposed to understanding our part in it. It’s much too terrifying...
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