Take a look at these two recent headlines:
My only conclusion is that by eating vitamins, I’ll die sooner, but not of cancer.
The world is full of mutually exclusive truths. I am writing this on the day of the US presidential election. There is nothing more contradictory than the polarized views that Americans have about Barack Obama, or any president, for that matter. But even within one person we find conflicting beliefs. It’s quite common for people opposed to the President to simultaneously believe that he is a member of an extremist anti-American Christian church and that he is a radical Muslim. He’s somehow both, just as he is too dispassionate & professorial while being too angry (read, “Black”). It’s natural for the political Left and Right to have contradictory complaints about the President, but these all come from the very same people. President Obama has been accused of “crony capitalism” by the same folks who call his policies “socialist.” How can a person not only hold, but also espouse both of these beliefs about someone?
It’s not just right wing opportunists who live with unsolvable contradictions. The same society that raised soldiers to believe that killing is a sin labels soldiers “heroes” when they kill in performing their job.
What other cognitive dissonance are we confronted with?
- Sex is good and sex is bad.
- We are a “country if immigrants” and “immigrants are stealing our jobs”
- Age with dignity and stop aging through health and beauty products.
- We live in a post-racial meritocracy and African Americans live with chronic poverty levels well above the averages of the Great Depression.
- We live in the “greatest nation on Earth” and things are “really screwed up in America.”
Still not convinced that we live in a schizophrenic society? Let’s look at some more actual headlines from the day’s news:
Admittedly, these headlines come from all sorts of different sources, but there they are, available to anyone with access to the internet. We can pay attention to just the ones we want to agree with or we can just give up trying to pin down reality. For me, it all confirms my long-standing suspicion, that everything is true and you can’t believe anything you hear.