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April 21, 2009

The Proper Use of Artifice

Some lucky people are blissfully unburdened by cognitive dissonance, that awful mental cramping that results from recognizing that things you really want to be true are simply not. Many of those people have been fomenting about taxation lately. And some have been talking about the positive outcomes of torture.
     
These are people who are willingly lying to themselves about themselves and their motivations. Because it is reassuring to believe a set of ideas about oneself, firm and unchanging, and to believe that because of this unwavering stance, one is always on the side of the angels. Who would like to admit otherwise? Its excruciating, truly, to realize that what you believe may be false, and worse -- that through acting on that belief, its quite possible you have done damage to others.
         
A number of protesters at the recent tax day rallies melded racist language with a libertarian political view (and a really freaky intellectual blankness about American history) to promote the argument that they do not have a say in their government. No rational response to this works. And not one of them would imagine for an instant that their beliefs are damaging in some way to others. But in my view, being immune to cognitive dissonance is in itself damaging to others, as it seems to signal a lack of conscience. 
     
But why would someone's lack of a conscience be harmful to anyone else? Ask the torturers. Or for that matter, ask the true believer terrorists. Or ask the racists at the tax day rallies, to whom our new African American Commander in Chief is giving...a tax break. 

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