“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If you’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
The above quote by Carl Sagan is referring to cognitive dissonance, a term used by psychologists to identify the mental discomfort, (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. According to the dictionary, this discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a belief or a person clashes with new evidence perceived by that person. When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort. We’ve all been confronted by cognitive dissonance in a big way since the election of 2016. Some of us are burying our heads in the sand and hoping nothing will change while others are waking up and saying, “Wait a minute, things aren’t right here and I need to pay attention.”
You know that saying, “Time and tide wait for no man?” I’ve thought lately, that we could include history in that phrase as well. I see the events of history as a kind of energy current, or maybe like the current in a river. Sometimes it flows along slowly, with not much turbulence, and other times we’re in the rapids trying to avoid getting sucked under the water’s surface and smashing into rocks. We’ve hit the rapids, we’re getting tossed about trying to keep our heads above water.
My life has been shattered more than once. It felt like I was in the middle of white water trying to survive. One thing I learned from those experiences was I had a choice, I could swim upstream trying to cling to my old life, or I could look around at all the new scenery (possibilities) that I had never noticed before. The process of examining my belief system was painful but once I got through to calmer waters, I was glad I chose not to hold onto the past.
My sister and I were talking sometime back. She was telling me about the movie, Kung Fu Panda 3 that she watched with her family. In it Po must fight the supernatural villain Kai, who is killing all the kung fu masters so he can absorb their chi and become all powerful. My sister said something profound that she got out of the movie, “When you try to take everything you end up with nothing.” Oogway, Po’s teacher, says it this way in the movie, “When will you realize the more you take the less you have.” It seems to me that Republicans and the wealthy who back them need to learn that lesson. If they don’t they are going to end up with nothing. In fact, it’s already begun to happen as more and more people leave the party and more wealthy people back politicians, and organizations that have humanitarian missions. It’s an example of those who are ignoring their cognitive dissonance, and those who are examining just why they feel so uncomfortable.
I’ve been confronted most of my life in large and small ways by people who want to maintain the status quo. They want everything to go their way, they don’t want to change, and they want to force me, to think or act the way they do. But as we’ve seen throughout history, the people who have tried to rule the world, or tried to control through religion, or male domination, have ended up losing it all. It takes a long time sometimes, but the people who are being controlled eventually rebel. The conqueror loses.
The ultra-conservatives have been losing since November 6, 2016 whether they know it or not. Yesterday, according to reports, Dr. Ford’s testimony handed them a big loss. I didn’t watch the proceedings because I knew how she was going to be treated and that brings up lots of rage about something over which I have no immediate control. I believe her, and I’m focusing my attention on the fact that no matter what the outcome of the vote for Judge Kavanaugh, the tide has turned. So many people from all subgroups are speaking up about being mistreated. And fortunately more and more of us are listening. I feel hope that humanity is going in a new, more healthy direction.
Living through these new changes is not going to be easy. The way I defend myself when I’m feeling particularly frightened and vulnerable, is to take time to do some self-examination. I feel shaky, and off balance when I do that, but one way I help myself feel better is to look for positive stories. I recently found a new writer that I like very much. Her name is Rebecca Traister. I read two articles by her in the last few days published in The Cut that have given me hope. It’s not a publication I’d heard of before reading her articles, but I think I may check out other stories they publish. There are TV shows, movies, and documentary series that help me feel positive, and sometimes just teaching my class and seeing the enthusiasm on my student’s faces helps me feel that eventually all will be right with the world.
There are so many great things happening. All we have to do is look around and find them. And we can also generate positive change by cultivating discussions with our family and friends and know that we don’t have to have all the answers. It’s okay to feel that the world has been turned upside down. It won’t stay like that forever.
Another way I help myself is to find people to help, or maybe teach. My students help me get a new perspective on life all the time. Putting myself in situations where my long held beliefs are challenged is also a great way to break out of that cognitive dissonance trap. I do not want to be one of those people who have been bamboozled and believe the lie because in the end instead of feeling protected, I feel dead inside. My goal is to feel good while helping others feel way that too.
Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. I appreciate it very much. Have a wonderful weekend with family and/or friends.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.