Cognitive dissonance

In Orwell’s 1984 he introduced the concept of double think. Which is the ability to sincerely believe contradictory ideas depending on the context they are needed. It’s actually easy to do this as a human being, people use light switches and medical science while holding to beliefs that are in sharp contradiction to these modern gadgets. As an example of this women are denied free and usable materials to help with period pain because some made up ancient ate an apple in a book and it was a bad thing so women must be punished forever. It’s easy to hold contradictory beliefs that actively harm others, and even yourself, if rejecting them is too difficult or emotionally painful. For less contentious ideas, it could be that they’ve never collided with one another, because the dissonance that comes from this hasn’t been brought to your attention or isn’t important enough to notice.

If a belief isn’t strongly held, or the holder of that belief is a strong advocate of listening to evidence and acting on it, then minds can change. Changing your mind about a robust, or fundamental and as yet unquestioned, belief is incredibly uncomfortable, it can be painful and difficult. Often a mind change may mean a behaviour change, which involves a lot of self reflection and asking other people to point out to you when you slip. This is hard, and not a path for the lazy or congenitally cosy-minded.

Because of this people generally ignore the dissonance, or make up stories that allow them to keep hold of the pieces of the story that make them comfortable. Empire socialism is fundamentally a cognitive dissonance, some sincere socialists will never have thought about issues of colonialism, the old and new empires, race, gender, and so on. Learning to work with the fundamentally different world view that comes from these ideas is difficult, hard work. The people who make, or are at least willing to attempt, this effort will not be characterised here as empire socialists. Empire socialists are the ones who gain a direct advantage from the parts of the contradiction that let them off the hook or provide their jobs. They are the ones who do not want to change because it will cost them something. Often, these are the ones who have managed to get themselves into positions of power.

So, we must be careful using this term. Careful not to use it to attack the sincere but confused who want to make the effort to understand. But also, it’s a useful term to describe the weakened ideas that come from unquestioningly accepting the establishment’s narrative. It is a powerful tool to help us understand what motivates people and how to deal with them. It is not unrelated to the similar term white feminism.