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12. The Anatomy of Contradictory Ideas, from Alternative Economics 101 -Tax Your Imagination

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We have empathy for ourselves and others, but we also make harsh judgments. That is the source of heroes and villains. We are usually more forgiving of ourselves and our group than we are of outliers. One person can be a mixture of many different extremes. Two people can be an ally on one issue and antagonists on another. Somewhere there must be cognitive dissonance present, because the truth will lead everyone to the same conclusions. Unfortunately, consensus is not proof of a truth. Many ill-advised choices have been carried forward through unanimous consent.

Enlightenment is a stage of redemptive and proactive forgiveness. We must forgive ourself for our mistakes before we can forgive others for theirs, but first we need to recognize our mistakes. It is only in conquering our own unique cognitive dissonance can we see the same struggle in others. We heal others in the same manner that we heal ourselves. Hypocrisy and doublethink works the same way. We are apt to punish where the sins of another most closely align with our own. The merciless punish the merciless unmercifully, blurring the distinction between who is the victim and who is the crime. Might is not right, but neither is being a victim. In viewing the events of history, we need to be honest about the antecedents that created conflict. All is cause and effect. Blaming the victim is as absurd as claiming the victim is always innocent. We all have a shared responsibility for what occurs in society. We are both victim and crime, a mixture of virtue and prejudices.

There are battles within organizations and within empires for dominance. For example, two factions within a church, political party or a business may develop. Each struggles to control the reins of the organization. This same organization struggles for dominance outside of the organization. For example, a church wants to control public opinion, or a political party wants to control the government. Certain businesses wants to control their industry. There are also battles between the empires. The business community may want to control government, and government may want to control the business community. During war, people look to the government to protect them. During civil war, the government is regarded as the enemy or protector, depending upon which side you chose. When business and government unite for a common purpose they can be a formidable opponent. Non-profit organizations (religion) suffer, and they become the wedge force to divide government and business dominance. Control of government is desirable because of its ability to force others to obey your prejudice. Turf battles are fought with ferocious intensity. Dissonance exists whenever there is an inability to forgive. If there are heroes and villains, if there are conflicts, then dissonance is present.

Conflict by Steve Consilvio

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Does the previous graphic look familiar? It is a simplified version of the infamous Powerpoint slide regarding the Afghanistan War. (See next illustration) Upon seeing the original, General McChrystal remarked, "When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war.' Everyone is the room laughed, but life and death is no laughing matter. Mankind has brought our troubles upon ourselves. We need to understand the nature of conflict if we are to defeat it. Eastern philosophy (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc), with its many complex mandala representations, is trying communicate the same message regarding the importance of balance.

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Military Powerpoint by US Government

Mandala by unknown

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Another indicator of cognitive dissonance is the sense surrounding the relative importance of certain issues. The description that people "make a mountain out of a molehill' is true. The lack of comparative analysis is also lack of perspective. A power-monger uses force disproportionately to the situation. For example, firing an employee for disagreeing, or violently silencing criticism by smashing a printing press. Electoral politics constantly seize upon minor issues as a means of attacking an opponent. Businesses take small design differences between themselves and their competition and cast them as huge advantages of their product. Olympic athletes are stellar performers, yet we are to believe a half-second of speed is a mark of significant superiority. 

Before power corrupts, the lust for power distorts. Enlightenment is a world undivided into heroes and villains, or winners and losers. Socrates, after being found guilty, was required to propose a just punishment. His accuser recommended death. Socrates felt he should be housed and feted like the athletes. The molehill was worshipped, and the mountain of wisdom was destroyed. There are millions of petty squabbles over insignificant things. Money is a big one, but not the only one. True equality is the world's most radical idea: to see ones enemy as oneself.

Know Thyself

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Steve grew up in a family business, was a history major in college, and has owned a small business for 25 years. Practical experience (mistakes) have led him to recognize that political rhetoric and educated analysis often falls short of reality. (more...)

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