Cognitive Dissonance Vol. 4 - Willful Ignorance
“Hear now this O foolish people, and without understanding;
which have eyes and see not, which have ears and hear not.”
– Jeremiah 5:21
Willful ignorance is the most powerful negative force in the human universe. All great atrocities are dependent upon it. The censorship of dissenting ideas not supported by the dominant narrative is, in our day and age, the technological manifestation of willful ignorance. The shaming and avoidance of those who have an informed, dissenting view is willful ignorance. The refusal to bear witness is willful ignorance.
The problem isn’t that people can’t see the truth, because most people can. I believe that the overwhelming majority of people in this world have basic critical thinking skills, or at the very least, basic observational skills. The problem arises when people refuse to use these skills, and unfortunately the reason for this refusal is highly elusive.
One of the theories I have on why people are willfully ignorant is fear. Fear of change, fear of accepting a reality that requires them to change their mindset as well as their behavior, fear of admitting to error, fear of being ostracized by others who are also willfully ignorant. These mindsets and behaviors are necessarily and tenaciously linked to egos, and egos are nothing if not self-preserving.
People so desperately need to believe that they are doing the right thing that they will actively – sometimes violently – avoid any suggestion that they are not. In the instance of white liberals who act out against the suggestion that they benefit from a white supremacist society, this phenomenon is known as “White Fragility.” In the case of a society at the mercy of any dominant narrative, this manifests as shaming, gaslighting, and censorship of anyone with a dissenting view. In the case of anyone who is at the mercy of their addictions to what we steal from non-human animals, this manifests as excuses of all kinds, arguments that have no scientific foundation, and worst of all: a refusal to bear witness to the atrocities that they are supporting. One might call this last brand of willful ignorance “Omnivore Fragility.”
Ask yourself these questions, if you dare:
If what I am supporting by buying animal carcasses and excretions isn’t horrible, then why do I refuse to bear witness to meat, dairy, and egg production?
If it isn’t shameful and horrible, why are there laws (ag gag legislation) keeping me from seeing it?
If humans are natural meat eaters, why are we the only species that doesn’t simply bite into our live prey – fur, entrails, and all?
Why don’t I begin to salivate when passing a field full of cows?
If animal products are a sustainable source of protein, why does the American government hand the meat and dairy industry $38 billion of your tax dollars a year in subsidies?
If “food is food,” why do I take my children apple picking but not to a slaughterhouse?
If it's not good enough for my eyes, why is it good enough for my stomach?
Why do I love a dog and eat a pig?
Why do I love a cat and eat a cow?
Don’t punish yourself for the discomfort or difficulty in answering these questions: The forces of societally-imposed cognitive dissonance are so strong that it’s likely such questions will cause your cognition to somersault and possibly try to shut down. If the process of facing your own cognitive dissonance seems difficult or uncomfortable, you are definitely not alone (all of us who have transcended our cognitive dissonance went through this as well). Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to avoid these questions as the fate of humanity itself is dependent upon the awaking that comes from asking and answering such questions.
Surely, if you are right in your omnivorism, and your beliefs are justifiable, you can handle a healthy debate. No political candidate with any integrity avoids a healthy debate with a worthy opponent. In this case, your most worthy “opponent” is the footage taken by those risking their lives to bring us the truth about animal agribusiness.
I continue to believe that each and every one of us has the power to transcend willful ignorance and selective compassion. There has never been a more important time in history to put your beliefs to the test. There is no greater enemy to the perpetuation of atrocity than your willingness to bear witness. To bear witness is, after all, the very antithesis of willful ignorance. The truth will set you, our fellow earthlings, and future generations, free.