25 September 2011

Cognitive Dissonance, Diffidence, and Dissidence

Last week on this blog, I called a local climate change denialist a selfish %$#@!. I think the "selfish" epithet is clear enough: an old geezer who refuses to make any dents in his greenhouse gas emissions to benefit the children and all future generations is just plain selfish.

But two friends thought that I was somehow being hypocritical by using the term "bastard." Now, I'd assumed that most of us know, understand and use the second (slang) definition of the word: a vicious, despicable, or thoroughly disliked person.

So I see no hypocrisy, nor any problem, in calling a spade a spade ... especially these days, when so much is riding (future of life on Earth, anyone?) on the compassion we must muster for those more vulnerable to the ravages of the climate change emergency. In my world, to flatly refuse to make even the slightest sacrifice for the sake of the children — and then to splatter that mean-spiritedness all over a newspaper page — makes you a %$#@!. And a selfish one.


My friends' reactions got me thinking about cognitive dissonance: the state of conflict or anxiety that arises from inconsistency between one's beliefs/attitudes and actions, or from holding conflicting ideas at the same time.

For example, these friends know that the world is teetering on the edge of demise. Yet, they couldn't picture themselves calling a selfish %$#@! "a selfish %$#@!" on a blog. "What if a child reads it?" asked one. Um, that matters why? Changes things how? (Hey, if a child reads my blog, he or she is going to know that at least I stick up for the children and their right to a future!)

Anyway, that made me think of a new term. Cognitive diffidence: mental shyness or inability to trust; lack of intellectual self-confidence. Sure, if you hadn't spent a whole day researching and rebutting the denialist's published bullsh!t, you might not feel you have enough evidence to call someone a selfish %$#@!. But I did spend a whole day, so I do have enough evidence!

Then I remembered another friend's recent typo: cognitive dissidence. Pretty good one, eh? I'm coining that phrase as intellectual dissent, or mental protest against official policy. Yeah, that's what I'd like to see! A whole lot more people mentally protesting against national, international and multinational policies that are keeping us on the road to hell. And then, in order to get rid of their cognitive dissonance, people will have to DO SOMETHING about what's going on in the world. With courage instead of cognitive diffidence.

Think about it, 'kay? I might be onto something here!!


  1. Keep saying it how it is!

  2. Did a Google on 'cognitive diffidence' because I'm bored and came across this beautiful rant. Keep it up; Awesome.

  3. I remain a selfish bastard until someone manages to explain the shrinking martian ice. Surely they have no evil carbon creating humans on MARS.

    1. Hey, SB, check this page out. I think the "shrinking Martian ice" is sufficiently explained there. https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-on-mars.htm

  4. To the two Anonymouses above, thank you. I appreciate your support. And to the other Anonymous, who wrote to say that s/he'll "remain a selfish bastard until someone manages to explain the shrinking Martian ice," I would point out that what's happening on Mars, more than 50 million kilometres away, simply isn't germane to the climate disruption in our biosphere, the warming and acidification in our oceans, and the climate change emergency in our communities and nations. But hey, thanks for taking the time to write.


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?