Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Self Deception

A question: Do people set their standards for themselves so high, that sometimes the only way to reach them is through self-deception?

Some time ago, an acquaintance of mine noted the following:

We do like our see-no-evil self-deceptions, though. I mean, we wear clothes made in sweatshops by children, and believe ourselves good, ethical, enlightened people (and by 'we', I mean 'me').
It should be remembered that positive self-regard (or self-esteem, self-love, positive self-image, or whatever it's being called this week) is learned. People learn this from the others around them whose opinions of them that they have learned to value. Despite what they might say, their own positive feelings towards others are conditional, to one degree or another. Those conditions might be very easy to fulfill ("I love you because you're my child."), or they might be more difficult ("I admire you because you made top earner at the company last year."), or they could be somewhat extreme ("I respect you because you've won the Nobel Prize for Physics."). This conditionality is what prevents many people from having certain positive feelings about everyone they may encounter, as a default state.

But that conditionality filters down to the persons regarded, and the end result is that people, as human beings who have learned from others, tend to have a certain number of conditions that they feel the need to fulfill before they can see themselves as worthy of love, respect, et cetera. And it can be argued that people often expect that others live up to certain conditions before they allow that they be able to respect themselves. But the real question becomes: do people set their conditions realistically, given the lives that they lead, and effort that they're willing to put forth?

If I'm going to predicate my self-image on the idea that I don't contribute more than my "fair share" of greenhouse gasses to the environment, do I know what I'm letting myself in for? Am I willing to move to the desert, and live in an "earthship" so that I can go "off the grid?" Am I willing to forgo career opportunities, so that I can avoid having to commute? Will I limit my diet to things that don't have to be moved more than 100 miles, so that you don't have the effects of transporting things long distances? (Some folks in Seattle tried the "Hundred-Mile" food lifestyle - and found that the Puget Sound area has no local production of salt.) Am I actually willing to put the work into really understanding what things truly help, and what things just make me feel good? Or, I am simply going to buy a Prius and some Owens-Corning, call it good, and plug my ears when some obnoxious radical starts spouting off about it isn't enough?

In the end, the question is a simple one - do one set themselves up for intractable conflicts between the facts on the ground, and the conditions that they set for their self-esteem through carelessly adopting standards that are too stringent for the day-to-day infrastructure of most people's lives to support? And, in doing so, put themselves is a position where the path of least resistance is one of hiding - if not from the truth as they know it, then from the truth as they fear it to be?

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