Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Willful Blindness, Willful Hypocrisy, You first. What’s your spin?

Here’s the deal. Research reveals that we lie to ourselves. Not you and I of course, but others do prolifically. Willful Blindness is one of various books and research papers that verify this. We seem to fool ourselves for a variety of reasons. Two of the main reasons, one is self protective and the other is social protective.

From Margaret Heffernan’s Willful Blindness:

“People are highly driven to do things that build self-worth; you can’t transgress and think of yourself as bad. You need to protect your sense of yourself as good. And so people transform harmful practices into worthy ones, by coming up with social justification, by distancing themselves with euphemisms, by ignoring the long-term consequences of their actions. “

Heffernan, Margaret. 2011. Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril. Walker. N.Y. pg. 195.

This is something that I have known for a long time. Here is a quote from my journal written when I was around twelve years of age. It is from a book on psychology but I don’t know which. I started reading psychology books at eleven – Freud, Havelock Ellis, Kraft-Ebing, Jung, etc. Yes, I have always been strange. I didn’t know to copy references at that age.

“We build up a picture of ourselves; hence, we come to expect certain things from ourselves, to value ourselves and to do everything possible to keep this idealized picture of ourselves unspoiled.”

The social protective is our very human need to belong. The essence of being human is being a social animal. We must learn the rules of our particular game early – language, emotional display, right, wrong, and most importantly how to belong. We carry this early training (shaping) with us our whole life. Without it we do not survive physically or psychologically.

“As the pioneering psychopharmacologist Jaak Panksepp put it, ‘social affect and social bonding are in some fundamental neurochemical sense opioid addictions.’ In other words, our desire to seek social connection with others comes from chemical rewards as well as social ones.”

Heffernan, Margaret. 2011. Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril. Walker. N.Y. pg. 132.

Endorphins: Endorphins ("endogenous morphine") are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters.[1] They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise,[2] excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm,[3][4] and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.

. . . the general argument is that we deceive ourselves the better to deceive others. To fool others, we may be tempted to reorganize information internally in all sorts of improbable ways and to do so largely unconsciously. . . . the primary function of self-deception is offensive – measured as the ability to fool others.

Trivers, Robert. 2011. The Folly of Fools. Basic Books. N.Y.

Here is the point of this. There is lots of information about the convergence of serious problems. There is lots of information – books, articles, internet, meetings – on these problems and the solutions.

“. . . A lot of people think we were facing our last century as a viable civilization, maybe even as a species. Global warming, overpopulation, the death of he seas, the loss of arable land, the proliferation of disease, the threat of nuclear or biological warfare . . .”

“We might have destroyed ourselves but at least it would have been our own fault.”

“Would it, though? Whose fault exactly? Yours? Mine? No, it would have been the result of several billion humn beings making relatively innocuous choices: to have kids, drive a car to work, keep their job, solve the short-term problems first. When you reach the point at which even the most trivial acts are punishable by the death of the species, then obviously, obviously, you’re at a critical juncture, a different kin of point of no return.”

Wilson, Robert Charles. 2005. Spin. Tom Doherty Associates Book. N.Y. pg.127-128.

In essence few if any of us are really doing a damn thing about it. We all have our spin.

From the Energy Round Table – a quote from the moderator and in italics a poster:

"Hitting the gas pedal decades ago is not something that

I think anyone who understood the problem would have

done. Why would anyone with half a brain make a plan

that severely damaged the biosphere of the planet that

their descendants would have to live (or die) on??"

Bill Tamblyn – Moderator

If we don't use all the water, someone else will.

If we don't use the oil, someone else will.

If we don't burn the coal, someone else will.

If we don't spread GMO crops, someone else will.

If we don't make more babies, someone else will.

If we don't waste the biosphere, someone else will.

If hitting the oil or coal or baby or gas pedal

gets me ahead or more status, then I must do it.

Was this a plan or lots of little plans?

More likely we just can't help ourselves?

Does tragedy of the commons fit here?

Arlen Comfort

My partner in answer to using a banana each day at breakfast and buying strawberries grown a thousand miles away said, “But I don’t buy roses.” Friends, who I love dearly and who are very environmentally and energy conscious, have a business totally dependent on driving to supply it and tourism for its success. They modified their distribution paths and feel they have made a significant change.


Let’s be clear. Every mile we drive supports fracking, tar sands, pollution of the oceans, underground water, rivers, the air, and our food. Each meeting we attend to save the earth from whatever surely makes us feel good. Each thing we write, each time we talk about this, we are playing the Transactional Analysis game – “Ain’t it Awful?”.

Each of the maybe billion of us at the top of the energy/resource heap are rushing towards the cliff. I do not to excuse myself from the spinning. This from one of my other essays:

Just say I.

I am polluting our ground water by using the natural gas from fracking. I am creating havoc in the oceans by spilling life-killing oil. I am also plasticizing the oceans. I am also limiting or eliminating species after species in the ocean, on the land, in the air. I am putting my medicines into the rivers and the water supply. I am greedily creating food sources that only I control. I am removing the topsoil. I am gouging huge holes in the earth. I am burning coal and creating nuclear waste for thousands of years to come for my flat screen television, my computer and my DVD player. I am putting mercury and acids into the air, water and life. I am melting the ice caps and the glaciers. I am heating the planet to drive my snowmobile, my wave runner, and my four-wheeler and to drive to any damn place I want. I am using many people to cater to my many whims.

I saw the DVD “What a Way to Go” yesterday. It was very well done in listing the freight train laden with our woes coming straight at us. The many speakers continually said, “we are doing this” and “we are doing that”. They must have been talking about me. Because I am aware of these things and more and I keep doing it.

John Weber

Busy in Northern Minnesota doing all these things and more.

So enjoy while you can. I am.

Some internet sources:

My site:

Abelson, Robert P. 2004. Experiments with people : revelations from social psychology. Lawrence Erlbaum. Mahwah, N.J.

Bayne, Tim and Fernández.Jordi, editors. 2009. Delusion and self-deception : affective and motivational influences on belief formation. Psychology Press. New York.

Berne, Eric. 1964. Games people play : the psychology of human relationships. Grove Press. New York.

Berners-Lee. Mike. 2011. How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Greystone. Vancouver.

Cumpsty. John S. 1991. Religion as Belonging. University Press of America. N.Y.

Fonseca, Eduardo Giannetti da. 2000. Lies we live by : the art of self-deception. St. Martin’s Press. New York.

Gianetti, Eduardo. 1997. Lies We Live By: The Art of Self-Deception. Bloomsbury. N.Y.

Hirstein, William. 2005. Brain fiction : self-deception and the riddle of confabulation. MIT Press. Cambridge, Mass.

Keyes, Ralph. 2004. The Post-truth Era. St. Martin’s Press. N.Y.

Kurzban, Robert. 2010. Why everybody (else) is a hypocrite. Princeton.

Lockard, Joan S. and Paulhus, Delroy L. Editors. 1988. Self-Deception: An Adaptive Mechanism. Prentice Hall. New Jersey.

Mele, Alfred R. 2001. Self-deception unmasked. Princeton University Press. Princeton, N.J.

Triandis, Harry Charalambos. 2009. Fooling ourselves : self-deception in politics, religion, and terrorism. Praeger Publishers. Westport, Conn.

Twerski, Abraham J. 1997. Addictive thinking : understanding self-deception. Hazelden. Center City, MN.

“. . . The farther removed we become from our neighbors, the more siloed in our self-sufficiency, the easier it is to treat people as things, to turn a blind eye to the human costs of toxic cultures and to make immoral decisions.


Credibility gap


Terminological inexactitudes (Winston Churchill’s)

Poetic truth

Parallel truth

Nuanced truth

Imaginative truth

Virtual truth

Alternative reality

Strategic misrepresentations

Creative enhancement

Nonfull disclosure

Selective disclosure

Augmented reality

Nearly true

Almost true

Counterfactural statements

Fact-based information


Enrich the truth

Enhance the truth

Embroider the truth

Massage the truth

Tamper with the truth

Tell more than the truth

Bend the truth

Soften the truth

Shade the truth

Shave the truth

Stretch the truth

Stray from the truth

Withhold the truth

Tell the truth improved

Present the truth in a favorable perspective

Make things clearer than the truth

Be lenient with honesty


Keyes, Ralph. 2004. The Post-truth Era. St. Martin’s Press. N.Y. pg.15-16.