Life….. Isn’t everyone for it?

1 08 2014

 

life

So, ok, we all see the world through a construct, or series of constructs that make sense of the world. Our brains need to do this essentially to save memory space, allow you to get on with life and, perhaps, avoid paranoia  as much as humanly possible. So, for example, when you walk into your bedroom, which you may have done thousands of times, instead of your brain storing every single image you’ve ever seen at different times of the day with different clothes, clean or otherwise strewn around (or, for my loyal OCD readers, quilts, pillow cases, throw pillows, cushions and this week’s curtains in complementary shades of Rosemary), your brain essentially ‘overlaps’ the information, storing differences. Even then, we largely stuff them away in the neurological equivalent of those archive boxes you forget how to fold every time you use them but never bother to remember how to fold them because, hey, how often do you ever use them, right??

Now, what is fascinating to me is that people I talk to often hold contrary or conflicting points of view very strongly and yet have little cause to question them. Psychologists call this ‘cognitive dissonance’ and describes values held which may contain contradictory notions. An example of this that harks back to those heady days of suburban medicine in the early ’80s was my local GP. The guy was always relaxed. He’d lean back laconically in his 1950’s creaking typist’s chair, its bottle green PVC cover long spewing chunks of foam through its gaping cracks and his rattly old electric fan was constantly on, regardless of season. More curious to me, as one visiting the one man I enstrusted my health to as a very young man, was that he’d light up a cigarette, almost every visit and type relevant notes on my, usually insignificant, health issues onto 8″ x 4″ index cards through a (now shared) pall of blue-grey smoke. Yep, a smoking doctor. Cognitive dissonance, ladies and gentlemen, exhibit A.

Of course there was also the well-meaning, though perhaps undereducated pseudo-vegetarian I once knew years ago. Quite proud of her newly acquired and apparently ‘secret’ knowledge about the treatment of domesticated animals bred for food production (in an era, of course, before the ‘Interweb’ was surgically attached to our brains) she boasted to all and sundry about her epiphany. Until one day I saw said ‘vegetarian’ shovelling tuna onto her salad and remarked on this curiously. Firstly, because it occurred to me that this was animal meat, secondly that a substantial number of dolphins were caught, killed and tossed away each year from Tuna nets and finally, that Tuna stocks worldwide were plummeting. Her response was equally curious. Faced with an irritating git pointing out the perhaps obvious cognitive dissonance concerning this behaviour given her love of animals, rather than acknowledging this the reply came, ‘Look, you can criticise all you like, but at least I am doing my bit! Just like that guy who threw all those starfish in the ocean or whatever!’. Beef Cattle : 1, Tuna: 0, Dolphins: 0, Capacity for Values Evaluation: 0.

So it is with many issues we face. In 2008 Nicole Kidman infamously played a didgeridoo on a German morning news show. Now, as the indigenous Australians who perfected the art of playing this wonderful instrument were quick to point out in Australia, this instrument is traditionally only played by men and it is offensive to them to see a woman playing the instrument. The news article died a quiet death, however, because many politically left progressives, though motivated on the issue faced a conundrum; What is a more important held value, the equality of women in our society or the nobility of indigenous culture? This dissonance was simply met with deafening silence.

Likewise, we find proponents worldwide, usually left of centre politically who tend to support a Palestinian Free State and generally rail against (or, in extreme cases, like Lee Rhiannon, Federal Senator for the Greens who lives in Sydney, strongly support sanctions against) Israel. This is the same arm that claims the high ground morally for championing women’s rights, including affirmative action in the workforce and the right to free and legalised abortions. However, in doing so, they support not only known terrorists but the most extreme forms of Islam, whose societies violate the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights for women and endorse female circumcision, justify rapes, kill women caught in adultery, marry children and routinely treat women as property.

Sometimes, those holding alternate views are disparagingly called ‘Flat Earthers’, ‘Xenophobes’, ‘Wowsers’, ‘Prudes’ and ‘out of touch with modern society’ though I would perhaps ask a little indulgence here for those who might otherwise consider changing their ‘old, out of touch views’ from those who see themselves as sexily progressive. You see, I wonder if such people, common in nations where English is the mother tongue, have spared a thought for the coherence and integrity of apparently progressive views. It might be likely that more conservative people would consider them if they weren’t so rationally flawed. One core principle of Judaeo-Christian folk is the sanctity of life, all life. It is as simple as it is profound. Generally, it also seems to be a cognitive framework that makes for a more compassionate society. Allow me to explain.

 

Injured Palestinians taken to hospital after Israeli airstrikes

 

Here is a Palestinian baby, injured during the current conflict in Gaza. Anyone reading this, though perhaps parents especially, would agree that these are the innocent and tragic victims of this stubborn conflict between adults. So is this:

 

Jewish baby

An Israeli baby in critical condition after the Palestinian bombing of a residential shopping centre in Kiryat Malachi, Israel. I don’t think that there is a person reading this article that would disagree with the notion that the geography of a baby should determine how much we care about injury and death meted out to the young. Surely ALL babies deserve protection from violence and death regardless of their location on our planet, right? Now hold that thought and watch your response to this:

 

 

aborted-baby-in-bucket

 

This baby was found in a womb of a mother that ‘wasn’t ready for kids just yet’. Like about 38% of mothers in the UK, USA and Australia typically cited as the primary reason for a ‘termination’ (or ‘abortion’, depending on your ideological stance). Now, consider your emotional reaction to this, seriously. Was it sadness at the sight? Was it immediate anger at ‘Pro-life Propaganda’ or was it anger directed at those who do this? Confusion maybe? Some might have even felt physically sick (as I do now having to type this with these images before me).

 

My point is simple. We all experience cognitive dissonance from time to time. Actually having to look carefully at the various values we hold and perhaps realising inherent contradictions, which have the potential to help us see why others perhaps don’t share your value set. In this example, most readers were in agreement about the injustice of babies being injured in the first two environments but baulk at the third, as perhaps some macabre trick or ‘intention to shock’, rather than considering the coherence of belief that Judaeo-Christians (among other religions and belief systems) that all life is sacred.

 

Christians hold that unwanted babies, the elderly, the disabled, humans of every skin colour of human being on the planet and the lives of animals and plants on this planet are precious and worth protecting. It drives and informs Christians and Jews who ‘take their book seriously’ and, if a lifestyle is carried out according to the instructions, pleas, admonitions and commands in their ‘Book’, creates societies which are largely harmonious, ecologically sustainable, gracious and respectful of all life. They seek not to take life because it is old and in pain (and feels like suicide today but may not next month). They seek to protect babies in the womb (acknowledging the statistics that between 0.1-1% of all pregnancies are the result of heinous rapes, incest and abominable human behaviour but that more than 90% are the result of careless adults in unprotected sex). They seek to protect wildlife but are not prepared to endanger the lives of people to do it. For this such views, at least in the ‘Western World’ are considered out of touch and outdated. Can anyone from alternative viewpoints see that such people might simply hold to very simple and very old world views which see value in all life?

 

Such readers may also tend to forget that most major advancements in Human Rights over the last 300 years were championed by people of Judaeo-Christian faith, not atheists, not Muslims, not those of a gamut of other world religions or belief systems. Consider:

  • William Wilberforce and other English Christians who fought for the abolition of slavery 1807
  • John Newton, the captain of a slave trading ship, after his conversion could not reconcile his occupation and eventually became a leader in the abolitionist movement to free slaves (and, of course, also penned that most famous hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’)
  • Wilberforce also established the very first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824
  • Reverend Martin Luther King in the USA finally galvanised the support of the majority white population in the USA to pave the way for racial equality in the largest English-speaking country

Martin Luther King

It should come as no surprise for someone who understands what the pervasive underlying motivation of both Judaism and Christianity is. It is what the Greeks call ‘Agape’ love, an unconditional love. Does this mean that Jews and Christians compromise their morality to make peace with those not of the faith? Well, no more than the parents of a drug-addicted son change their attitude to drugs. Yet it is possible to love someone from a different belief system, worldview or lifestyle whilst maintaining a moral centre which is unswerving. Jesus did it all the time.

When progressives ridicule and vilify the beliefs of conservative Christians and Jews, mocking them as ‘God botherers’, ‘homophobes’, ‘narrow-minded bigots’ and so forth, they betray their lack of tolerance and acceptance for those with opposing views. If the views held had consistency and not the ambiguity that causes the cognitive dissonance discussed here, then they would stand alone on their own merit and internal validity as a philosophy on the nature of life. Unfortunately, the inescapable fact for those who support militant muslim terrorist organisations, those who defend abortion and even those who champion animal rights is that for all such causes, some life is more important than other life.

There are some who quietly, defiantly and, some would argue, justifiably, reject this notion.

 

 

 

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