Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Resolving Cognitive Dissonance

Last night I watched a show on the famine-ridden country of Niger. There simply is no food. They eat rats but the rats are starving also, so they do not provide any sustenance.

The utter sadness of the situation is no matter how much I give, it will never be enough. I can give to Niger but there will still be people in need there, not to mention the Tsunami struck regions, Pakistan, Iraq, India, and all the world over where people are starving, living in mud huts, and eating rats. Rats.

All this fills me with overwhelming guilt. How dare I look longingly at the houses at Ansley Park, or get frustrated when I experience writer's block? I have food, a roof over my head, live a better life than most of the world's population. So how dare I be anything but happy and grateful every moment of every day?

The closest explanation to resolve my cognitive dissonance is to turn to Maslow's hierarchy of needs who says that by our very nature we strive to grow.

The people of Niger are at the most basic level of need, survival. They need food. Some people in other countries are at the safety level. But no matter which stage you are in you want to eventually move to the next level.

Being higher up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I naturally want to improve and not be completely satisfied at where I am. I should still be grateful for the good in my life, but it's okay to want more.

Life isn't fair.... I hope that the pain and suffering that the poor of Niger, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia. etc. etc. etc. will mean that God will have mercy upon them and forgive their sins.

I dont know if this entire post is a fancy way to explain away well placed guilt.... but hopefully it will resolve the cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing.

6 comments:

ASH said...

The sad things is that the U.N.'s Jan Egland warned the world back in January that locusts had eaten all the crops in Mauritania, Niger, and Mali and that a famine would follow. Everyone ignored him, no money was allocated and now we have a famine which is horrific in Niger, but will spread to the already mentioned countries above....possibly even Burkina Faso. This catastrophe was unavoidable from the standpoint of crops being wiped out.....but was avoidable in that the international community could have had food aid on hand early in order to stop the hunger.

ASH said...

Also, Maslow's pyramid is interesting, but I always felt it was very Western-centric. It does not take into consideration cultural differences in the way people view the world; i.e. time versus non-time oriented societies, principle versus relativist cultures, etc.

Maslow's pyramid correctly explains human behavior in the West, people are always trying to better themselves and move forward. But in some societies that is just not how they orient themselves. They want the same basic things all people want, food, family, employment.....but in some cultures that is enough and moving up is not as important.
I am not a proponent of "cultural relativism". I see very real problems and issues with some other cultures....but I never cared much for sociologists that tried to put everyone in the world into a neatly labelled box.

Aisha said...

I 100% agree with your view on Maslow's pyramid. It's for this culture. When I went to Turkey I remember how amazing it was to see people just "chill".... It was actually very nice to see people just enjoy where they were at and not really have any desire to constantly keep pushing. But this is the society I'm born into so it's probably the implicit ocnditioning that has made me edgy if ever I'm not in some way trying to move up...

ASH said...

I'm the same way. I just have a knack for pointing out what may already be obvious....or verbalizing what everyone else already knows.
*shrug*

Saadia said...

Its an issue we all have been faced with - we have a lot yet we are so closely connected to third world countries that have little. A few random thoughts: 1) In pakistan the upper/professional class gives less of a shit then we do 2) A lot of famine is affected by politics not nature 3) Gratefulness is always a blessing. Even gratefulness for problems that are not problems but symptoms of a problem of the soul 4) Accordingly, we give within our means...each soul is responsible for what they can give 5) I think of this as a sort of circle. We enjoy what we have, then we give to the people around us - family, neighbors, those in need - in a way that our things become distributed where we still have enough for ourselves 6) Visiting the palaces in places like Spain and Turkey we realize people did haveluxury in life - but used their wealth to create beauty with astonishing creativity and intelligence. In other words, it wasnt a let's sit back and indulge ourselves with consumerism and ice cream time of wealth but a creative productive use of wealth. 7) My dad gave a lecture on actualization once and he talked about a step before that where people want status. So often our goal is for status and ego and comparisons and insecurity and that is a hindrance to actualization.

Nabeel said...

the first one is survival .. well physiological means the same thing and actually sums up the survival .. but still people understand it better .. the idea is to make it simple.

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