Saturday, September 13, 2008

Portland Mercury | Blogs | TBA | Noontime Chat: Cognitive Dissonance:

A few minutes later, Daisey tells a story about going to Tajikistan and experiencing "cognitive dissonance" in realizing that our government is actually doing good work there.

Then... kerpow. Kahn takes a breath and says: "While you were talking, I was feeling some cognitive dissonance." Instead of responding to whatever it was specifically Daisey said that she found objectionable (which had to do with the fact that he was speaking "truths with a capital T"), she attempts to keep the subject on track by describing how she physically experienced this cognitive dissonance (it made her feel hot and prickly, if you were wondering).

At this point in my notes, the letters WTF??? are scrawled in big letters. Kahn goes on to tell us that there is no meaningful difference between Republicans and Democrats because system is fundamentally broken; that she identifies as anarchist but that her personal ideas haven't been shaped into an activist platform yet. Daisey leans back in his seat, having obviously concluded that the best thing he can do at this point is say nothing. (I would have paid good money for a chance to eavesdrop on THAT inner monologue.)

Dodge then suggests that "maybe cognitive dissonance is always a mistake. Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe our cultural training is to go black and white, to ignore nuance. Maybe there's no such thing." Which, um, doesn't make any sense in this context, and I'm not sure why we started talking about binaries instead of the way the human mind processes new information.

This was such a fantastic mess of a panel, from the poorly defined subject to the open (and, I think, fully justified) hostility emanating from Daisey by the end. It almost could have passed as a deliberate attempt to induce a state of cognitive dissonance in the audience by, say, presenting two equally legitimate ways of constructing truth; but it wasn't. It was fascinating, though, listening to these artists fumble around the awkward topic, and try and play nice when some pretty fundamental disagreements emerged (I am fairly certain Daisey does in fact think that there's a difference between Democrats and Republicans, for example). As flawed as it was from the get-go, this panel probably would have been far less interesting had it been more "successful."

4:10 AM