Cognitive dissonance is my favorite phrase to bring up when people make jokes about my communication major.
This is not because it is a complex concept, but because it sounds complex, which is enough to impress most attackers. Also, it’s the only thing I remember from several semesters of exploring communication theory.
Until this year, I assumed that awing bitter engineers was the extent of its real world application.
That was before I was given a car to take down to school.
Now a driver’s seat that used to serve as a personal sanctuary has become a battlefield for my identity crisis. Every turn of the key leads to mental discomfort, caused by holding conflicting views simultaneously (straight from memory, eat your heart out Wikipedia).
In this case it’s my liberal, pro-environment sensibilities clashing with the good ole’ boy need for speed.
On one hand, I’m a red-blooded American male who enjoys fraternity life and recently attended a NASCAR race. I also happen to be a card-carrying, Paul Krugman-reading Democrat who interned at Earth Day Network and cherishes a Barack Obama koozie.
Reconciling this Two-Face-like personality split has never been easy. Having a two-ton metaphor on wheels outside my apartment doesn’t help. There’s no confusion in my mind about whether I really need to be driving 200 yards to 7-Eleven, but it’s hard to resist when the lure of automatic travel beckons.
Does this mean I’ve made the leap from self-righteous liberal blowhard to hypocritical liberal blowhard — the dreaded “Penn to Spitzer”?
Since the aim of cognitive dissonance is to reduce internal conflict, let’s examine how I arrived at this conundrum.
Sustainability isn’t just a great buzzword to drop on girls at music festivals. It’s also a worldview subscribing to a doctrine of stewardship over the environment and efficient use of its invaluable resources.
In other words, kryptonite to well-meaning liberal suburbanites.
You know the type: the neighbor who never misses recycling day and excitedly discusses new energy efficient light bulbs, a largely inoffensive amalgam of Kennedy idealism, Kerry nuance (read: namby pamby flip-flopping) and exaggerated cynicism, all mixed with generous helpings of Atticus Finch, an extensive Bruce Springsteen record collection and a dash of white guilt.
I have childhood memories filled with National Public Radio to prove my affiliation with this side of America, not to mention amusing recollections of my parents explaining why certain lewd presidential behavior was excusable.
Environmentalism, of course, is a prized value among our demographic. It occupies a prestigious space on the shelf with heavy hitters such as organic food, Jon Stewart and political correctness.
From an early age, the children of these worldly folk are indoctrinated into the cult of green living, nagged to turn off lights and assigned weekly recycling duty. I was motivated less by concern for the Earth and more by a desire not to have Pokemon taken away, but over time, the message subliminally sunk in.
Fast-forward to university — a breeding ground for the out-of-touch liberal elitists of the future. Here, surrounded by Marx-quoting professors and rampant atheism, my green inclinations were solidified.