Furthest Right

Situational Awareness

As democracy fails worldwide, people in diverse nations search frantically for some actual truths about how things are going. Each attempts to look at the situation in order to glean important bits connecting to some truth affecting future actions.

This is not to say that everyone has a personal truth which is universally true, far from it. Some people think that truth is equitable to “wants” while other truths are equitable to physics. For example, I tell my wife that the air conditioner can be switched off once humidity is lower than the mold threshold of 60%. She does not agree because she “wants” cold air washing over her while she is working around the house.

The physics-part is the systemic truth while the wants-part is systemic misinformation based on a single individual desire. This does not mean she cannot have the cold air she desires (of course she can); she just did not say that truth. And that lack of situational awareness is important. I do not blame her of course, which is why I am deviating my prior child-rearing technique to now include situational awareness.

The complex society we live in causes many people to investigate situations and generally each investigator develops his own style and preferences for looking at sensemaking topics. One of these guys in South Africa was a biometric security consultant and was therefore continuously confronted with security issues like prevention detection. But his topic of research was cognitive dissonance.

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe mental discomfort from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort. This offers one explanation for why people sometimes try to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash.

The reason a security consultant may have developed an issue with cognitive dissonance is because his clients were accustomed to living and working in a safe environment, but had to adjust to an unsafe environment, which pits the natural attitude of being safe, careful, and prudent against the other natural desire to be open, inviting, and trusting.

Cognitive dissonance is apparently a part of human nature but those with that tendency will more easily jump to conclusions and rationalize without being aware of it. Those in the grips of cognitive dissonance tend to have little situational awareness because they are focused inward trying to resolve the conflicts between the incompatible inputs.

Despite being an apparent part of human nature, lack of situational awareness is not categorized as a medical condition. However, it has similarities to anxiety and PTSD. A person with PTSD, for example, may end up ranting about details — compare this to the internet’s pseudo-diagnosis of “autism” or “aspergers” — while letting the big picture slide by.

A more long-term example is the English cultural limitation of families having only two children. It seems proper and all, especially if it is a boy and a girl. The Dad can brag with his son and the mother can brag with her daughter. The family, signaling socially and financially prudent behavior, only need one car instead of an expensive bus.

The two children must also be two years apart meaning they can spend their initial years in one bedroom using the same baby stroller and baby bed. What this prudent behavior projects, is that the bank manager will be more reassured in giving people with these stellar abilities, a loan and even encouraging them towards lending moar for engaging in apparently lucrative ventures that the bank manager has inside knowledge of.

Having more money, the parents can now spend more money on education, setting their children up early in adult life so that they can start at an earlier age collecting rent on their investments and retire earlier to the good life. These children, however, have helicopter parents instead of other children in their social setting, meaning they do what adults want without developing their own understanding of life.

Then they get confused when pensions do not pay out, property value does not increase, or their spouses dump them, any of which destroys the dream of early retirement. They trusted in a category of “good” that substituted for situational awareness, at which point cognitive dissonance kicked in when reality diverged from the theoretical model.

One alternative might be teaching kids to be shrewd, or imbued with “clever discerning awareness and hardheaded acumen” as Merriam-Webster tells us. However, this creates a bias toward negativity which also suffers from cognitive dissonance, since it excludes the possibility of good outcomes and therefore engenders paranoia and neurosis.

In addition, who wants to live in a shrewd society? The constant search for the ripoff at the core of all life will make people bigoted, angry, and resentful.

Instead, it makes sense to go to the root and to teach situational awareness. Children need to be abundant and to learn about life before they are told, in the ways of religion and ideology, to trust in certain categories and assume that these are “higher” values than life itself or an order “over” life.

Perhaps this magic begins with the words “it depends.” Parents, like all who are in the grips of Control, want to teach their children absolute methods to follow so that the children are managed and risk is reduced. In the long term, like Communism this approach makes the children lose agency and live in a PTSD-like state of cognitive dissonance.

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