Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Roots of Cognitive Dissonance - Part II

In the first half of this piece, I described a conversation with an acquaintance of mine at a marine electronics shop, and his personal view that there are no problems with the U.S. economy. As I pointed out, it all depends on the lense through which you view the world.

Kate Storm (rightly) commented that "Cognitive dissonance happens when one's perception of the world around one collides with another reality, when attitude and belief begin to get tweaked by the handwriting on the wall." And I fully concur. The question then becomes, how do we facilitate a national case of cognitive dissonance at the high end of the economic spectrum?

Let me offer the following as an example: at the same time that I was writing Part I yesterday, I was also crewing the set up and staffing of "hot dog day" at a local inner city food bank (I'm a helluva multi-tasker). It's a fun event that's held once per year, and has kind of a carnival atmosphere - games, waterslides, dunk tanks, hoop contests, local celebrities, and of course, food. The kids that you seen in the picture to the right (part of a crowd of about 500 that attended) are not wastrels who just wandered in off the street from the inner city neighborhood that surrounds the food bank. Each one is a client of a social service agency served by the food bank (food pantries, churches, shelters, etc.) - a child who, if not for the services of the food bank, wouldn't be eating very well or very regularly.

Demand for services at food banks throughout the country is booming, yet operational funding is hard to come by (more about this in a future post). But you know what? Donated food is not hard to come by, both from food outlets (stores and food processing plants) and private donations. It's even perplexing to the president of the food bank where the picture above was taken. She recently noted that she's never seen anything like the conditions that exist today - a crappy economic situation at the low end; bountiful food donations from the high end.

So, does the opportunity for cognitive dissonance lay somewhere between the children who attended hot dog day and the sale of a $25,000 fish-finding sonar unit?

Perhaps if my boating acquaintance spent a Saturday morning passing out food at a local food pantry, and ran into one of his $10 per hour employees, he could be persuaded that the economy isn't as good as his own business would indicate. But I'm not holding my breath waiting for him to rub elbows with the unwashed lower caste.

I'm pretty sure that food pantry operating hours would conflict with teeoff times at the club on Saturday morning.