The inscrutable ways of the brain

Climate and ecology activists, e.g. in Extinction Rebellion, are often bitterly accused of moralising. The rest of us, all who do not follow their rigorous precepts, are made to feel we are an abomination to the planet.

I am certainly not innocent in this context. Although far from being an activist, I tend to consider all but basic consumption morally reprehensible, and you may have noticed how I refer to Norway’s former prime minister, Mr ProudRock and his ilk. After all, I’m only human, and if I feel that somebody has committed treason, I refuse to apologise for being very angry.

On the other hand, I know perfectly well that neither anger nor for that matter any other emotion helps solve the crisis at hand. Only a conscientious examination and a level-headed analysis of the situation will yield sensible solutions.

I happen to know somebody who has taken part in atrocities under Mr ProudRock’s command, committed war crimes, that is. Yes, that person is actually a very dear friend of my family. Notwithstanding his participation in war crimes, he is one of the most gentle-mannered people I know. His generosity verges on self-effacement and his willingness to care for the weak and disabled far outshines that of most people I know, certainly mine. How does he do it, I wonder?

The one-word answer to the question popped up at once in my mind: “Compartmentalisation”.
“Compart- what?” was the next thought. Is that a word?
Well, it must be, since I used it.
Does it mean what I feel it means?

I looked it up. Yep, compartmentalisation, on the dot. Exactly what I thought it meant … “to avoid cognitive dissonance”.

Now I am not going to pretend that I invented the term all over again. On the contrary, I must have heard or read the word so often that I actually stored it. I will even have come across a definition of sorts, probably on several occasions, and stored that too. I just didn’t know it, because neither the unwieldy word nor even the concept was of any use to me.

Until now, when all of a sudden, the word was eminently useful, pin-prick accurate, in fact.

Our dear friend has compartmentalised his life. And my friends, who almost all fervently clamour for more weapons to Ukraine, must believe that I am compartmentalising too. After all, what I defend with regard to Ukraine (inter alia a cease-fire in Ukraine and a negotiated long-term end to the war – be it cold or hot – between Russia and the USA/EU) is deemed morally reprehensible, though most people consider me relatively decent in other respects.

The ways of our brains are indeed inscrutable.

Copy link