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Like many of you, I have read with interest the opinions of many people on both sides of the issue of growth in Napa County. A recent letter solicited a very caustic comment. In part, this caustic comment said, “I say to anyone: if you don’t like the demand side of tourism, then leave.” The first thought that came to mind was, this sentence should have ended with an exclamation point rather than a period. The second thought that came to mind was, this is an emotional rather than a reasoned response. And the third thought was, why would anyone respond this way?

This last thought brought to mind two mental disorders. Two disorders we all share to a greater or lesser degree. That’s right, we are all crazy. It’s just a matter of type and degree of craziness. The first disorder falls under the umbrella of Cognitive Distortion. This disorder is characterized by seeing issues as either black or white. In the extreme, people suffering from this disorder convince themselves that their version of facts must be true. People in this extreme stage will deny testimony and empirical evidence that contradict their version of the facts.

Cognitive Distortion is best illustrated by the story of the man who believed he was dead. After months, the man’s doctor hit on an idea. The doctor asked the man if dead men bleed. “Of course not”, replied the man. The doctor pricked the man’s finger with a pin and a drop of blood appeared. After a long, thoughtful silence, the man said, “Whataya know, dead men do bleed!” Empirical evidence is simply incorporated into the distortion when the evidence contradicts what the person already believes to be true. This is an example of how we construct “false realities.” Or, as a co-worker once said, “I never lie, I just adjust the truth to fit the situation.”

False realities created by adjusting the truth to fit the situation, play a significant role in the second disorder: Self-Deception Disorder. SDD produces behaviors so similar to Cognitive Distortion that it is difficult to know for certain which disorder is in play. They may, in fact, be different names for the same thing since both concern how we process information. With SDD, we construct false realities that become our information filters. These filters allow us to construct walls of deception. In time, if we are not careful, our wall of self-deception is so strong that nothing will penetrate it except that which we already accept as “truth.”

So, why would a reasoned letter elicit an emotional response? Emotion rises to the surface when reason fails. The subtext of Self-Deception Disorder is, “when reason fails to satisfy.” The key to this particular self-deception is in the comment itself; “if you don’t like the demand side of tourism, then leave.” Is the Ag Preserve a resource dedicated to agriculture or tourism? When a movie screen is erected by a winery to show movies to guests drinking wine in their vehicles, is this agriculture or tourism? Some people have created the reality that tourism and agriculture are the same thing. Is this reality true or false? Is the truth being adjusted?

And what are we to think of the argument that because these activities provide jobs that we should not question them? What are we to think of statements by owners and agents sponsoring such activities in the Ag Preserve that it is because they sponsor these events that people are employed that might not be employed otherwise? Are the actions of these owners and agents altruistic in any way? Is their interest really with their employees?

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Is it not true that employment is the byproduct of economic activities that bring owners and agents large profits? Is it not also true that owners and agents would pay less if they could in order to boost their profits? Owners and agents are really acting in their own self-interest. If owners and agents were truly concerned about the well-being of employees then they would pay enough that employees would be able to live close to where they work. Isn’t the “we provide jobs” scenario just another false reality that distorts the true reason for job creation?

So remember, we are all in the same boat floating blissfully on the same body of water. We are all crazy, but as long as we stay in the boat there is hope. Some people however, go overboard because they believe they can walk on water. But the laws of physics tell us those leaving the boat will sink in that body of water on which we all float — The Sea of Denial!

Cannon lives in Napa.

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