Public Expectations

“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”
George Orwell – 1984


Public Expectations

In my last blog post, we covered expectations in your own life. It was about how you might be shaped and make decisions because of someone besides you. We also looked at assumptions as overt expectations.

Public Expectations are how we are to behave in society. In general, this mostly boils down to decency like waiting your turn in line. We naturally walk around clothed as this is the public expectation in our society. And, we are well aware that different societies have different norms.

We are interested in how public expectations shift over time. The successful campaign of Mothers Against Drunk Driving completely changed our viewpoint on drunk driving. Where once it was seen as almost humorous, it is now frowned upon.

Be wary of trending public expectations. Liberal thought shifts constantly and is not always quite grounded even though it feels at the moment as powerful. An example would be Senator Al Franken stepping down from his job after being accused of sexual harassment: it was the trending popular response to public expectation.

Clearly Al Franken paid a very high price for popular, if momentary, expectations. He lost his job and it was an important job. Our thinking will likely shift in a few years and we will see this as a radical response and way too strong. But, in this liberal moment, he had to quit his job.

Popular thinking and mind-sets can make you behave as you do; you might even feel righteous and justified in your actions. Step back a second and know how fickle and fleeting some things are. One example today could be the rise in white supremacy violence. This is something set in a time frame. Be wary of being sucked into it.

Public expectations are like a global peer pressure without the cloistered feel of the high school hallway. The enormous pressure to conform is not nearly as great as in high school, once stepping into adulthood we need to have the perspective to know the why of our behavior.

We have so many examples in our recent history and we should be using history as a check-list to see where popular expectations created extreme and unwanted behavior. How about race riots? Violent and extreme, often bloody, at the moment these actions felt justified and needed. How about the McCarthy Era? Conformity to the extreme with idealized images of the housewife wearing a dress, apron and pearls. Today, we know that we don’t want to live that way: right?

Liberal public thought is like standing in shifting sands. Where we stand on homosexuality, abortion, gun rights, the death penalty, race and so many of what we consider the basics will have different slants and changes from decade to decade and from year to year. Let it inform your point of view but be not swayed by a momentary surge in popular point-of-view. If you are angry, something is wrong; find out the why.

One of my favorite trending public expectations are tattoos. They have been popular for a few decades and will surely fall out of style. What will people do who are stuck with permanent markings? Hopefully, you and I will sit back and smile.

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