This post started off as a reply to another blogger’s post, but it grew and took on a life of its own.

It’s interesting how our worldview affects what we focus on and how we evaluate other people. When news breaks about a person who has transgressed their employer’s or college’s code of conduct – usually by their sexual behaviour – a common reaction supporting the organisation is that the person know what was expected of them and they broke the code of conduct. The counter-argument is that no organisation has the right to attempt to regulate ostensibly private behaviour. The problem with this is that any behaviour, no matter how private, will eventually become a topic of public debate. Same sex relationships, for instance, or using drugs. People will eventually ‘come out of the closet’ – whatever their private behaviour is – and seek for it to become acceptable.

Society itself, which consists of individuals – regulates behaviour; first informally, by changing attitudes through media and peer pressure, and then formally, by codifying those attitudes into laws. At one time an act was considered immoral (the first instance) and outlawed (the second instance). Then over years; decades; even centuries; beliefs change and then the laws change to reflect the belief. In a democratic society, anyway.

When an attitude enters into national consciousness, attacking that sacred cow gets you into trouble. This is true of any group you become involved with: they all have their taboos and standards of behaviour; break them and you will be ostracised and insulted and even threatened. You might be called a liar or misogynist or racist or intolerant. Apart from the hurt that being called names engenders, the interesting thing psychologically is that we act out of what we ourselves are like or what we focus on. A lawyer sees legal problems; a doctor sees medical problems; an engineer sees construction problems.

We become intuitively more aware of the issues that we’re experienced in and tend to minimise the importance of other issues. A person who is used to hearing people lie – or who themselves lies easily – tends to assume all people lie. A person who values order in society sees rules as for the benefit of society, and a necessary evil, and organisations as trying to maintain order and fairness, and consider the insistence on individual freedom as narrow-minded, not seeing the big picture. The person focussed on rights and freedom will focus on the other side: the freedom of the individual, and consider other people, who speak of order in society, as narrow-minded, not valuing enough the freedom of the individual. This estimation of them might be correct; it might not. Either way, we treat them as if they are, and this destroys empathy and respect for them and the willingness to learn from them.

We tend to associate people too closely with their views, so if we disagree with a view we might also reject the person who holds it, and also reject what good they have to offer, or what truth there is in their comments; and so we limit ourselves, staying in our warm cosy shell, not growing but just becoming hard ourselves. Mind you, that might be preferable to the discomfort of taking the other way: nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable. Makes you late for dinner.