The “Overton” Window

I have never considered myself a ‘political animal’ and anybody who knows me finds my involvement, albeit on the fringe, quite incredible. But, as a member pointed out to me the other day, I have dipped my toe in the political world and, to be honest, I am finding it a rather interesting learning curve.

As President of my large (500 properties) community for what will be my 11th year now, I suppose I have always been involved at local level with town halls and I have quickly learnt the influence and clout that local borough councils have here. It’s quite unlike the English mayors who, although respected, are always busy opening fêtes and attending receptions; the mayors in Spain are responsible for the municipal budget. Now, bearing in mind they are voted in and might have little experience of budgets and public spending, that probably can cause problems because as we know, there has been so much corruption but the public is now better educated and less afraid to voice their doubts or disagreement, to ‘blow the gaffe’ so to speak!

So, the Referendum is called, I am already angered that I am not allowed to vote in something so historical as to whether the UK exits the EU and that is something that will affect my life and that of my family here in a fellow member state but I’ve lived in Spain for more than 15 years so wasn’t permitted to vote. Again, anybody who knows me will agree that when I get the bit between my teeth, I won’t willingly spit it out! Hence my involvement with Brexit and why I decided, with a couple of friends, to set-up our group BREXPATS IN SPAIN. However, I don’t think anybody will challenge me when I say that I am extremely democratic and respecting of others. That is something I find difficult to accept – the ‘them and us’ that Brexit has seemingly created. I might not like the result but I do respect it. As an educationalist and eternal student, I know how important it is to listen and learn. That’s the only way one can make an informed judgement. Human nature causes us to instantly form an opinion but it takes a humble person to learn and actually then admit to being wrong. I’m not perfect, of course, I wouldn’t be human, and I shall make mistakes or sometimes even say something I regret but I am never too big to admit that mistake and to learn from it but I will always stand my ground and defend the innocent, gullible or defenseless.

I was talking to a young man the other day and commenting that until the political parties can unite within, it is making it so difficult for us to feel a sense of loyalty to any one party. Gone are the days when we inherited our parents’ political view and unquestioningly voted for that same party because our ideals have changed. I said that my parents used to vote Labour then I came along, a bit of a rebel I suppose, because I bucked the family trend and decided to vote Conservative! Even at that young age I must have been destined for a career in education because my parents also changed their opinion and ended up voting Conservative too! And I said I wasn’t a political animal – I must be deluding myself! Anyway, this young man told me about the Overton Window so I decided to look into it. Joseph Overton devised the window back in the 90s for use in the media to explain the public’s acceptance or expectations of something. It identifies concepts as being Unthinkable, Radical, Acceptable, Sensible and Popular. Used in politics it ranges from the left (Socialist or Labour) to Right (Conservative) and the window should sit comfortably somewhere in the middle. Originally the left-wing supporters were the blue-collar workers of low economic earners and as the scale moves to the right, it goes to the right-wing status of the white collar more affluent society in the mid/upper class. The window defines what policies we will comfortably accept and vote for.

 

Over the years our perceptions have been awakened. We challenge, we do not just unwittingly accept, we aspire for better things rather than the humdrum 9 to 5 existence, we are more ambitious, and what was considered as acceptable, moderate or popular can now be perceived as radical or aspirational. In marketing terms, an aspirational brand is defined as something that a large section of a target audience wishes to own but given its limitations, might never own though still believe it is possible.
As a lecturer of tourism I can equate this to what I have seen with locals of very low incomes in tourist destinations who are envious of the wealthy tourists so try to emulate them. Years ago, my South African family told me how it was very much the done thing for the black locals to carry a briefcase! They probably had little in it but it served as a status symbol to show how well they were doing.

 

On the other side of the coin, to enable the poor locals to equal the wealthy visitors to their country, they prey on them or even steal from them. All quite unacceptable but further proof that our ambition has taken us beyond that comfortable middle line of the Overton Window.

Now we are experiencing this in the political world. Not content to settle on what we have, we are all aspiring for something that might improve our personal circumstances but we are divided in our opinions of how we should achieve it and until the very politicians of the same party can unite I fear that we will continue to succumb to the aggression, bitterness and hatred for those who do not share our opinions and delay our ever achieving it!

The Overton Window should have stamped out unethical journalism but given that the press is politically-biased it doesn’t leave much room for independent, unbiased reporting! The press today seems to delight in fuelling our dislike for others, propagating hate and the resulting attacks ensue. In my opinion, it really does have a lot to answer for!

Sadly, Joseph Overton omitted one very important word when he devised that window – the one word that should have been at the very centre of that scale, that of RESPECT!

 

 

print