When I was a child, filling the gas tank was the cheapest part of owning a car. Houses were also warm. As long as my father was earning money (which wasn’t always the case), during the winter we heated our house to a comfortable 72 degrees. Then, in 1974, the first energy crisis heat. Gasoline got expensive, changing our car buying and our car driving habits. And during the winter, our house went down to 68 degrees.
Fast forward almost 40 years and, while world leaders are fussing about global warming, ordinary people are contemplating alternative energy cars simply because they can’t afford to spend $120 a week to put gas in their fuel tanks. We’ve also continued to downgrade our expectations within our homes. My house is a toasty 62 degrees on this chilly day because the heating bills are too exorbitant otherwise. We Americans have been scaled down. Way down.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how the expectations a nation’s citizens have will affect political structure. The lower the expectations, the more willing citizens are to accept heavy, top-down control. I ruminate on that at greater length here:
As is often the case, a great American songwriter nailed it. Alan Jay Lerner, putting words in Henry Higgins’ mouth in My Fair Lady, had him sing:
An Englishman’s way of speaking
Absolutely classifies him
The moment he talks
He makes some other Englishmen despise him
If you know you’re going to be despised no matter what, you don’t aspire, you just gracefully expire, locked forever into your own low expectations.