On Beyond Overton Windows
Oh the Places You Won’t Go
The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse.
It seems that the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a single “mainstream” population, but many different memetic tribes that have completely different Overton windows. The recent discontinuation of the publication of six Dr. Seuss books shows the divergence in Overton windows. Some people react to this as a terrifying burning of books, while others feel it is a long overdue removal of offensive content.
It also seems likely that this was simply a business and branding decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to stop publishing these books. Was there social pressure? Probably. Is it their right to determine which of Dr. Seuss’ books they decide to publish? Sure.
In this time of many very different viewpoints and perspectives, it feels important to do our best to steel man the other sides, and understand the perspectives of all.
In the grand scheme of things, the amount of mental and emotional energy spent getting upset about Dr. Seuss, or his “canceling,” reveals the state of America. If some children’s books going out of print is such a huge issue in our society, perhaps watching The Dissident, or learning about what’s going on today in Myanmar, or Ethiopia, right now, might shed some perspective on how relatively lucky we actually are, as Americans.
Are there real problems in America? Of course. But, Dr. Seuss? Really?
On Beyond Zebra is one of my favorite nostalgic childhood books. I’m glad I have a copy of it at home. Guess it’s worth a lot of money now.