As duality is something of a theme here, it was only a matter of time before it popped up again.
This notion of what has gone before and how it was handled or “managed” is a basis for human law; it is a basis for both academic and corporate governance. People refer back to a precedent to justify. Each time we allow a new approach we are creating a precedent. If for example one turns a blind eye to misdemeanour, we are creating an enabling precedent for further misdemeanour. The thin end of the wedge has been allowed. Before long we have so many precedents that we need a massive library for them.
We rarely consider that how we treat pretty much any situation creates some kind of precedence. “But last time that was OK, how come the rules have changed?”
But here is the thing, precedent is not unilateral. It is two sided, at least. If we treat someone poorly, we are setting a precedent. Sooner or later they refer back to that precedent and think, nah…Or maybe they take that precedent as an example of how to treat others, so the precedent pass-the-parcel game goes on. Precedents can propagate outward and as in the case of Alien versus Predator, they can be widely cited to justify.
To use me as an example. I have done some things which were certainly unexpected, if not unprecedented. How these have been handled has created a stack of precedence reference material which may be referred to later by the “handlers”. It has created a set of precedents in my mind about how people will respond under certain stimuli. On the basis of these precedents I have chosen not to do things because I have a whole stack of precedents. So those “handling” me have their precedents, and I mine. There is no THE precedent, there is at least a duality of precedents.
How people treat me creates precedents.
If one is an experimentalist, as I am, one probes a situation, observes the response and notes the behaviour. It is then logged in my precedence look-up table. “This is the kind of response I have had before. On that basis, that precedent, it is no longer worth trying that approach.”
If someone is trying to do something new there is no precedent for people to refer to. So, because of that lack of precedent, it is unacceptable. Yet they set the precedent of treating the new stuff in a closed way, sending the message we don’t want anything new-fangled, piss off, sling your hook. This further concretizes the precedent for conservatism.
Can you see the circularity that a reliance on precedence introduces?
Those “in power” set a precedent and those “not in power” ought to obey. But those “not in power” take note of the behaviour and store it as a precedent. In revolution, if you suppress the peasants brutally, this can be relied on as a precedented behaviour. So as a revolutionary you stimulate this suppression precedent, it worked before, so it will be repeated. Slowly the revolutionary stimulates so many suppressions that the peasants have had enough and revolt. Ask Tsar Nicholas.
Precedent is not a unilateral thing.
Having cued this up:
How heavily do I rely on precedence?
Is it possible that precedence is in fact a double-edged sword?