Nativitatem Janus Publica

Joe Public, that iconic, abstract expression representing the hypothetical common man, is dying.

Along with his demise, the realm of the regular, the conventional and the commonplace

Roman god Janus symbolizes change and transition much like our overused technology.

Roman god Janus symbolizes change and transition much like our overused technology. We’re beginning to worship it the way Rome invoked him.

will no longer be afforded us in like manner as years past since technology has increased our ability to disseminate and receive even the most minute and routine pieces of information.  Taking his place is a greater, larger representation of the existing soul of society.  News and current events which we once found humdrum will become just the opposite; significant, ultra-important and essential to our social consciousness.

As would befit his grander design, the manner we look at him is changing in ways both subtle and unnerving.  Before as a man of the people, like the people, Joey P. had no illusions of power but rather humbly accepted his place as humanity’s conscience.  Now though, this new version boldly sees itself as judge and jury for the masses and ordinary citizens, its representatives and dispensers of whatever rudimentary punishment his “society” deems fit to hand down.  And once he starts to regard himself as executioner, and us his agents of death, we’re in big trouble.

Everywhere you look, people are using social media to publicly brand, accuse or humiliate one another; and Janus Publica, this new persona we’re slowly becoming, laps it up.  Not only that but Janus demands sacrifices or, at the very least, some sort of tribute; most times arriving as a public apology.  Money, too, is given but these days Janus is concerned about your sincerity also.  How apologetic and penitent you are will be considered in matters of your forgiveness.  Failure to be sufficiently either could cost one his livelihood.  The latest “accusation” was hurled at Eagles Lesean McCoy for failure to leave an adequate token.

Restaurant managers, Tommy Up and Sarah Brown could’ve deescalated the then-potential situation by remembering three simple things:  that people are going to be people, they’re not always going to do what you want or even think they should do and their staff had as much right to be annoyed with McCoy and his paltry gratuity as McCoy had the right to be perturbed with them and to leave them little to no tip.  The problem is that’s where it should’ve and could’ve ended; but it didn’t.

Instead one owner took it upon himself to brand McCoy as a cheapskate; normally a dubious characterization and not one that’s necessarily all that bad or evil.  Yet, from the flood of emails and tweets arriving in support of his decision to do so, one gets the sense that the plan all along was to denigrate the NFL player.

Unfortunately, Janus Publica is not above playing to the baser instincts of his citizenry.  By some accounts, McCoy’s party was particularly rude that day and some people are put off by young successful black men, especially when they’re loud, boisterous and unapologetic.  Whether or not that’s the motivation behind Tommy Up’s disclosure is uncertain but you can best believe that Janus Publica is more than aware that some of his members have already made some ugly assumptions.  In this way, he lacks the discretion and decency that his easier-going cousin, Joey P., brought to the table.

The train of thought used to be that such public accusations were meant solely for celebrities or politicians or those other members of society deemed to “be held to a higher standard of behavior”.  They were the movers and shakers or those that Joe Public looked up to for guidance or as an example in times of trouble.

Nowadays, no such restraint is shown.  This new technology has given Janus Publica the ability to pass summary judgment quickly, sometimes harshly but always absolutely.  He demands complete and unconditional disclosure from all citizens and God help those that don’t afford him such.  Assured of his innate wisdom and goodness, he sees no problem in usurping the regular civil authority existing today.

But unlike civil authorities, Janus is less interested in motive and more interested in the disgrace that’s apparent as each victim is paraded back and forth across the internet or TV for some perceived wrong.  As we watch the spectacle of one person after another being accused over the sphere as a tightwad-stealing money out of the mouths of poor, women and children-Janus fails to tell us the laws regarding the wages of tipped employees.  That managers have to supplement a server’s wages isn’t something He feels is worthy for public consumption.  It’d only muddy the waters and possibly lessen the degradation.

It’s becoming a trend to shame ordinary citizens on the internet for this or that.  Smartphones armed with high resolution cameras are catching many of us at our weakest and most vulnerable moments only to have those minutes broadcasted literally globally within a matter of hours.  In that manner, ordinary citizens are being branded with a new millennium version of a scarlet letter.  Unlike his cousin and predecessor, Janus Publica makes it easy for us to do and tells us even that it’s proper to demean someone for this or that.  He tells us that they have it coming to them.

What he doesn’t tell us is that we all, at any time, could have it coming.

Photo “Janus1” by Loudon Dodd – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons –


Filed under Life and Society, Opinion

2 responses to “Nativitatem Janus Publica

  1. You pretty much got it right. We can either talk about self or someone else. It’s the perception and degrees that muddle it all.

    • ben

      I just sometimes feel like we’re in the beginnings of some sort of sci-fi movie where public opinion is tantamount and judgmental, and deadly. That’s my point; we’re just on the brink of becoming a scary @$$ed society. I know some who would say, “too late!” A pleasure rapping with you…

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