Normal describes beliefs or behaviors considered natural, proper, and permanent. Normal implies innate and unchallengeable. We don’t alter what’s normal. We don’t question what’s normal. Critical attention to what’s normal atrophies. “Normalization” and “there is no alternative” are conceptual soulmates.
Lately, for example, we normalized clickbait. We normalized Tweets. Hello twenty first century lying and incivility. Goodbye attention span. But there is so much more. We accept simultaneous enrichment of billionaires and impoverishment of paupers. We moderate inequity, but we don’t eliminate inequity. We take inequity to be normal. And inequity escalates.
Even though extremely messed up, the nuclear family remains untouchably normal. Teenage suicide thrives. You avoided suicide? Congratulations, go to jail. You avoided jail? Congratulations, jail others. You opted out? Great, just watch. And while we watch, guns proliferate. Bullet riddled bodies accumulate. So we bury the dead, and the living too. Get an automatic weapon at the mall. How long normal?
Attenuate racism. Diminish religious bigotry. But of course don’t end the division of humans into races, religions and other contending teams. After all, that’s normal. Hooray for my team. Screw yours. Meanwhile markets allocate kingly wealth to some and starvation to others. Politicians buy and sell elections as sport. Who won, we all lost. Normal.
And speaking of sport, sports commentators discuss whether athletes’ salaries should be a little higher or a little less high, but not whether they are utterly, grotesquely insane. I speak here of 50 million dollars for a ballplayer per year, or a quarter billion or even a half billion for five or ten years. Normalized by uncritical reporting, these incomes are a given of today’s games. Fans who can barely pay rent find these incomes normal. They earned it, we say. They give some away, hooray. And the same holds for the business game. The business of business is, after all, to profit, and to seek profit is of course normal. So a few own communications, health, art, land, warehouses, factories, and everything else. They ride. The rest own three shirts, two pants, a toothbrush. We get ridden. But hey, class division is normal. It is beyond challenge. You want more? Get an Uzi. Normal.
Birth is a battlefield. Schools enforce bored obedience. Elected buffoons defund libraries. Bribed mayors militarize police. Reward the rich. Impoverish the poor. Commodify everything. Spew pollution, because, well, pollution pays almost as well as mass cremation. So do that too. Like gravity or aging, it’s all normal.
Toxic masculinity and masculine toxicity. Fentanyl poisoning and health care bankruptcy. Black lung disease and fossil fuel dependency. Bribery in command. Power corrupted. Tweedle bad and Tweedle bad-er seek office to sanction countries, to penalize populations, to serve up bombs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hard rain falling. Death on parade. Where’s the sky? We weep. We curse. But we also shrug. After all, it’s all normal. Make the best of it.
Temperatures climb. Salt water rises and fresh water disappears. “Have a nice day” says everyone as everyone’s days become nastier. Commodities define culture. Caring dissipates. Ubiquitous digital eyes surveil us. Universal unaccountability coerces us. Lies nurture more lies here, there, and everywhere. Greed proclaims itself wise and good and labels generosity naive and stupid. Get ahead. Ignore the fallout. Collateral damage? It’s normal.
Laws subvert justice. Cops kill. Hate as roadmap. Deprivation waits around every corner. Gimme my gun. GPS me to safety. Society’s pliers pick at my soul. Young people fear every shadow. Live the lie. Hand it on. Atomized and old, die alone. All of it normal.
We ban books, strangle love, and commodify sex. We ghost people. You need support, need conversation, need knowledge, need your needs met? No problem. A robot named Jennifer or Clyde will be yours soon. Your own private slave awaits orders. Hooray, normalization is just a click away.
Dr. Strangelove maps our future. Pundits calmly discuss multifold annihilation. We weep, or we stare blankly, or we grab what little there is to privately partake of as we ignore what could be there for us to collectively share. Is this civilization’s destination? Does humanity’s giant evolutionary and historical march of the ages overwhelmingly finally end at depraved, deprived, uncaring, myopic stupidity? USA, USA, USA! Do we really want to celebrate being a source, birthplace, and cemetery of such ugly normality? Do we really accept that? Do we just turn the other cheek to make believe all is well as we barrel toward hell?
Deviate a whit from what Big Daddy deems normal and you are abnormal. Perhaps we should normalize abnormal. Here are some other things we might seek to normalize in our minds, actions, and new institutions.
Life after birth. Children’s rights, adult’s rights, and elderly rights. Empathy, patience, and respect. Free medical care. Free daycare. Free schools. Everyone inspired and empowered to be their most inspiring and empowering selves. Inspiration and difference as ally. Boredom and homogeneity as enemy. Private intimacy and intimate privacy. Mutual aid.
Collective self management. Socially meaningful work. Space and means for all to freely speak, write, worship, and assemble. Space, means and even support for all to freely dissent. Cooperation as means. Justice as goal. Safety everywhere. Rehabilitation where needed. Punishment nowhere.
Solidarity not anti-sociality. All self management. No bosses. Income for effort and sacrifice, not for power, property, or output. Personal aggrandizement and profit as the past. Human development and fulfillment as the future. A commons of all productive property. Production as creative expression. Consumption as shared nourishment. Ecology as our home. Home as our ecology. Individual well being to fuel collective well being. Collective well being to fuel individual well being. Life and life only.
Imagine all that as normal. Food, water, nature, knowledge, skills, art, sport, intimate care, dignity, respect, solidarity, friends, love, and creative engagement for all. Imagine all that. Win all that. Live all that. Normalize all that. Why not?
Do it because another world is possible. Do it because it is better late than never. Do it, or, well, we all die. Do it, or who the hell are we?
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