Sunday, 4 January 2015

Normal




Here are a list of things ordinary people do. There is no judgement here, no good or bad things. Just a list. You'll check some off and not others. Count them if you like.

Wear PJs
Chew gum
Kiss your dog
Phone friends to chat
Wear perfume
Send Christmas cards
Eat chicken soup
Wear slippers
Get a flu shot
Take cold medicine
Drink coffee
Look at your watch
Smoke pot
Wear leather shoes
Pee standing up
Watch the News
Read your horoscope
Smoke cigarettes
Wear socks
Drink tea
Play X Box
Go to church
Watch reality TV
Go to the hairdresser
Drive to work
Eat McDonald's
Read an e-reader
Watch sport
Listen to country music
Drink juice
Wear sweatpants
Read magazines
Have a manicure
Play Warcraft
Drink soda/pop
Eat Pop Tarts
Wear a hat
Play golf
Go to the library
Eat mints

How many did you get? These are all perfectly normal things, and yet if you showed this list to a Mongolian yak herder she wouldn't even know what some of them were. And she'd only do a few of them. Who is the "normal" person here, you or her? What does normal mean anyway?

Nothing you do is normal. It's normal for you, obviously. You may have grown up doing these things and thought nothing of them, or you may have developed these habits at a later age. Now, you don't think twice, unless somebody criticizes or questions your habits, and the you probably defend them as perfectly normal, if you even bother to respond.

The idea of normal behaviour, as we use the term, tends to means either "familiar", or "what I do" or both. Sometimes we realise this, and sometimes we don't.

We live in a world where increasingly "different" is permitted. We still have an awful long way to go as regards tolerance, but man is it ever different to how I remember society when I was a child. During the sixties everything gradually, gradually became less conservative, and then in the mid-seventies Punk Rock appeared on the scene and I saw some of the strangest reactions of all. I think what I saw was mostly fear.

I love Punk Rock. I wasn't old enough to be that angry but I understood the point of it. I still do. I think really I'm just an old punk. But I was never an authentic punk, which of course is the best part of all, because authentic means trapped. The whole point of punk was to avoid that. By being a punk who refused to pierce my nose or whatever, dammit, I'm punker than punk.

Anyway, I remember somebody I like enormously, so no names here (I think she'd be awfully embarrassed if I mentioned it now....people change) going on a rant about punks when we were out together once, and how they just "weren't normal people". But of course she was. Decided by whom?

Let's look at this. Are the normal ones:

The majority, by sheer numbers?
The most successful?
The most popular?
Those least likely to break rules?
Those who say they are?

Break it down a bit. Fashion is a good reflection of time and place.

Look at this.



There was a time when women wore bustles under their clothes. They replaced the all-around crinoline, and were popular from around 1870 until a little after the turn of the century, and during that time it was a perfectly normal and expected thing for a woman to wear. The image shows an extreme example, nevertheless all bustles required a specialist item of clothing that far exceeded the outlines of the body they covered, which was necessarily quite expensive. The cartoon below suggests that even at the time, not everyone took them seriously.



Quite frankly they were utterly ridiculous.

But I guarantee that if by some remote chance they came back into fashion, they'd be worn by the vast majority of women, yes, even today, because people get sucked into wanting to be like everyone else. You say it wouldn't catch on? Don't be so sure. It has done so once.

The bustle was once NORMAL. It is now so far from normal that to wear one would be an act of rebellion. You'd be laughed at. Called names. Inevitably some people would admire you for your daring. The whole range of reactions. But nobody would see it as normal. Normal is TEMPORARY.

It's also local. You don't see any Mongolian yak herders round your way. National Geographic have taught us that although the modern western look is busy encroaching on all lifestyles globally, and there are less and less people wearing the clothing traditional to their area, there are still differences. It's often quite easy to tell the difference between an American and an Englishman in a photo, by his clothing, even if he is "fashionable", and even if he is young. Especially outer wear, for some reason.

When you travel, it's not unusual to suddenly become aware of how foreign you look. You may not mind, in fact you may think you are better dressed, but it's a strange feeling. This is why foreign travel broadens the mind, and helps you understand what I'm saying about perception of normal, plus it's doable, whereas the time machine is not.

OK, you say, I know all of that. Silly. I don't live under a rock, I know that I have been conditioned into believing western society is normal. I can take it or leave it.

No, you can't. None of us can. Not even the most way-out avant garde freak. It's simply not convenient. At times we all have to go with the flow because to fight it would be too expensive, too risky, or actually, illegal.

I can't build a Hobbit house in Ontario. It's against building code.

I can buy a cow but I can't sell or even give the milk away. Totally illegal.

I CAN however walk through Toronto topless, but as it's January I really don't think I will. Still, just because it's legal doesn't mean there wouldn't be consequences if I did. Because it's not considered normal. I'd get a lot of attention and probably be on City TV tonight. It would be remembered too. FOREVER.

Going against what is normal can be fun, or it can be dangerous. Whatever it all hinges on there being a normal to go against, how do we arrive at that?

1. What we prefer.
2. What is easy.
3. What is legal.
4. What we're used to.

How many did you get on that list at the top again?

How many apply to reasons 1, 2, 3, or 4? Are you sure? Think about it.

Would you like to know how many I got? 0. None. That's actually a list of things I don't do. Depending on the situation however, I'm widely considered to be more or less normal. Why?

I don't own a yak either.



(If anyone wants to buy me a yak, I'll take good care of it.)

2 comments:

  1. You don't drink tea OR coffee, really? How odd...or should I say 'abnormal.' ;)

    Totally enjoyable read about relativity and that middle road/ gray area many of us tend to target. Of the list of four, why does the first one (choice) seem to me to be the most preferred? I think of my own choice to (despite my circumstances) go without a car, which is not (2) easy and something (4) most people are used to. While very grateful for the rides we do receive, perhaps I am most grateful that it isn't (3) illegal to go without. --Although some who do 'go without' can, in certain places, be deemed as illegal (e.g., homeless sleeping on the streets in certain places). It happens to be THEIR normal, even if circumstances could change. How very frustrating all this 'normal' stuff can be!! :/ ~ Blessings! :)

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    Replies
    1. And that's exactly the standard reaction :)

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