Just what is the ‘new normal’, anyway?
Cartoons aside – and aren’t there times when we all wished we had the freedom of a well-drawn and pithy little color and ink sketch – what do we mean when we say something like “the new normal…?”
Perhaps it might help to define what we mean by ‘normal’; and then move on from there.
Of course, that’s probably just asking for trouble.
A rather specific species of trouble, likely to follow me wherever I go in this post…
Oh, what the hey… let’s just go for it!!!
(As an aside, the idea of Gangstagrass delights me to no end… kinda like the idea of Lawrence Welk (remember all those accordions?) doing psuedo-progressive/psychedelic metal/rock, in Latin, ala the following:
… all while doing a square dance, or maybe a polka – or six… I’d pay good money to see something like that… Hey, Spielberg! Get on it, will you?)
Dictionary.com defines normal as the following:
1. Conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
2. Serving to establish a standard.
- approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment.
- free from any mental disorder; sane.
7. The average or mean:
8. The standard or type.
As regards the subject of the above cartoon, adj. #1 would appear to be, unfortunately, somewhat relevant.
Adj. #2 scares the bejeezus right out of me… that it actually might apply.
For adj. #3, part 1, I would postulate that we had an average intelligence two presidents ago – specifically, a ‘C’ average intelligence – and look where that got us.
As to part 2, I think that would clearly disqualify anyone who actually wants the job, and thinks they could do it very well.
As to the nouns… well… clearly the word ‘mean’ would apply.
Though not the, um… meaning, that dictionary.com… um… means…
And certainly the type of characters we’ve been getting these last two-hundred plus years leave a lot to be desired, standard wise…
But what do we, um, mean, when we say something like ‘the new normal?’
It could be construed as somewhat celebratory; pertaining to man’s ability to adapt to threatening new dangers within his environment. Or to extol us to quit our whining and just accept current conditions as the way that things are; so all you people had better get on board with all of this.
Statements that extol in such a manner, I’ve noticed, seem to always get made by the people who have a stake in ‘the new normal.’ Such statements get made by lazy sociologists or reporters, who’ve noticed that things have changed (or have they?), but can’t be bothered to do the work to figure out why they’ve changed… or haven’t… and certainly wouldn’t be paid for their efforts if they did so…
So why bother…?
Statements that use phrases like ‘the new normal’ are an attempt to spin the current situation.
It’s a clever bit of lexicographical prestidigitation, in which two disparate concepts are shoved into co-habitation, and we’re so dazzled at the fancy grammatical footwork, we never stop to consider whether the new bed partners are even compatible.
They’re not, by the way…
‘Normal’, the way I see it, can’t be ‘new’.
New is, by definition, different.
‘Different’, given the above definitions, is not ‘normal’.
If ‘normal’ is constantly changing, then it would be that ‘change’ that’s normal.
‘Normal’ might indeed evolve over time.
But never fast enough that we’re conscious of it’s movement.
If we’re conscious of its movement, then what we’re attempting to define is not the concept of ‘normal’, but some other mass indoctrination of society.
An ‘evolving’ normal is a concept I might be willing to entertain.
Although, given current circumstances, ‘mutant’ might be a better choice of word.
Think Juggernaut, from the X-Men movies…
But to create phrases like ‘the new normal’ shows that people are much more interested in the coining of new idioms – being the first across some mystical language line – rather than in facilitating communication between people.
To take two concepts that are antithetical to each other, and cram them together in such a way that part or all of one word no longer applies, is to be socially exclusionary.
Corporations and trades do it all the time.
They create their own version of language, and if you don’t speak that language, you’re not allowed in the ‘club.’
All you have to do is remember the first time you tried to call a help line for your computer.
How constructive an experience was it? The two of you might as well have been speaking Swahili and Klingon, for all that you understood each other.
And to the computer geek, you were the problem.
The one who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase such a fine machine.
Anyone who can’t speak the language is an outsider, and to be shunned.
Whether it’s finance, or construction, or business speak – have you seen your cheese lately? – if you can’t speak the lingo, you’re the one who shouldn’t be allowed out of the house without adult supervision.
They’re the ones who changed the meaning of the words, but you’re the idiot.
We simply mustn’t go on using words in this manner.
Words are there for our aid, and mutual comfort.
They are there that we might communicate with each other, and learn how to live together.
When words are used to exclude people – whether in a particular segment of an industry, or across entire swarths of society – then the motives of those using those words are revealed for the anti-social things they are… and were always meant to be…
“You don’t count. Because you don’t use words in a way that I approve.”
And thus are the same old, ever-new barriers raised to understanding everywhere.
It’s like Inigo Montoya said:
“You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Or Hobbes, from one of the great cartoon strips of all time:
“I think we’d recognize normal if we saw it…”
Image found here.