“Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.” ~Morticia Addams
It’s normal for a men to be given more money and resources than women. It’s normal for African-Americans to have lower incomes, health and education. It’s normal for a woman to put her husband and family above her personal needs, goals and dreams. It’s normal for a man to put his own sexual desires ahead of respect for a woman. It’s normal for certain people to be born into privilege, have more economic and political power, and for certain other people to be born into poverty and live the “hard life.” It’s abnormal to love or marry outside the bounds set by religion, law, caste, class or race. It’s abnormal for a woman to not be interested in pursuing marriage or to not want children. It’s abnormal for a young black man to be more interested in writing poetry than playing sports; abnormal for to walk down the street in an “English-speaking” country and hear residents speaking languages other than English. It’s abnormal for someone “different” to not want to assimilate, give up their culture and beliefs to be more like the dominant class.
Injustices, inequalities, discrepancies and double standards are passed off as normal – just the way it is – and people’s freedoms and rights are infringed on the basis of them not falling within the dominant class’s category of normalcy. Sometimes people are so afraid of change that they fail to realize that the “norm” is not the ideal but is actually oppressive to many groups. But when the current system gives you an advantage or stability, it is difficult to see its flaws. Even those on the wrong side of those flaws may resist change because, as the saying goes, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
Yet the “natural order” of things is not so “natural.” Humans have created these norms through patterns of domination and strategy, decisions and actions over the course of history. If we so haphazardly and very carefully created this world of haves and have-nots, then we can create a better one. People with power and privilege are not likely to want to change a system that gave them power and privilege, so we really need to stop waiting for those people to “do something.” Such people will appease the masses by giving an inch as they continue to take yards and yards.
One of the first things we need to do is change the way we think. If more people examine themselves, their biases, stereotypes, conditioning and apathy we can stop thinking what we’re taught to think and start thinking critically about the world around us. Critical thinking allows us to question the norms, recognize their flaws, change our behaviors and find solutions. It is crucial to transition from thinking to action.
Changes in our every-day behaviors, choices, how we spend our money, how we treat others, all baby steps in creating a better world around ourselves. Actions that extend beyond, teaming up with others in finding solutions that can have positive impact on a larger scale, is also a big part of re-writing the norms. It’s important to focus on things you can do rather than get frustrated by what you cannot do (right now). The process is slow and uncomfortable – quite opposite to the convenient instant gratification that consumer society is trying to make into the “norm” at the expense of many around the world.