Why ‘Normal’ is Dangerous

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Want to get back to normal? Be ‘normal’? Don’t. It’s dangerous. It’s about to become lethal.

Normal. It feels safe, doesn’t it? The ‘I’m normal’ or ‘things coming back to normal’ feeling. Normal is a gauge, more like ‘the gauge’ even – to most people. A goal. Something safe. And it may be – in singular cases or settings. In most cases – and of course we don’t like to hear this – it’s more like organized laziness. Put that way it suddenly sounds a lot less attractive, right?

Normal is the opposite of emergency, of crises. Predictability, stability, apparent safety etc. And we don’t want emergencies and crises, do we? 

Before you answer ‘no’, think about what happens in crises and emergencies – regardless of type. People come together, help and care for each other, share etc. Psychologists call it the ‘pull-together effect’. It’s what happened in most countries and societies during WWII.

It’s what recently transformed Ukraine from a divided nation with lots of problems to a united country becoming a formidable military powerhouse – in 18 months. The problems didn’t suddenly disappear, but the priorities changed. It’s what happened to most of us during the pandemic. Did you know that suicide rates dropped during the pandemic? Interesting, isn’t it? Emergencies and crises drive creativity, community, purpose, meaning.

Fast forward to the climate crisis – does that mean it’s good? Of course not. Crises and emergencies – wars, flooding, earthquakes, drought etc. – aren’t desirable. But the effects of having to deal with them are. Which is what a recent book is about: Facing the Climate Emergency (2nd ed) by Margaret Klein Salamon. In a compact, engaged and sometimes brutal Substack post, Jessica Wildfire is introducing the book and focusing on our dangerous fascination with ‘normality’:

Normal is what keeps us from talking about our problems. Normal is what persuades everyone to put their own self-interest ahead of everyone else. Normal is what makes us work 70 hours a week for starvation wages.
Normal is what tells us to spend money we don’t have chasing curated happiness all over Instagram. Normal is why you feel like you can’t have children. Normal is why you can’t afford a house.”

She also points out that …

A Yale study on climate change communication found that 70 percent of Americans are worried about climate change. More than 30 percent of them are deeply worried. And yet, only 9 percent are talking about it. “

We’re worried, but afraid to rock the boat. Survival instinct is fighting against laziness – and losing.

Which is my bottom line: Talk more, do more, worry less. ‘Normal’ is history at best, dangerous at worst. Emergencies bring out the best in us. Think about it.

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