An Analysis: What is the norm?

Image courtesy of Rafeejewell, Flickr.com

This post is part of Not Your Average Week, a TNGG Theme Week.

How can we define what is the norm and what is alternative? To be truthful, we can’t. But at least we can try. Time to analyze!

Let’s say, hypothetically, one day I woke up and got hit by an instant moment of realization. I decided I was sick of it all – that I wanted to trade my job, faith, love for R&B, driving, goal of becoming a lawyer, wearing clothes, partying, thoughts of marriage and having a family, basically all perceptions of normalcy accepted by me and society in general,  for something else.

Then, let’s say, I took pragmatic steps in upturning the current balance of my life and soon thereafter relocated to an unknown island somewhere I could live in solidarity, away from the hustle and bustle of life as I know it. Boycotting technology, taking to nudism, dematerialization, silence, and so on. Without a doubt many would look upon my newfound personal revolution as abnormal, if not altogether crazy.

Take it or leave it, these alterations in perception occur more often than we realize. They are mostly categorized underneath the expansive sociological umbrella of alternatives.The social glue that holds any society together is its defined and restrictive definitions of what is “Normal.”  The viability of this social construct lies in its ability to have defined rules and guidelines of what kinds of behaviors are acceptable. Stray from these boundaries, and you are a deviant.

I have always found the question: “What is normal?” to be formless and incomplete. Regardless of one’s intuitive brilliance, taking this question head on as it is without any further modification would yield a wrong answer.

Normality is a function of time and place. So any question warranting a strict definition of what normal is must have a time and place reference in order to be relevant. For example, what was normal yesterday in Nigeria? What is normal today in Saudi Arabia?

Normal is just Normal.

Often times, when the issue of normality arises, morality is thrown into the mix (especially when considering the creation of social controls), creating a perplexing concoction. When judgments/condemnations are handed down to violators of the norm, it is always a moral judgment.

But morality in itself is an offspring of our perceptions of what we think is normal (Huh? I know. Crazy stuff). Like normalcy, our definition of what is moral constantly changes. A couple of centuries ago, it seemed completely moral for people to be drawn and quartered for hooking up with the King’s daughter. And more recently, once upon a time, segregation and institutionalized racial discrimination towards blacks and native Americans was seen as normal and moral within various societal circles.  But today, these things aren’t only unthinkable; they are fervently thought as immoral and abnormal. Humanity continues to make such vile errors in judgments due to how it has viewed its own perception of things—as stagnant. Rather than accepting the inconsistencies of the human thought as a display of unique human prowess, it fights against it, struggling to keep the “normal” in place for as long as it can, a battle it invariable loses.

Thus far, society has been able to keep the wheels of norms spinning with constant contradictions and perceived clarity.  To deal with this intricacy, I personally subscribe to a mantra: normal is just normal. It is just a term. And like a game of thrones, the perceptual meaning of the most dominant clout wins out in the battle of meanings.

Whatever we think is normal isn’t just because it is in our minds. Normalcy is a product of social constructs handed down, or even shoved down our throats. And every now and then, those who control the definitions of normal through formal measures and informal contracts – governments, moralists, the pope, scientists, philosopher, lady gaga etc. – modify it.

Now What?

People are able to break out of the habit of the prescribed norm into an alternative lifestyle (no matter how small the alteration), evidence of a glaring fact often forgotten – within our minds is seeded the unique power to create reality.  This power must be consciously utilized and cultivated more often rather than merely judged or rejected.

When people breakout into an alternate – be it as little as realizing the futility of technology or as monumental as accepting people’s right to religious freedom – this power of the mind is brought to the forefront. Armed with this thought, it should never be judged as crazy or unacceptable when people decide to alter their realities because any basis for judgment spurns out of someone else’s alteration of reality. The alternate is a change that goes against the norm, and change is the only normal not created. Change is a function of life.

Those who subscribe to an alternate lifestyle (frowned upon by society or not) are wise spirits willing to dare to venture into the non-dogmatic land of purity, not guided fully by the expectations of others or society. They are in tune with the true functions of the human mind. Ralph Emerson once said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

The alternate is the only normal.

Emil Ovbiagele I am currently a first year Law school student at Marquette University Law School. I'm passionate about the things that make us human-- our flaws, hopes, and the social tools that shape our thoughts and perceptions. In my down time, I scribble some poetry every now and then while watching the English Premier League.

View all posts by Emil Ovbiagele

One Response to “An Analysis: What is the norm?”

  1. The Patriot

    ” Rather than accepting the inconsistencies of the human thought as a display of unique human prowess, it fights against it, struggling to keep the “normal” in place for as long as it can, a battle it invariable loses.”

    No wonder the lgbtq community is trying to “force” their views on society. I understand why they feel that this is the only way to achieve equality (keep homophobes “in their place,” they point out). Our unwillingness to change is exactly why there is increasing tension (and even some violence) between those who support progress and their opponents. To all racists, sexists, and homophobes out there: either we all learn to accept change, or we will wind up destroying ourselves in the not – too – distant future!

    ” Stray from these boundaries, and you are a deviant.”

    Actually, it is THOSE WHO SAY THIS who are the deviants. They are completely deluded, as they think that they are “know – it – all’s” – despite the fact that they can’t PROVE their views as being correct!

    Reply

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