Normal is a word that means different things to different people. As one writer rightly said, what is normal to the spider is chaos for the fly.
Looking at this month’s Election results, a lot of talk is arising, especially about how it is that people were conditioned into accepting a myriad of very dangerous things to become just another part of their lives.
Normalization occurs, mostly, in places where one would least expect it. It occurs around us every day so that we start to feel like the people we see on big screens are just that-people. Like us. Though their furniture may be dipped in gold, they still go to sleep at night, still like to eat pizza and even might share a sense of humor with us.
After this year’s result, a lot of the people we see around us took different approaches towards accepting what they think is bad news: while some took to the streets to protest the decision, even more people set out to understanding the mentality, the anxiety and the fears behind the decision that made a vast, perhaps white, majority so afraid of the economy, immigration laws or perhaps even Black Lives Matter, that they went in a direction that is radically different from the one they had been on before. While this rush of empathy and understanding is noble enough it is giving birth to a problem- By being empathetic to this type of logic, we’re giving rise and rights to an identity politics that stems from denying other people theirs.
To understand this normalization, we must first understand Americanness. The American experience isn’t an ethnicity- at least it hasn’t been for a long time. When so many communities reside together, it isn’t uncommon to take complex ideas from everywhere and to translate them into a language that is easy to understand for everyone involved until the threat of something new transforms into something very acceptable. And while this methodology is useful on multiple levels-from advertising a new product to helping teach the masses something they need to know, it can also be used to one’s personal advantage, completely shirking the interests of the masses.
A recent documentary by British Filmmaker, Adam Curtis, entitled ‘HyperNormalization’ discusses the topic of normalization in a very simple way. Though the documentary is too long to explain here, it is based, simply, around a world where reality is just another con being produced by keeping the interests of politicians and corporations in mind. “No one could imagine any alternative,” Curtis says in the documentary. “You were so much a part of the system that it was impossible to see beyond it. The fakeness was hypernormal.”
If one needs a reference for such normalization, one can visit the situation as it was only after the 9/11 attacks when people were accepting panic and danger into their lives as something that had become a daily routine. It saddens me to say but this past month and especially these past weeks will soon be forgotten as well. Many of us will forget the fear and the panic that arose in our chests when we first saw those results. Though these days are already part of the past, the key is to remember them. Because though the past is already there, it is still up to us to write it and to make of it what we will-a lesson either well-learnt or one that if it isn’t learnt well enough, will inevitably have to repeat itself.
Of course, as there are two sides to every picture, there is also the silver lining that DID bring us Barack Obama in the first place and almost brought us Bernie Sanders as well. The silver lining lies in the fact that today, there are many of us who are too young to go out and vote yet. And in the current light of things as they are, though they might be living in the ‘what is’, their eyes will more often than not be on the ‘what might have been’ and hence, what might come after might be a better, brighter world where normalization will be of things that don’t terrify us but rather make us glad to be alive. After all, these past 8 years, though not perfect and though definitely not a fantasy did happen. So here’s to hoping that what comes after is better than what we are going through right now.
image: John Locher/AP