I have hear many people wishing to return to ‘normal’. It makes me sad because I want to say this – please understand that your ‘normal’ never existed. It is a construction which has been used to seperate and bestow upon a privileged few a life of (relative) luxury, comfort and on-demand services, whilst resigning the majority to a standard of ‘normal’ far inferior to what you would consider adequate for yourself.
Think about this – how many times recently have you heard someone criticise Chinese eating habits as being ‘not normal’? Yet no one bats an eye (accidental pun but I stand tall) at the miserable life (42 days on average) of a battery farm chick because we consider that ‘normal’. Have you ever heard someone describe Africa (the whole continent) as being ‘incapable’ of achieving normality? Yet most Westerners don’t think it abnormal to homogenise millions of independent identities into a single restrictive narrative. What about more locally; how often have you heard someone disparage a person living on the streets as ‘deserving’ of such a fate? They must have done something to end up in such abnormal circumstances. And yet, now that 1.2million new benefit claims have been made in the UK since the start of lockdown, it would break from the norm to believe that help shouldn’t be offered to these people. It would fracture the new normal of national unity to suggest that they should have done something to protect themselves against such abnormal circumstances.
These examples are all a roundabout way of saying – question your standard of normal. Is your standard of normal depriving someone else of that same standard? Are you someone who is considered abnormal? Is that normal? What the fuck even is normal?
And now, a fable: I believe in the law of threes – if the universe tells you something three times; listen. There is a story I was told by three separate people when I first moved to the Czech Republic. I take no credit for this story and I’m sorry if I butcher it wrongly. I think, though, that it is important to consider in these abnormal times.
There once were three people held captive in a dark, damp cave. They were chained to the cold stone wall of the cave, so restricted that their only view was of the wall in front of them. They had been chained like this for so long that none of them could remember ever being anywhere else. The walls, their wrought iron chains and the hard dirt floor were all they knew. Moreover, so unaware were they, of the irregularity of their circumstance, that none of them had ever meaningfully acknowledged the cave entrance just behind them.
One day, the chains of one captive snapped off. Unused to the freedom, the now released captive turned from the wall. The exit to the cave beckoned invitingly. Outside awaited a whole world the former cave dweller had never known. Beauty and comfort, friendship, happiness, the likes of which did not exist in captivity. Determined to show these joys to the remaining captives, the now free person returned to the cave.
With the perspective of this new world, the now freed captive could observe the squalor of their cave existence. Entering into the darkness, the two remaining captives were staring at the stone wall, still chained to their places. The free person began to extoll the virtues of this bright world outside. If only they would turn their heads and look! The two remaining captives had never turned their heads. They had never been given cause to. They became frightened by the exuberance of this third person. Perhaps in their fear or because of their ignorance to the truth of their condition, the two remaining captives got up from their places and killed the third. They then returned to their places and resumed their cave wall vigil.
Now the chains have fallen off, which person do you want to be when this is over?