Sunday, November 1, 2015

On Normalcy

Ah, the joy of Halloween. Spooky decorations, turning leaves, and everyone walking around a bit, or more, off their usual selves. Halloween is the one day of the year when we don't bat an eyelash at the sight of bizarre behavior, but it certainly isn't the only day when people are bizarre. In fact it seems pretty often that I have a day where no one seems normal, where no one is playing by the usual rules. My default inquiry, the rhetorical question I bellow in vain, is always: is everyone on something? I wonder.
  1. Eleven percent of Americans aged 12 years and over take antidepressant medication.
  2. 22 million Americans take illegal drugs.
  3. 16.6 million adults ages 18 and older had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2013.
  4. Using 2004 Census numbers, 57.7 million people 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
Now add to those hard statistics some general considerations, such as the quantity of people who are:
  1. not diagnosed with the above, but exhibit the symptoms.
  2. pathologically modern (i.e. raised wholly or mostly on pop culture.)
  3. wee-weed up because of media and political hype.
  4. jerks and idiots.
  5. chronically unable to deal with their lives.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that as a whole, there are a lot of people who don't fall into what once was a meaningful category: normal people. You know, people without major vices, and perhaps without major virtues either, but fulfill their duties to man, country, and God with minimal fuss. Who deal with problems quietly and privately. Who don't draw attention to themselves. Who do their job well, but with the humility of a professional. Who are reasonably polite, even if cranky.

There is inevitably the push back against normal, with some in contrast crying that normalcy is stifling to the individual, who should be able to express himself. There is as in all things a balance between extremes, between being belittled by the majority and unabashed exhibitionism. There exists today both extremes: those who follow every trend and the trend of anti-normalcy, that all choices and varieties of lifestyle are equal. Against the onslaught of democratic, multiculturalist, egalitarian variety, with all pleasures on an equal footing, the normal man:
has watched the frenzy of the multitude and seen that there is no soundness in the conduct of public life, nowhere an ally at whose side a champion of justice could hope to escape destruction; but that, like a man fallen among wild beasts, if he should refuse to take part in their misdeeds and could not hold out alone against the fury of all, he would be destined, before he could be of any service to his country or his friends, to perish, having done no good to himself or to anyone else–one who has weighed all this keeps quiet and goes his own way, like the traveller who takes shelter under a wall from a driving storm of dust and hail; and seeing lawlessness spreading on all sides, is content if he can keep his hands clean from iniquity while this life lasts, and when the end comes take his departure, with good hopes, in serenity and peace. –Plato. Republic 6.496cde. Trans. F. M. Cornford
Normal people are fewer, but out there. If that is to be their end, maybe we should have a day to celebrate them since the rest of the year belongs to everyone else.

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