by Kenneth Justice
~This past week I’ve noticed a few out-of-the-ordinary things occurring around me;
–) On Saturday morning I went to the outdoor market and I noticed a couple Rasta-guys (who run a stall selling incense and whatnot) were passing around a joint right in front of a cop….last time I checked we haven’t officially legalized marijuana…but the cops don’t care I guess
–) On Monday I stopped at a gas station (Petrol for my European friends) to fill-my-car-up and there was a couple parked next to the building having sex in their little Honda Civic…it was around midday
–) At coffee on Tuesday a 30ish woman walked in to get her morning Java wearing a lacy see-through blouse….and nothing on underneath, she got quite a few second looks to say the least
–) At coffee yesterday morning I walked in to find a man in a business suit completely passed out on the floor of the bathroom….sound asleep
One of the fascinating aspects of studying culture is asking the question; “What is normal?” Every society that exists on earth lives by various rules and standards and it is these ‘norms’ that help to bring a sense of civility to culture;
—) Don’t murder
—) Don’t grope stranger
—) Don’t steal
The ‘norms’ are often different from one society to the next. Among Brit’s for instance it is considered ‘polite’ to allow for a little distance between each other while talking….but among many Arab countries it is considered ‘normal’ to stand very close together when in a discussion.
Living in the United States is like living in a salad bowl; we have so many different people, races, and cultures all coalesced into one big culture. Of course there are some areas which are still rather isolated (such as rural-Iowa) but since I live in a Metropolitan-area I’m surrounded by men and women who come from a plethora of cultures.
And it is often difficult to determine ‘what is normal’.
In fact, the question of ‘what is normal’ is often turned into a issue of public debate as people from various sides of the aisle argue incessantly on the subject of what should be legal or ‘normal’ for a society and what should be considered illegal or ‘abnormal’ for a society.
—) It wasn’t that long ago when homosexuals were labeled ‘abnormal’ and throughout much of the United States engaging in homosexual behavior was against the law
—) Drinking alcohol was considered a ‘morally wrong behavior’ and ‘destructive’ for society and during the early part of the 20th century the U.S. outlawed it, leading to a dark period in American history
So what is normal? How do you figure out what is normal and what is not? Is everything subjective and is there nothing normal and nothing abnormal? Is there any objective standards we can appeal to determine normal behavior?
One of my struggles while working in the human service field was that I often found myself disagreeing with the psychological elites when it came to their pronouncements of what is considered normal or abnormal.
The psychological community has determined that people who do not possess the necessary psycho-social skills to coalesce ‘naturally’ when it comes to communicating with others in Western Culture are suffering from a disorder they label; Asperger’s…..to which I ask; REALLY???
Why is it that if you aren’t born with a naturally charismatic personality and an innate ability to talk with strangers then you must be suffering from an abnormality? Why does the psychological community get to determine what is normal and abnormal?
In college I wrote no less than 40 essays refuting the findings of Asperger’s Disorder in which I argued that perhaps the problem is not people who have been labeled ‘Asperger’s’….perhaps the problem is Western Culture.
Perhaps Western Culture values things like ‘Charisma’, ‘Charm’, ‘Good looks’ and other similar qualities…too much.
Perhaps Western Culture does not place enough value on, ‘Intelligence’, ‘Logical thinking’, and people who are more ‘Introspective’.
Why does everybody have to be the same? Can’t we allow for the fact that there are different personalities all throughout society?
Yet the sad fact of the matter is if you are not naturally charismatic or outgoing then you will have a more difficult time succeeding in many elements of the business world and social world…..so isn’t there a problem with the ‘norms’ we have created for our culture?
Instead of electing leaders who have great charm or charisma…..maybe we should start valuing other qualities. Think about it; if you are not naturally photogenic or a good public speaker…than you won’t do well running as a politician and being on television.
Many psychologists believe that John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in the Presidential election because of how they both looked on television; it was the first ever nationally televised presidential debate.
Hey, I’m not some Nixon supporter….don’t get me wrong, but I really question whether or not we should be electing leaders because they look good on television or because they are eloquent speakers!
So where does all of this leave us? Honestly, I’m not really sure. It seems to me that we need to have a new dialogue in Western Culture with regards to ‘what is normal’ and perhaps we should change course from where we have been heading.
For now its time for another coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society