Why “act normally”? Have we acted normally before?

Why "act normally"?  Have we acted normally before?

“It’s time we all start acting normal again!” , I recently read in a message on a social media. A message about Roald Dahl, transgender people, or robbery with violence; Those are the topics that trigger this kind of reaction on social media. You also hear it in real life, that we should start acting normal again, and I always have three thoughts about it.

The first is linguistic: How do people manage to use the word “we” in such a way that you immediately feel like they’re excluding themselves? People who invite everyone to start acting normal again have long believed they were acting normal; You feel that about everything. It’s hard on them, wretched ones, because the world around them is (seemingly) warping at a rapid pace. Despite this, they do their best to stand out as normal in the growing crowd of people who, one way or another, are not behaving normally. All of this is contained in that sentence.

This word “we” is decreasing: it’s the subjectively exclusive “we” for “what we’re doing here, ma’am.” And no matter how friendly the dental hygienist may say “now we’re going to rinse”, this kind of “we” always disgusts me.

After waking up with disgust, my second thought is: When did we all act so normal together? What do you want to return to? Was there a time when everyone acted normally? And then the third thought, of course: What is normal? and who is he?

“When we ask ourselves whether we are normal, we usually want to know if we are like other people,” Sarah Chaney, a London researcher specializing in the history of emotions, writes in her new book. am i normal? This “I” is an all-encompassing “I”: Chaney speaks of humanity and of himself. As a shy teenager, who preferred to hang books with her thick glasses, she wondered: “Do I react to certain situations as others do? Do I look like other people? Do I dress like this? Do I talk like this? Would my life be better if I were like other people?” It’s natural when young Sarah Chaney finds herself simultaneously wanting and refusing to be like her classmates with their penchant for mainstream chart music that she hates.

Reminds me of one of my favorite social and psychological theories, optimal differentiation theory. He says that people like to be “optimally special”, so on the one hand they like to belong securely in a group, and on the other hand they want to be special, themselves, different from others. This is why people like to identify with combinations that suit them well and that are distinctive, so that they definitely don’t suit everyone; It satisfies both of these needs simultaneously. Once you’ve read this once, you’ll see it everywhere: among farmers, scientists, LGBT people, and soccer fans. The mechanism has also been cited as one of the reasons why women’s emancipation has been so slow: “women” in many contexts are too large and amorphous to identify with and feel involved.

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Little Shani optimal differentiation theory No, perhaps because she harbors a healthy distrust of what psychological research suggests is normal. The vast majority of topics in psychology research are WEIRD, meaning the acronym it stands for westernAnd learnerAnd industrialAnd rich And democracy. They are people from Western, industrialized, affluent and democratic societies with a high level of education – a small part of the total human race.

American psychologist Jeffrey Arnett calculated In 2008 that 96 percent of studies published in 2003-2007 in six top-ranked scientific psychological journals came from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Israel, while only 12 percent of the world’s population lives there. In 2010, a group of Canadian psychologists mentioned this account in an article in which they also coined the rhetorical acronym WEIRD and thus it is their article Now Arnett’s words have been quoted more than five times – again by Chaney in her book. That’s how it goes. Tip: If you want success, take a shortcut.

Anyway, what Chaney is about in her book, and what WEIRDe’s themes are a good example of, is this: what is normal in a given area (body, mind, gender, emotions, upbringing, culture) is often determined by over a limited sample It is then imposed as a “norm” on everyone, including those who are unwilling or unable to meet it. Chaney tells, among other things, how black women try to whiten their faces to meet the white Western ideal of beauty and that ideal clothing fits depend on white Western bodies. She also reports that many gay men are used to ‘only’ marrying women (this was the norm), that many drugs are only tested on men (WEIRDe) and that traditional intelligence tests do not measure pure, abstract intelligence, but Western knowledge.

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Chaney writes that what is considered normal is determined by people in power. The content is constantly changing. What is expected of a woman, what people consider normal sex, or a normal baby, what are the normal reasons for crying. “In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” wrote Chaney, “judges still wept publicly in court.” But since the Victorian era (1837-1901) you were supposed to hide your emotions. Chaney quotes a housewife who in the 1950’s compared crying in public to taking your clothes off, but now we’re living in a very emotional time again.

Chaney also writes that in just the past two centuries, the pressure to be normal has become a big deal, thanks to statistics and the normal distribution, a mathematical probability distribution originally used only in the natural sciences. For example, as an approximation: I made a lot of measurements of, say, the distance to a distant star, and when I put that on a graph (distance on the horizontal, frequency on the vertical axis) I got a bump on what that star’s true distance would be – and less Many measurements that were far too far. This graph often becomes one bell curve Or the curve of the bell because it looks like a church bell, but might look more like an Apatosaurus (formerly known as a brontosaurus) with its tail and head on the ground: thin on one side, thick in the middle, and thin on the other side.

In any case, when the Flemish scientist Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874) was one of the first to measure everything about people on a large scale, such as the chest circumferences of thousands of soldiers, he also saw a normal distribution in it, dam. It turns out that all kinds of anthropometrics lead to a normal distribution, height, weight, later also IQ: most people are relatively close to average, and a much smaller number of people are tall or short, very fat or thin, very smart or stupid. average became normal; Normal has often become the norm.

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And Chaney always shows that the natural or “most normal” human being in all respects is a heterosexual white man who was born male, and so often the rest of humanity has to be squeezed into his mould.

Chaney’s book is full of interesting anecdotes, but there’s also a kind of mess in it—or at least it left my brain a little muddled when I finished it, so I reached for the dictionary to look up what Mr. Van Dale thought was normal. And I should have done it earlier, because there were only two meanings, very clearly, (not counting ordinary mathematics): normal is either “according to the rule” or “as a rule”.

So there are two types of normal: normal, descriptive, and didactic. A “That’s it” and “This is how it should be.” And people use them interchangeably without always realizing which one they mean, or without the knowledge of the addressee. Just act normal: Yeah, then you just have to act–but does that mean average, normal, nothing wrong, inclined to boredom, like Jean with the hat and Truus from three-behind high? Or should you aim higher, be able to serve as a standard for others, not be mediocre but good, more than good: a shining example?

And when people say “we” should get back to normal, do they mean by that annoying “we” of themselves, that everyone else but themselves should get their heads down? Shouldn’t we, these other people, stand out? Or do they think that “we” should start doing something (or everything) right again, and that we should all go back to a perfect fuzzy past where something (or everything) was better?

Anyway, “let’s all get back to normal” sounds like the traditional Dutch equivalent of Make America Great AgainMake The Dutch are back to normal, Then they actually did Crazy enough. Do we have to do it all normally again, so we all want to do it? I do not think so.

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Infographics: Sofia Mars

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