It’s funny, the things most of us accept as ‘normal’. Though of course there really is no such thing as normal when it comes to most ‘things’, but my point is, as humans, we have an in-built tendency not to question, instead to believe and accept what we hear on the radio, read online or in the papers, or watch on the TV. Our lives are governed and controlled by four main institutions: the government, banks, police and the media. Five if you hold a particular religious belief. Whether we like it or not, it is their decisions which shape our lives. We are force fed instructions on how to live our lives every day. Most of these instructions are accepted and to a large extent followed, because as humans we don’t like to appear ‘different’. Without knowing it we live our lives being more normal than natural. There are endless examples of normality that in my eyes, if they were introduced today, would be thought of as ludicrous. I like to talk about three in particular.
I blogged recently that before I grew into long trousers (I’m talking early 1970s) my mum used to say to me: “If anyone asks what religion you are, just say you’re Church of England”. Why would she say that? Like the vast majority of loving mums she wanted the best for me, and at the time if I’d answered in any other way it may have been frowned upon. See, when I was a child in Bournemouth the perception was a person with a religious faith or belief was more noble than a ‘non-believer’, as if officially announcing yourself as being affiliated with such an institution supposedly based on goodness will, automatically, make you a better person. I would suggest if my mum were the same age now she’d say no such thing. That notion that people of faith are automatically more moral or live their lives with better principles has, over the last forty years, changed. How much it’s changed depends on where you live and your particular upbringing, but if you tried to find a TV or radio programme questioning the existence of a ‘god’ I the 1970s you’d have a struggle. Now atheist and agnostic views are everywhere. Science continues to affect ‘normal’ and science and its effect on society has come a long way in forty years, let alone 2000.
When I was a child, in fact well into my twenties, smoking was normal, a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Inhaling smoke into your lungs that will quite possibly kill you… completely reasonable behaviour. Walking into a bar, pub or club to be instantly hit with a cloud of filthy stinking smoke. Normal. If a smoker’s smoke wafted into my direction it would have been rude of me to, in turn, waft it away. Why? Because the public perception was that, despite the apparent health risk, smoking was okay; in fact some would regard it as quite a cool thing to do. What’s changed? Well, we know what’s changed. Obviously due to the rather large financial benefits the government aren’t going to ban them any time soon, but they still have millions hooked and there’s plenty more profit to be made. No, they’re now undeniably bad for us. It’s official, they definitely have the potential to kill and no matter what ‘celebrity’ smokes them, that can’t be cool. Maybe, hopefully, in another forty years due to, I don’t know, the fact that they’ve killed so many people the government can no longer justify their existence. Despite recent changes to public perception and considering the criminal record given for possession of a different drug which won’t kill you, the fact cigarettes are still legal is madness. One thing is certain; if they weren’t around before now and some oddball entrepreneur came up with the idea… well, I don’t think they’d see the light of day, never mind the light of a match.
So, for the vast majority of kids growing up, eating meat is the norm. A small minority whose parents are non meat-eaters may grow up as vegetarians. Why? Because society tells us that eating animals is acceptable, normal behaviour. You can do the carnivore/omnivore argument; the fact we have teeth designed for ripping flesh… well, I say we’re rather more evolved than that. If the shape of our teeth is the justification for eating meat then why limit our animal flesh intake? Why do we not eat lions and tigers, cats and dogs, or horses? Oh, wait. Of course, I understand the current furore around horse meat found in burgers and school dinners is simply because there’s supposed to be the flesh of a different four-legged animal inside the bun, but really… what’s the big difference between the flesh of a cow to the flesh of a horse? I was going to say clearly not much difference at all, but then we also know the amount of actual meat contained in your average budget burger is minimal to say the least. To eat the flesh of a cow, a pig, a sheep, rabbit or in the case of veal, calves that are slaughtered when only a few weeks old – perfectly normal. But the flesh of a horse? Well clearly in this country at least, outrageous.
Many things that are perceived as normal in the UK would be viewed as absurd in many other parts of the world. So is it tradition? No… we, as humans are reluctant to be too different. Reluctant to say no, I want to wear what I like, say what I like, think what I like and do what I like. We are conformists by nature. To not conform is frowned upon, where in a society like our runs by money, corruption and big business anarchy should really be encouraged and celebrated. It should be seen as a sign of strength. As Krisnamurti said: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” When I was a child sexism and racism was just a normal part of life; part of your family TV entertainment package. Normal changes. Accept nothing. Question everything. Decide for yourself. Normality is nothing to aspire to.