As we drove home from my brother’s on Christmas Eve the kids and I contemplated “normal”.
Are we a “normal” family? What does “normal” mean and what does it look like? Am I a “normal” parent? Are your friends “normal”? Are their families “normal”?
Once I “knew” what normal meant, or so I thought. Well the Brady Bunch set the bar, didn’t they? Highly reasonable, tolerant parents – who appeared to have suffered no ill effects from their previous relationships (btw, how did those relationships end?). Awesomely talented, popular and beautiful children – whose banal transgressions were amusing and non-threatening to life or society. And happily and predictably, after half an hour, everything would work out just fine. I soooo loved the happy ending.
The pervasiveness of television on my early reality and personal values only hit home as an adult. How was “normalcy” determined prior to government-sanctioned rhetoric beamed directly into your home? As a child of the tv era, I can never know or understand how life was before tv. TV told us how we should live, what we should aspire to, and indeed what we should consume. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ expanded way beyond aspiring to what the folk next door had – the folk who could afford to live near you because of their similar socioeconomic background. Television opened our eyes to enormous possibilities and created wants beyond our status and birthrights. Dare we dream of these things? Can a girl be educated? Can I have a career? Can I play the game too? Damn straight.
Consumerism really came alive in the tv era. As we wondered whether it was ok to change our lifestyle and were supported by the stories and messages transmitted into our homes. It’s ok to eat fast food; take big-pharma pills to cure our ails; shop in centers and avoid the little guy – even though he passionately knew his stuff; use swear words & be rude to people; all this, we were assured, was “normal”. The facilities to enable consumerism to thrive were quickly provided too. I remember my parents getting their first credit card. A bankcard. bbb. Now we could have stuff we couldn’t afford. Hooray!! As a society, our naivety resembled that of my kids. “Mum just use your credit card!! Dah!”, they tell me. You don’t pay – it’s “free stuff”. Instant gratification.
I recall the Christian camp I attended as a teenager. Their attempt at indoctrinating me was fairly good – we had so much fun, who wouldn’t want to be part of their community. Brady Bunch values – wholesome good fun activities. Unfortunately, they received me as a horny teenager – thirsting for attention from boys and a blossoming body of hormones … so it just wouldn’t stick. But the one message I received from the camp – which stuck to me like gluggy porridge I just couldn’t flick off my fingers – was that credit was the devil. The sign of the devil 666 was remarkably like bbb, they pointed out, and you know what, I think there is some truth in it!!
My children have grown up with computers, the internet and cable tv replacing “normal” broadcast tv. My son mastered the mouse at two years of age, and the little tykes behind him expect to transact on the screen without a mouse only ten years after. During my kids' lifetimes technology will change so dramatically we can barely conceive of the possibilities.
To see such dramatic changes in technology within a generation is previously unheard of, and expectations are the rate of change will increase, not decrease. Will society implode due to lagging ethics unable to keep pace with technology? I know we can’t go back, and sometimes it’s difficult to see forward.
Communication has shifted from TV’s one to many, to the internet enabled many to many. From broadcast, back to person to person. Advertising is so omnipresent it's ignored in favour of trusted testimonial and I don’ think I’m alone. Online forums like Whirlpool, personal networks like facebook, and respected reviewers on Youtube are more likely to persuade a purchase than the enormously expensive TV ad. Who’s word do you trust?? I watch my tech- savv daughter who always surprises me with the contents of her Christmas and birthday gift lists – to see the trends of the young. Where does her inspiration come from? YouTube, snapchat, instagram, pintrest are now normal.
There’s that word again. Normal.
Listening to the wisdom proffered by Robert Anton Wilson – “normal” and “average” are calculations. And as for all mathematics, they are total abstractions. No one is ‘the average’ anything. We are like snowflakes – completely unique. And that is the way it should be.
My life is not an abstraction. Nothing I do is normal.
As you try to fit in and be “normal”, remember there is no such thing. I realise I am not normal and can never be so. And this is truly liberating.
We are all enormously weird, wonderfully unique, amazingly heroic, heart-warmingly funny, ferociously challenging, fundamentally creative, and human.
So, don't be normal. Be You.