The Ambiguity of “Normal”

The Nature of Normal:

We all know the expression or rather, the word normal. Usually, in just about any science or context, it refers to something that occurs most often. However, the way we use it socially and culturally, doesn’t necessarily mean that. Admittedly, it is derived from the more basic definition, that I just mentioned, but it is made vastly more complex by introducing us humans to it, or rather introducing our culture to it.

We human’s seem obsessed with normal (at least a lot of us do, but I will get back to that later). Both when it comes to obtaining/maintaining normalcy, and indeed also when it comes to avoiding it at all costs. Normal becomes the stick with which we often measure ourselves. But what is normal then socially and culturally?

It would seem to be, for the most part, that the mainstream society, has the most to say when defining what is more in the most general societal sense. Whether it be through legislation, cultural tradition or pop-culture etc. They constantly define new norms and values, that all define what it means to be normal in that sense.

The Other Tribes:

It is not without a grin on my face, when I call this subsection what I did. The other tribes, kind of refer to how we as humans; kind of made the words of Pierre Bourdieu (whom I am not the biggest fan of), ring more true than ever. We form our little camps, in his words our habitus, which we stay move around in and interact within, forming our identities through them.

The mainstream can be said to be one, if we put it crudely. But so can all the different subcultures out there in the world. The reason I want to mention this, is because that subcultures, no matter how obscure or small, also have their own norms and values. These, as you may have guessed, also form a definition of what is normal then, within this given subculture.

People that subscribe hardcore to a subculture then, whether it is the crossfit craze, the goth subculture, skating or whatever. Will just as much as any mainstream person, subscribe to a set of norms and values (okay perhaps not just as much in every case, but I will get to that). Thus they start valuing certain things as being normal, within their subculture.

The Ambiguity of “Normal”:

This is where my main point will be made. For as you may have already realized, just be contemplating how the idea of something being normal, can be very different from person to person and (sub-)culture to culture. The meaning of something being normal, start to be very ambiguous. The word kind of starts to lose it’s rigid meaning and definition.

But there is yet another way, in which normal becomes even more ambiguous. It is in the way it can be both a positive and a negative term. It all depends on the context with which it is used. I shall give both a subcultural and a mainstream example of what I mean:

Starting with the mainstream, most of us will probably if we think about it, admit to having witnessed this somewhere. The same person will proclaim that they are anything but normal one moment, as being normal is seen as being boring and not at all a risk taker. Yet then that person and their friends may see someone, that does not fit within the mainstream norms and values, someone that might be a punk or a goth, or just any other sub-culture.

Then the use of Normal suddenly changes. Suddenly the same person that couldn’t wait to distance themselves from being normal before. Will proudly proclaim that “oh they are not normal look at them, their weird clothes” or even proclaim “Look they are weird, why can’t they be normal like you and I (referring to their mainstream friends)”.

Now for the subculture example; indeed things get a bit more tricky here, as subculture people, are often much more open minded. However, they do often carry quite the disdain for the mainstream. So normal carries only a negative connotation (ignoring the fact that they are ignorant, of how they might be subscribing unknowingly to their own ideal of what is normal).

They will see a mainstream person and often call them things like “baige” or “a normie”, “conformist” and the list goes on. The subcultures do have a much clearer opinion of normal, that it is bad to be a conforming norm loving type.

However, they themselves follow their own rules of what is normal, and will also proclaim that that is better, at least in some cases. But their open minded way of behaving, in most subcultures, will often lead them to just accepting others being different.

So it is mainly within mainstream culture, that we find the utter and total ambiguity of “normal”.

Final Comment:

Normal does seem to be on a lot of people’s minds, within and outside of the mainstream. But there are people out there, who truly avoid normalcy, at least in my opinion. These are what I would call reflective minds, some people may call the “woke” (sorry that was my little joke). They pick and choose what they like and dislike in this world, not based on any culture or subcultures norms and values, but purely based on their own preferences.
I hope you enjoyed this rather lengthy blog article, it has been a while since I last posted.

Stay awesome people.

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