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Normal

by on April 22, 2020

Normal

by Marco M. Pardi

The condition of alienation, or being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. R.D. Lang. The Politics of Experience. 1967.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are also open for comment.

For many years a common truism in popular psychology has been that clients in counseling feel much better when they are told their fears and fantasies are normal. It seems there is some innate desire to conform to the group to which one feels he or she belongs. This desire takes over even when we know there are problems. For example, we talk about sunrise and sunset even while knowing the sun does not move; it is an acceptable cultural illusion. But we don’t refer true believers in sunrise and sunset for psychological counseling, or at least a primary school science class. As the hideous phrase goes, we go along to get along.

Of course, there are escape valves from the culture game, if only imaginary. As a youngster who never seemed to fit in I slipped quietly through the folding doorways we call book covers, into societies of the past and societies of the future. In a well structured narrative I could feel quite normal. But at some point I recognized the problem: As long as I brought ME into that society everything was actually abnormal precisely because I was a person of one era slipping into a life, albeit fictional, in another era. And that, making everything new and strange, was the attraction. But if I had somehow truly been in that era I would have no awareness of a person from another era. I would feel normal. That is, no different from the person I was without the book. SNAFU (situation normal, all fucked up).

So, all these years I’ve been living in the normal, until the abnormal election of Donald Trump. And since then I’ve been advised to get used to the “new normal”. But what exactly is, or will be that new normal? At first it seemed to be a U.S. president who lied about everything. It was not that lies were never told before, but never told in these numbers and about anything and everything. But after the press counted over 17,000 outright lies and misleading statements we stopped getting the daily or even weekly counts. I guess we reached the new normal. Oh, Trump is speaking; it’s all lies. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

And then something new came along. And, of course, Trump lied. He said it was not as bad as the yearly flu. He said in the first warm days of Spring it would disappear “like magic”. How are these lies and not just mistakes or wishful thinking? Because early last Fall he was warned by the medical divisions of the intelligence agencies exactly what we were in for. His earlier de-funding of the scientific panels comprised of experts from across the science community to assess and develop mitigation for pandemics did not stop that community from also warning him….again. But there were deals to cut, money to be made, and career professionals who testified at his impeachment hearings to fire.

Okay, so we know stupidity yields bad results. Trump has been here a while, the country is more divided than it has ever been since the Civil War; this is normal. But covid19 is still relatively new, and so it merits examination for what it may usher in as the “new normal”. In times like these it is vitally important that we are aware of, understand, and take steps to rectify what we don’t see as much as what we do see.

The general public apparently does not see that, while our eyes are on the apocalyptic cloud of covid19, our lives are being changed, and even threatened by an orgy of de-regulation, hand-outs to mega-pollutant industries, incubation of a host of diseases in overcrowded holding facilities for migrants and asylum seekers, and rushed appointments of ultra-conservative judges to oversee it all.

And once the pandemic is under an as yet undetermined level of control, awaiting us all is the prospect of returning to jobs, gratuitous shopping, packing ourselves into mass transit vehicles, frolicking at “concerts” and sporting events; a better normal than ever before. Or so we are told. By a man who lies about the day of the week.

New normal. A recently completed and peer reviewed study from Harvard confirms what we have suspected for decades: Environmental pollution, particularly air pollution, provides the “underlying condition” that greatly contributes to fatalities associated with pulmonary viral infections. And, figures are already clearly showing higher corvid19 fatality rates in areas of the country blanketed by greater intensities of air pollution. But, the regime in the White House has made it clear they value money more than human life, or any other life on the planet. The regime is removing controls on the coal industry, allowing much greater levels of mercury, arsenic, lead, acid gasses, and lethal particulates to enter the atmosphere from coal fired plants.

This action by the regime rolls back the more than 80% reduction in mercury in the past decade. Mercury causes brain damage in infants. Although airborne in coal plant emissions, it settles in fresh water and penetrates filtration systems to find its way into drinking water and products made with water. No problem; both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are being emasculated to the point of being meaningless. Thus, no violations.

Arsenic, chromium and nickel are carcinogenic. Lead damages children’s nervous systems. Acid gasses cause serious lung disease. All are multiplying exponentially in our environment under the regime’s deregulation.

The Clean Air standards in place until the Trump administration saved 11,000 lives per year and prevented 7,400 heart attacks and thousands of asthma attacks. The health cost benefits were over $90 billion per year, outweighing the costs at a 9–1 ratio.

One would think a political party that loves money more than life would jump at that cost ratio. Well, no. Not when the owners of the for profit health and insurance industries are almost exclusively members of that same political party. They fight the Affordable Care Act and MediCare and MediCaid while promising (for decades) to provide a better health plan. So far, that plan seems to go as follows: The regime’s policies make you sick, you gladly pay to get well. Or, you die. Welcome to the New Normal.

As the fossil fuel industry, the truck and auto manufacturers, and the beef and pork producers frolic amidst the severely reduced emissions standards, particularly the super planet warming methane, the majority of people appear largely unaware of the melting circumpolar permafrost and its implications. Permafrost is a mixture of organic material and soil frozen in place for thousands of years. As it melts due to global warming vast amounts of methane from decomposed organics are released into the atmosphere, hastening the melting further. But along with that released methane is an unknown reservoir of hitherto dormant viruses, known as paleo-viruses. It is almost certain that many, if not most of these paleo-viruses have never encountered Man. And, of course, we therefore have no herd immunity to them. How are these paleo-viruses a threat for those who do not go near the polar regions? Simple. As the exposed soil dries and breaks down to dust the circumpolar winds, including the Jetstream, pick up the dust and blow it around the planet. I’m betting some of that dust in your home is micro-sand from the Sahara, and dust from Siberia.

The current political party in power in the U.S. has a long history of trashing health sciences, even defunding programs such as pandemic preparedness and response groups. All while rushing to provide us with the next pandemic.

Another landscape change we are now getting glimmers of is the effect of isolation, social distancing, home schooling, and unemployed family members on the children who will survive this pandemic. Calls to Domestic Abuse Hotlines have skyrocketed. Gun sales are soaring (gun dealers are considered “essential businesses”). Schools districts that can afford to do so are delivering meals to kids at their homes, or the kids go without. And districts that can afford it supply cheap laptop computers to home bound children so they can continue their school year. Of course, in areas with no internet access this issue is pointless. In homes where the electricity has been cut off because the now unemployed parents can’t pay, this issue is pointless. To worsen matters for children, several Republican governors are trying to completely ban all abortions – except a few “saving the life of the mother” – in their States under the utterly spurious guise of “conserving needed Personal Protective Equipment”. This condemns women to carry and deliver babies they will never be able to care for, seriously detracting from their ability to care for children they may already have.

An untold number of children are seeing their beloved pets dumped, at shelters or on the street, because their families can no longer afford to feed and care for them. I wonder how this shapes the psyche of the child.

But the ultimate example of Pointless might be what had up to now been the child’s willingness to enter into and contribute to what he had thought was a well functioning society. Can we now fault a child for turning his back on the pointless?

So what is to be our “new normal”? Will it be the incredible, never seen before, beautiful economic rebound promised by the loud mouthed, rotund carny-barker in the White House? Will it be a generation of young people hardened to think and act only for themselves as our planet becomes unfit to sustain human life? Will they see government service as merely a pathway to the satisfaction of greed? Or will there be an awakening that will throw off the nightmare that ignorance and frank stupidity has brought us?

Will we notice? Or will it all be “normal”?

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11 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, I finished this post covered in goosebumps. It may be the single most important thing I’ve ever read.

    Someone asked me at work today if I want grandchildren one day. I thought they were kidding. I absolutely cannot imagine anyone at this point forcing this life and such a grim outlook upon any future human.

    Many might ask where my hope is. As we know, “hope” is an empty notion only to make us feel better.

    I haven’t given up, and that’s why I sign petitions and will one day exercise my right to vote. I don’t give up because I still find my bits of joy, and I have two millenial children who may very well see an Ice Age.

    This post should be widely broadcasted. But, from my observations of the nearly 500 people encountered during my work week. the majority walks around clueless – seeking fluff. And sadly, that seems to be “normal.”

    Like

    • Dana permalink

      And that’s is around 500 people per day 4x per week.

      Like

    • Thank you, Dana. If I thought wishes had any power I would direct my wishes toward wiping away all these problems. Some claim we are “put here on this Earth to learn through solving problems”. I find that an unspeakably sick way of dismissing the misery and the deaths of so many who didn’t know they were supposedly born into a grading system which relegated the lesser performers to such a fate.

      As a parent and grandparent I empathize with your reticence about grandchildren and I strongly applaud your dedication in signing petitions and in trying to present others with the opportunities and the tools to learn.

      Like

  2. From Ray: Good column Marco – it seems all a bit hopeless and very sad right now. Some guy in Nova Scotia just went on a shooting spree killing over twenty people before he was finally stopped – and this is Canada where we actually have gun laws. Was it the isolation we’re experiencing or the sadness of knowing how many are dying and that this might have been prevented – at least the worst part of it.

    Thanks for writing.

    Like

  3. Thank you, Ray. Of course, it’s always bad when gunmen such as this are killed before they can be interrogated. A thorough “psychological autopsy” will be conducted, but will almost always leave us with doubts about the actual cause. I am sorry for the people of Canada that this happened.

    Like

  4. Amber Lanham permalink

    Thank you for this.

    Like

  5. Steve permalink

    I think it is very easy when so much seems to be going wrong to maintain a very bleak outlook of the world. My first nature is not as an optimist. However, I’m trying extra hard to be one these days. The cynicism that pervades most people I speak with is pervasive. Being informed about what is happening around us is crucial. So is looking for small ways we can change things for the better. The notion that we’ve “finally done it” and it’s too late can be just as devastating to a child as many of the things you mentioned. We could potentially leech their ability to strive to be better, to hope and to love life by constantly leaving them with this impression. If we’re not careful, our outlook could be damning them to a slow plodding death as apathetic homunculi. Why bother, when it’s too late? We need critical thinkers seeded with the idea that they can do better. Raising a child, you can’t simply focus on what it’s doing wrong, you also need praise. It’s important to find that in our society also. Be willing to talk about why we’re making mistakes, but take time to shed light on the moments in which we make the right decisions as well. Nearly all of the 24 hour news stations deal in alarmist news from whatever their political slant may be. Social media has placed that cycle on steroids (especially opportunists with the intent to agitate people for their entertainment) and we’re taking it in like oxygen.There is a lot of good still left to be found, even if it takes a lot of digging to find it.

    Like

    • Thank you very much, Steve. You bring an exquisite balance to the dire portrait I have presented. Although I am also not an optimist by nature, I’m also a parent and grandparent and can easily see the wisdom in your thoughts. Yet I also strongly feel that the first step to solution is the frank admission of the problem, and I see too little of that around me. In fact, more often than not I fear the momentum of the problem is more than we can bring under control in the near future, if at all.

      But hopefully other readers will pick up the challenge from you and move us forward with workable solutions. Perhaps once we realize the dramatic reductions in air pollution attendant upon our now reduced mobility we will rethink how we restart that mobility.

      Sincere thanks, Marco

      Like

  6. I’m not sure normal really exists any more, or what the term means. The world changes, and people change with it. It would be foolish to deny that things have altered in the past few months, but I am fortunate that it has not made much difference in my life. Actually, now that I think of it, that may be the saddest statement of all. I know people (my husband included) who believe that Covid-19 has been blown out of proportion; I have tried to be careful without becoming paranoid in the process.

    My greatest concern has been the ways in which it has affected the quality of education which will be received by this year’s student body. Distant learning is available for most, but not everyone is able to learn that way. As difficulty increases, I wonder if motivation will decrease. Already, students in remedial learning situations will have their third quarter grades mirrored for the fourth quarter rather than face failure; of course, they don’t know that.

    Finally, you and I are among those at higher risk in this situation; please stay safe.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. I think since the Industrial Revolution, then the Atomic Age, the Space Age, and the advent of A.I. the term normal has receded further and further into the nooks and crannies of memory. I remember when a slogan was popular: Progress is our most important product. Yet, no one defined progress either.

      Yes, the sudden gaps in education will leave a deep scar on our intellectual landscape, further separating the haves from the have nots. And, without radical changes to our social system we are neither able to understand the have nots or to act upon what understanding we might one day gain.

      Like

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