Change Can be Normal right?
“Can normal exist?” is the question I asked in my last blog post. At the time I had come to the conclusion that nothing can ever be normal for nothing can ever be exactly the same. After discussing my topic with a few people and doing some research on Determinism I began to question my own post. What is philosophy without questions? Perhaps I was taking the definition too literally, perhaps I should have considered that normal exists on smaller scales. Sure, one normal culture cannot exist because there are so many and they are all commonly practiced but there are, however, things in a society that can be normal. If we look to the smaller scale gender roles in society can influence whats normal, societies morals can influence what is abnormal and the way people are isolated when they behave in unconventional ways can show what is normal. Why do we as a society prefer to have behavior that is classified as normal? Is it a conscious decision chosen by free will or does “normal” derive from the beliefs of hard determinism?
Different regions have different ideas of normal behavior. In North America, gender roles effect what we deem to be abnormal behavior. For example, tom boys are not the social norm but they do exist. A tom boy is, as Sarah Showfety describes, a
“female who engages in activities long considered primarily the domain of males. As young girls, tomboys shun Barbiedolls in favor of games that emphasize physicality and competition. They resist conventional feminine standards—avoiding pink clothes, lipstick, and nail polish—and often excel in sports. While “tomboy” is largely a term applied to prepubescent girls who prefer Tonka trucks to tea parties, some women retain tomboy characteristics into adulthood, gamely coaching the company softball team and downing brews with the guys.”
The standard of how boys and girls are expected to act lead to the creation of terms such as this. It brings to question weather we as a society have the right to put labels on people and judge them for their behavior.
This labeling, as it would seem, is normal. As a society we are constantly placing people into categories and are amazed when they behave differently from what we expected. It would be abnormal for a person to act out of the traits of their category for they would be going against what is expected of them. It’s in this way that normal can exist. Why do we create these labels, can we get past them? should we even try to? Perhaps the fear of the unknown is society’s number one motivator. We question everything and label everything because we have the innate desire to know everything. I guess that’s normal too.
These constraints that society makes can lead to rebellious behavior. People often wish to do as they please, they do not want to be held back by other peoples expectations. The desire to not be “mainstream” has become a mainstream concept. We often desire to be different, to stand out of the crowd and to not conform to societies norms, but that desire makes us quite similar to others. For example the hipster culture started as a life style to avoid being “mainstream” (this being the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.) As time went on the hipster culture, ironically, became normal. This life style became popular and is now accepted (although not without humor) as a societal label.
We have people in society who wish to be different and we have those who wish to fit in better. We are constantly attempting to find our place in society be it through rebellion or through attempts to be “cooler”. At one point in every human’s life they have thought about where they ‘fit into’ the scheme of the world. Are they normal? Do they want to be? Through media and the responses to it we can see that people behave in similar ways. A song about ‘fitting in’ received millions of views on YouTube and became extremely popular because it is something that the majority of people have been able to relate to in some way or another.The definition of normal is the usual, average, or typical state or condition. Wanting to be normal is an average, or typical state or condition when we look at songs like the one linked below.
Is the act of being normal an act of free will? Do we have 100% control over how we choose to behave or is free will an illusion formed for you, not by you? The idea that forces and conditions that were active before one develops the ability to comprehend things, make choices or exercise ones will is the theory of hard determinism. Does free will exist in the sense that we control our own behavior and personalities or do outside forces form it for us? Which of these relates to why humans choose to be normal? Some could argue that normality stems from hard determinism, that we have no real choice in the way that we live and think, thus creating a standard of normal. The forces that determine this lack of conscious free will include your childhood, education, social conditioning, exposure to external events all and more. If we truly do not have free will, perhaps this is where the concept of normal comes from.
However existentialists, like Sartre, argued that its up to human beings to define themselves because no blue prints, no moral absolutes and no divine commandments and given values exist to guide peoples decisions on how to live. This lack of guidance, he argues, can lead to moments of existential angst or anxiety. Could then conforming to a societal norm be the result of fear? Do the people who feel “condemned” to be free (as Sartre worded it) conform more easily to the labels of normal because they are more desperate for it? Would Sartre agree that people who do not feel condemned by their freedom are more likely be viewed as abnormal by society? Or would he simply say that people have the free will to choose to behave however they wish and thus normal does not exist?