(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
When my daughter was celebrating her seventh birthday this summer, we sent out this message to the guests: “Dear birthday guests! I want something used, something you don't use anymore yourself. And not plastic. Looking forward to seeing you. Greetings Lucia»
A similar wish would have been almost unthinkable in my own childhood in the 1980s. I watched excitedly as she opened the presents: a dented box of change, a slightly worn teddy bear, a book with donkey ears, heirloom clothes – but she was just as happy as for brand new things. Wrapping paper and packaging only filled a small garbage bag, and I thought that soon, hopefully, this will be the norm for children's birthdays. For how long can thousands of children continue to give each other thousands of plastic gadgets wrapped in thousands of plastic packaging? Just as it is not sustainable for the store to throw away food that will soon expire, but rather to sell the food at a discount, so that the ripe bananas and the soft mangoes can become smoothies instead of garbage. That too was unthinkable when I was little. I didn't even know the stores threw mat. That concept did not exist in my consciousness.
In this sense, a sustainability standard can have a positive effect on us, since it enlightens us and pushes the boundaries of what is perceived as normal.
The social norms
But what does "normal" consist of?
In the book Normal Now attempts Mark GE Kelly, associate professor in philosophy at Western Sydney University, to provide a historical overview of societal norms over the past half century. He investigates how norms affect important parts of life and our understanding of normality. Subtly too, without us thinking about it. On the negative scale, he believes that norms can lead to impossible demands for perfection. "Thus, even though all of us are to some extent abnormal in relation to the norm, we are all made to feel that being abnormal is not only non-ideal but also atypical."
"The idea of being normal is one of the most fictional things we have in our lives." Samantha Schweblin
Kelly also pulls strings normalitysconcept and norms to religion, philosophy, medicine, law and politics, with particular emphasis on the United States and the Anglo-Saxon world. He examines the concepts of sexuality, orientation, body image, identity, illness, death, individualism, hedonism, racism and white privilege. His references to philosophy and especially Michel Foucault, which Kelly has written about before, runs throughout the book. Kelly looks at transformation, at diversity, he aims both high and low. His premise is intriguing. Some of what he writes about is clarifying and enlightening, especially about the paradoxes of individuality. Something seems obvious. Something is difficult to understand. Something is over-explanatory and long-winded, or simplistic and superficial. In the passage about anorexia, eating disorders are only related to body ideals and food. If I have understood correctly, anorexia, on the other hand, is fundamentally about control.
He reminds the reader of what Foucault also stands for – the fragility of norms – that they are constructions, and that the norms we live by now are not that old, and therefore we don't know how long they will last either.
But Kelly is also thorough and investigative. He tries to dispel myths and highlights somewhere in the book the link between homosexuality and pedophilia, which unfortunately still exists: "Literally, 'paedophilia' etymologically means not 'sex with children', but the 'love of boys', which is why, in an earlier phase of the gay liberation struggle, some gay activists prominently argued that paedophilia had to be normalized in order to normalize homosexuality. What has happened instead is that this link between paedophilia and homosexuality has been severed in the popular imagination."
An impossible place
As I read Normal Now, I come to an interview that was published earlier this summer in Morgenbladet. Ane Farsethås interviews the Argentinian author Samanta schweblin, which touches on the core of Kelly's book in a few very precise words: “The idea of being normal is one of the most fictional things we have in our lives. […] I am very strange in my way and you are just as strange in your way, right? And then we have found a point in the middle that we call normal and then we try all our lives to get there. But it is a place that does not exist, an impossible place.”
Normal Now is printed from precisely this "impossible place", which in Kelly's book both exists and does not exist. He has no clear conclusion or solution to our time's perception of normality. Fortunately, as that would have punctured the whole project. But he reminds the reader of what Foucault also stands for – the fragility of norms – that they are constructions, and that the norms we live by now are not that old, and therefore we don't know how long they will last either. If we get rid of all norms, we will still be part of certain power strategies, writes Kelly in conclusion. He points to criticismone's important role in raising our awareness – the best tool we have for understanding changes in history, he writes, and interpretation has a meaning for the situation in which we find ourselves.