The biggest, and most damaging, lie any of us ever tell is exactly the same lie. Further, the damage this lie does, like all self respecting lies, is equally distributed between ourselves and other people effected by it.
I speak of the lie embedded in the meaning of the word “normal.” The word, when put to use, is inherently a lie because it, simultaneously, has meaning to the person using it and the person hearing it (though rarely, if ever, the same meaning) and absolutely no precise meaning whatsoever, at all, to either party or anybody else.
Think about it. When you apply the word “normal” to anything, what exactly do you mean? What you mean, to the extent that you mean anything at all, is whatever you have grown used to. You mean whatever state of existence you find comfortable, or, at least, tolerable due to its familiarity.
Further, neither you, nor anyone else, ever has a completely non-malevolent use for the damn word. When in use, the word always describes something as “normal” in opposition to something else that, by implication at least, is abnormal, if not evil. The word can do this indirectly by saying something like, “I just want things to get back to normal.” This means that however things are now is abnormal. It can be used as a direct pejorative as in, “That is just not normal.” Meaning whatever “that” is, it is abnormal, perhaps, depending upon inflection and tone, wicked.
If asked about this, any ordinary, plain vanilla Iunctian theorist would point out that this should not surprise anyone. Your Iunctian would declaim that at the margins or edge of any system, be that system physical, ephemeral, abstract, concrete, male, female (perhaps especially female), Republican, Democrat, dog or cat, at its outer most and inner most edges, absurdity reigns.
At the edges of any system, the rules and laws governing that system begin to malfunction in the most peculiar ways. Whether one is contemplating the repetitive expansion and contraction of the Iunctian Universe or the birth, growth and death of living beings or the establishment, flowering and decay of human institutions, the Iunctian “law” states that “normal” rules regulating the conduct of any system behave absurdly at the beginning and end of things. (Of course, some exception to the theory has to be allowed for humans. Humans do exhibit classic Iunctian behavior at the beginning and end of life but get really odd during the teenage years and, again, in mid-life as well.)
The Law of Absurdity at the Margins can be characterized as a simple recognition that, as some great 1960s philosopher — it might have been Jerry Garcia but, then again, it might not have been — once said “When shit happens, things get weird until they settle down.”
I believe we can all agree that things are getting weird. Indeed, there are ten signs of the social apocalypse. These are:
First, for the first time in our history we have elected a Hawaiian American as President. Who would ever have imagined that?
Second, the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, has by a long, tortuous and unfathomable trail of deceit, ignorance and short term planning, morphed into the Party of the Klan.
Third, it may, now, really be true that what is good for General Motors is good for the country, but it is conclusively true that what is good for big capital center banks and investments firms is going to suck the life blood from the country. Knowing this, our country has made the decision to screw the former and subsidize the latter.
Fourth, somehow it has become debatable whether it is in the nation’s best interest to have a healthy and prosperous middle class. Whether one defines “healthy” in financial, physical or spiritual terms, the nation’s policies are designed to “thin” the middle class.
Fifth, the popular culture, having long ago turned the political meaning of “liberal” into a curse, is now doing the same with the term “conservative.” More and more there are those who insist you cannot be conservative unless you are also certifiable. And, these are the people who claim to be “conservative.”
Sixth, people, like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, and that O’Reilly person, who cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, are the leading lights of one of the major public discourses on the future of the nation. People who are clearly crackers are in charge of the asylum.
Seventh, it is now the policy of one of the most revered political parties in the world, the Republican Party, to organize anti-democratic (notice the little “d”) routs at public events where men and women of good will gather to speak about and hear about the issues of the day. The party that produced so much in the way of reform and pushed for progress throughout its existence in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries now relies on hired bully boys and girls, taking a page from the Fuhrer’s handbook.
Eighth, we are sailing through a perfect storm of social change and it is impacting every level of social organization. It is impacting every private company, every family, every service and agency of government, at every level of government. In the teeth of this storm, our public figures, whether they be appointed, elected or self anointed, are refusing to discuss it. Our “leaders” prefer to use the uncertainty of the situation to score “points” that translate into sound bites and blog farts that excite the “base.”
Ninth, politics, at every level of government, has now become all about maintaining and isolating your base from the other guy’s base. There is no longer any way for one guy to speak calmly to the other guy’s base, not so much to convert them as to seek some common ground. All of a sudden, common ground is the thing most feared by political leaders.
Tenth, every economic cohort in our society, and in this case, that means both the nation and the world, is moving away from its neighboring cohorts at an ever accelerating pace. The incomprehensibly wealthy are moving rapidly away from the fabulously wealthy. The fabulously wealthy are moving rapidly away from the really wealthy who, in turn, are moving rapidly away from the merely rich. The merely rich are moving rapidly away from the upper middle class as that cohort moves apace in distance from the middle, middle class. The middle, middle class is moving away from the lower, middle class who are busy separating from the poor. The poor, in their turn are moving away from the destitute. (The destitute might be the only exception to this acceleration as they appear to grow ever closer to the dead.) In its totality, it is an economic fabric that is straining and may rip along these fault lines at any moment.
You may not believe in signs. I do. And, the signs are everywhere. How is it we came to believe we are no more than flotsam in the current of time? How did the great American people come to believe we are but victims of fate? Why have we abandoned the debate to the whores of talk and blog, be they whores of the right or whores of the left?
It is time to embrace our anxiety as excitement and stop embracing it as fear. We need to begin by recognizing that we are all Americans. While we are, and should forever be, free, we must have some basic understanding of what the fabric of our social structure is to be and who/what is responsible for it. It is not enough to be herded into somebody’s base and assailed with empty platitudes promoting some “truism” or other. We can no longer allow ourselves to be the political property of the simple minded sound bite spinners and the inflamed blogging bozos of either the right or the left.
We are being led to the margins of the system and absurdity is raging to the fore.
We need our leaders to explain that things are changing. Or, as the Bard might say, “Shit is happening and it may be a while before things settle down.” In the meantime, our leaders should suggest that it is wise to stay calm, try not to look for boogymen, and think about how things ought to work instead of focusing forever on why the old ways aren’t working anymore.
We cannot allow ourselves to be a proverbial wife of Lot. We can not allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our longing for a life that is no longer possible. We have to dare to imagine the life we are going to have and then begin imagining it. We cannot do that if we divide into bases for politicians seeking only power, not service or solution. We cannot do it when the object of the one is to “break” the other.
These are the things we must do or we shall all have to learn to love the absurd. Unless, we already have.