When contemplating our true and current position in the world, we can often be struck with a feeling of helplessness; a sense of mourning for what is and may be if we are indeed to continue on our current trajectory. These moments that at times feel as though all the worlds woes are heaped upon us and we can barely comprehend one magical and melodious moment from an ill stricken, poorly formed thought or deed. Those moments when we are told promptly by someone in a higher position to ourselves to not be so foolish, someone deemed “normal” by society. The moments when these people tell us to reconsider our actions as they will surely echo deleteriously throughout our brief time on this planet, and they will certainly affect our ability to land a good job, and we don’t want that now do we? About these people in particular we should remind ourselves of a musing from the perplexing and beautiful Aldous Huxley:
“They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”
With this in mind we would do well to take a quick trip through history. I would therefore like to compose a short list of obvious and not so obvious moments and movements in history that have now become the norm due to either great struggle on behalf of those unwilling to “go with the flow”, or those simply undesirous of a high paying, socially acceptable job. Here we go:
- Women could once not vote. I wholly recognise the plight of the majority of the women in the world today, yet at one stage it appeared that still more of them had no say at all, and it was even deemed preposterous for them to obtain equal rights. Yet through the International Women’s Suffrage Movement, a great deal of struggling, blood sweat and tears, women have, to a large extent, come to be deemed equal. At least to the extent that they were allowed to vote and stand for office. (Most European, African & Asian countries passed women’s suffrage after WWI, late comers included France in 1944 (?!) and Switzerland in 1971, WTF?).
- Now I know you may be surprised, but like women, many people of a darker complexion than those of the dominant race in many countries were (and in some places still are) deemed lesser peoples and were unable to vote either. In more extreme cases, as in Australia, the First people of Australia were considered a part of fauna on our census’ into the later half of the 20th century. Yet again through much blood, sweat and tears they at least have tokenistic equal rights (at least it’s something, right?). They used to be openly hunted, so there’s certainly improvements.
- One that was drawn to my attention by the marvellous Mr Noam Chomsky was the fact that many topics which were simply unmentionable (in the Land of the Free at least) have now become subjects that can be talked about relatively openly with no holds barred. As Chomsky says “After 1967, for example, the issue of Israel became kind of holy writ. You couldn’t say a word against it… You can now talk freely about Israel without hysteria… Also, environmental issues, women’s rights, a number of subjects you can talk freely about now, just weren’t even discussed. Solidarity movements didn’t exist.” One I’m particularly happy for that’s come about (again through much blood, sweat and tears), is the open questioning of the nature of state capitalism, and the anti corporate movements. These things were to a large extent unmentionable only 50 years ago.
- And of course the simple fact I can write this blog. The fact that you’re able to read it, and I’m able to write it without someone kicking down my door is in itself a wondrous thing.
There’s still a long way to go, but every now and then you need to remind yourself of these simple facts. There are some obvious correlations however; Nothing gets better by itself; We have to work long and hard to get these things off the ground. We therefore must laugh in the face of normality. Mock it, have fun with it, and keep our eyes on the prize.
And another quote from Aldous for good measure:
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”