The Tyranny of “Normal”

Not by any means a novel concept, but one that has been even more deeply etched into my heart these past few months, is the extent to which our definition of  ‘sane’ and ‘normal’ is an effective means of social control. This has been a recurring motif throughout my life, challenging all the little pieces in the puzzle of Identity – it is no surprise that it has come back to stare me in the face once more.

All that is Different is suspect – this is one of the fundamental survival tenets of Clan and Tribe. It is what keeps us safely within the white picket fence, tucked into the fluffy white smugness of Belonging. It is what ensures us support in times of distress – our Homeys will get our backs. Family is Forever – have you heard that as often as I? Family…Clan…Society… We long ago learned that we must conform in order to deserve the benefits that derive from the human community. The enforced submission to social pressure is a well-documented and long-standing aspect of human culture and tradition.  ‘Io, Galileo Galilei…’, begins the text, still very legible in brown ink, written with a strong hand on technologically-preserved parchment. (see: In 1633, Galileo was forced to recant his heliocentric understanding of the solar system or be burnt at the stake; in 1992, the Vatican admitted it had unjustly condemned him. (

Some degree of iconoclasm is acceptable – in artists, and, in times past when higher learning was supported by religion and aristocracy, not corporations, in the theoretical meanderings of Academia. But in-your-face Different is not cut of the same cloth – it is a threat to community identity and homogeneity, and therefore makes something in that reptilian hindbrain of ours go ‘Ding’ as adrenalin mounts and we begin frothing irrational slurs.

There is a psychological term dealing with the discomfort created by Otherness: ‘norm violation’. It’s got a distinctively criminal ring to it, don’t you think? This label is reserved for the sort of behaviour that makes a particular society cluck its collective tongue in disapproval and is used to explain the phenomenon of shunning. An individual who has the temerity to act as if she is not bound by the same rules as everyone else is ignored completely and sometimes even treated as if she has died. Excommunication, disinheritance and exile are of the same order of punishment: ‘You are no longer one of Us’.

But, as J. Krishnamurti famously said, ‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society’, and I would venture to suggest that few of the deeper thinkers on this present Earth of ours would give their social orders a clean bill of health.

Prof. Cornelius Jaenen, a specialist in early French-Canadian history at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, postulated that the thick volume of early laws that historians (still) use as evidence of oppression by France over its colony is rather an indication of a people who excelled in finding loopholes in the law. A regulation might state, for example, that ‘Persons shall not race their horses around the church during the saying of High Mass.’ The following year a regulation is added, reading: ‘Persons shall not race their horses around the church during the saying of Low Mass.’ It is clear that we are dealing with a resilient and witty folk – a far cry from the subservient populace of conventional wisdom.

I think we are dealing with something similar now. The internet has given us degrees of access to information and self-expression that were unthinkable even 10 years ago, and this coincides with an activation of other networks – of consciousness and planetary and universal Oneness. This is a time of great awakening and transformation – many feel we are in the Shift of the Ages (see my article in The Heretic magazine, Vol.5, ‘The Shift of the Ages’: ). As greater numbers of us snap out of the limited-visioned torpor that has been defined for us as normalcy and sanity, more repressive regulations are being created and applied with greater force.

Fatima Doumbouya recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl at her off-grid home in Pennsylvania – this was suspicious enough for medical authorities to seize the new-born for further ‘testing’ when the parents brought her to the hospital 6 days later for a routine check-up, and for accusations of negligence to be laid with Child Protection Services (see ¸ and ), accomplishing the secondary benefit of sowing terror and rage in home-birthing and off-grid populations.

Although the buzz-word of the last little while has been ‘sustainability’, if one raises it from out of the slimy context of the U.N. Agenda 21 ( ) and actually lives it, one becomes a trouble-maker…even a potential terrorist.  (  and  and and Suburbs are defined by lawns, and you’d better not try to plant anything that deviates from this often-toxic aesthetic – it’s actually illegal in many parts of the North American continent (

The official definition of terrorism in N. America has been stretched like cling wrap around the populace to smother dissenters, including those ‘reverent of individual liberty’ and ‘suspicious of centralized federal authority’ who ‘pay with cash’, ‘travel illogical distances’ or ‘stockpile food’ ( and ). Are you fed up with your school dress code? What!? Where on earth did you get those terrorist inclinations ( )? Facebook’s recent disclosure of psychological experiments done on thousands of members to determine the malleability of their emotional states is disturbing, but the more alarming aspect of the story is the U.S. Department of Defense’s role in this ‘research’ (

Increasingly militarised police forces around the planet are engaging in wholesale plagiarism of the Old Testament, meting terror and conflagration for perceived threats to The Code – but people are FINALLY noticing. The American Civil Liberties Union issued its annual report on June 23 of this year, entitled ‘War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Police’ ( and Bill Maher (a popular U.S. TV personality) entitled his monologue of July 25 ‘Blitzkrieg Cop’: On the morning of August 17, I opened my computer to see that the National Guard had been called in to the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown had been shot dead by a police officer who fired 6 bullets into him as his hands were raised in the air and he was allegedly saying ‘Don’t shoot!’ A few days later, lawyer Mya Aaten-White was shot in the head, inspiring Harvard University law students to gather for an iconic photo that was sent tweeting around the globe ( Protesters and hordes of media in the streets of St. Louis resulted in the classic solution on August 17 – Call in the Guard!

People of colour in the Americas are used to being harassed at the very least – we learn to roll with it as a basic survival skill. But the infamous 1% is defining itself more and more precisely by alienating an ever-widening spectrum of the population, and all of us squeezed into this little corner are beginning to talk to each other, or at least overhear each other’s conversations. Finally, missing and murdered aboriginal women are being noticed. The horrifying extent ( ) of the slave trade of primarily women and children is no longer the best-kept secret of global heads of Church and State. The debilitating effects of white patriarchy on humanity of all genders, colours and creeds cannot be ignored – it is just too big and nasty a critter to sweep under the carpet anymore.  I won’t even begin here to broach the topic of Israel…or Syria…or Egypt…or….Well, we could go on and on, couldn’t we?

Die Gedanken sind frei’ – ‘Thoughts are free’ – expressed an ancient human sentiment when it was composed by an unknown hand during the Peasant Wars in Germany in the 1520s (Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer, Songs of Work and Protest, 1973). Tailored to time and oppressions by such various voices as Mahler in 1898 for Lieder aus “Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Pete Seeger for his 1966 album, Dangerous Songs!? (, Megaherz (Wer Bist Du, 1997) and Brazilian Girls (Brazilian Girls, 2005) it is even in the Unitarian Universalist Church hymn-book, where I heard it first as a child.

The most contentious piece of real estate on the planet is now between our ears. Perhaps our due diligence at this point is to realise the extent to which our thoughts are not free, but rather programmed by various strains of survival mentality, all based in fear.

 ‘There is a war on for your mind’, declares the slogan of InfoWars, one of the multitude of alternative news outlets available to those of us who question the baby-food menus of mainstream media. (InfoWars is famously rabid – I do not suggest swallowing their content without a healthy dose of scepticism) Religion may once have been the opiate of the masses, but The Screen has supplanted it as our drug of choice.

Decades ago I went looking outside of my field of study in oriental medicine because I felt that this discipline had classed human emotions as symptoms of imbalance rather than honouring them as tools for self-understanding and realisation. That belief has been adopted by and now pervades allopathic medicine as well; we are all being convinced that we are mentally ill, requiring medication. ‘I mean’, how can we possibly remain productive members of society if we have to deal with the deep, deep wells of anger, sadness, fear and creative inspiration that lurk under the surface of every one of us? This could lead to chaos – social disintegration – the creaking halt of the wheels of the global economy! ‘Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!’

Not only have we reached the boiling point of generations of suppressed emotions and self-expression, we are also evolving into a fuller experience of our multidimensionality. ‘Gifts’ that once would relegate us to travelling freak shows are becoming the new normal: Everyone is psychic/telepathic/time-travelling…

Last month I spent a day in court defending a friend’s right not to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, incarcerated in a psych ward and injected with psychotropic drugs against her will. She’s a medicine woman, for heaven’s sake! What is she supposed to say when you ask her, ‘Do you hear voices?’! And anyway, don’t we all hear voices these days? It has become more a question of which ones we choose to listen to… The psychiatrist on my friend’s case considers himself extremely with-it. ‘I’m not here to be the tool of a patriarchal, colonial power’ was proclaimed to us before a cluster of his devotees, followed in private, witnessed only by my friend and me, by a chilling ‘I’ve been given this power and I am going to use it’.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the real War on Terror is being fought within ourselves, as we resist the powerful forces attempting with heavier and heavier jackbooted steps to suppress every wisp and whimsy of self-realisation. Confronted with a tsunami of planetary transformative momentum, it is taking ever-increasing quantities of determination and energy to maintain the fear of not fitting into cookie-cutter ‘little boxes on a hillside’ ( herd reality.

The next time you hear that internalised voice of your culture insisting, ‘If you do that they’ll think you’re crazy’… why not just GO for it! You may give someone else the courage to do the same…



This entry was posted in Musings and rants and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Tyranny of “Normal”

  1. Brian says:

    As a medical social worker at one time in my employment history, I participated in many psychiatric assessment sessions with medical professionals and their patients(or clients). The legal sense of having someone committed for treatment encompassed their actions of being a danger to themselves or others…not because they exhibited anything that was deemed ‘crazy’ by others…a young boy was in a car accident and exhibited a new sense of high esteem and communication skills that worried his family and he was quickly admitted to a psychiatric ward…a social history revealed he was a shy person with a speech impediment before the accident…the attending psychiatrist stopped the administration of schizophrenic medication and after a week of rest & psychological therapy…he was back to ‘normal’…an introvert with a stutter…what made my role satisfying in this ‘crazy’ setting was my job description “expedite discharge from the hospital asap”

    • dawnbramadat says:

      Thank you for your sharing,Brian….I know of so many stories like this….but do I understand you correctly? Are you saying that the young boy required psychotropic drugs in order to not be introverted, etc..? Or the contrary….?
      What I am seeing more than anything else is people with PTSD being misdiagnosed as schizoid….One shrink actually said to me “It would be so much easier and take so much less of my time to just medicate her – I’m a very busy person!”

      • Brian says:

        to answer your question and clarify the story that I am sharing…the young boy was suffering a traumatic experience because of the accident and it ‘changed’ his personality and seemingly his speech impediment…he was not a schizophrenic who required psychotropic drugs… he was deemed ‘ crazy’ and yet he presented himself as an out-going personality with good communication skills…his ‘normal’ personality was the opposite…you can see the irony of this ‘happy ending’ story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s