By Suji Hettiarachchi –
It’s a question worth asking because many people are genuinely worried there is so much of negativity around us. Society has become more and more competitive, combative and complacent. Anti-government protests, strikes, demonstrations are so apparent and commonplace and destroy the function of the governments. There is a diminished level of public trust in anything and everything. Sri Lanka, as a country, faces a real problem.
With due respect to our Colombo Telegraph readership, I am inspired to continue writing about the situation of Sri Lanka. In my journey forward, the positive comments and criticisms (those who speak from their brains not hearts!) I have received had expanded my knowledge giving me absolute satisfaction, strength and vitality.
One of our Colombo Telegraph readers’ comments made me wonder; what is the New Normal being referred to? Is that an emerging concept or an entity or is it about who we are or what we do? My curiosity journeyed me to explore as it relates to my writing about trust, distrust (mistrust), fear and uncertainty and now the topic of ‘New Normal’. In layman’s terms, the trust is firm belief and the distrust is absence of it. Fear is being afraid and the uncertainty is doubtfulness. We all are familiar with these words. The new set of words relating to this article is normal and new normal.
The abnormal to be considered normal and to be the new normal in our societies in the 21st century is scary and frightening. The developments, our far-reaching knowledge, and information rich society should have enriched the normalcy to a higher state and have given us the best of every world imaginable! Instead we have created a new scary and frightening world order.
Normal vs. New Normal
Normal came to English language around the 17th century; from Latin word ‘Normalis’ which means “made according to a carpenter’s square, forming a right angle. Extended meanings came into being and accordingly, it began to refer to ‘according to, constituting, or not deviating from an established norm, rule or principle’
Searching the origin of the term new normal did take me on the road of research. The origin accordingly goes back to World War 1 but came to be used in our time after the 9/11 attack in the United States.
Accordingly, the New Normal is a freestanding phrase, idiom and a cliché.
It is used in varied fields to describe a new form of societal condition. The original intent of the term has changed over time and its literal meaning or figurative meaning had gone to a state of vague ambiguity to extent that it cannot be immediately defined in any context as per everything in the world so that we are kept in a state of confusion.
When I researched the term I found it to be more relevant to Economics, Workplace relations, Medicine and Psychology. In the field of Economics, it is used for global uncertainty and instability. Thriving in the age of the individual the term refers to ‘doing things right than to succumb to the tyranny of urgency’ referring to playing by the new rules for the long term. The term first used in business and economics that refers to financial conditions following the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the aftermath of the 2008–2012 global recession and post-crisis environments. The term has since been used in a variety of other contexts to imply that ‘something which was previously abnormal has become commonplace – the world is now way above the normalcy’
Everybody wants to rule the world
Even to a blind eye, it is an obvious sight that every one wants their voice heard and rule the world. A whole new world of fear and doubt has emerged. Making fabrications, misconceptions, spreading of lies and false news, misperceptions, not wanting to reveal the truth and reactionary behaviour. In the new normal society breaking normal principles such as; reasonableness, fairness, natural justice, legitimacy etc. have become anyone’s game.
The 21st century new normal is creating chaos, turmoil, disarray, havoc and mayhem. It is in front of our eyes. Of course, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan people will survive, as they are resilient to any danger. However, the impact of new normal has caused a breakdown in society and turned the country into anarchy. It is obvious from the continuous strikes, unrest and agitations fast spreading in Sri Lanka.
What has become the new normal?
Dysfunctional failed state of Sri Lanka is new normal? I am talking here the view of the general public, many Sri Lankans who live abroad and in Sri Lanka. Some say Sri Lanka is suffering from “Ball pass” syndrome’ (Ajith Colonne on 21Jun19 Talk with Chatura). The public has accepted this as our “New Normal” what is obviously abnormal; today in Sri Lanka is “NEW NORMAL”. Don’t forget that we all must share whether it is functional or dysfunctional and we must start helping the country to raise its head above the water. We cannot be complacent and continue finger pointing. Wishfully, the silent majority of Sri Lanka will decide the fate or the course of Sri Lanka’s journey! The silent majority decided the Federal election win in Australia on May 18th this year. It is the people’s will at the end that set the bar.
Dysfunction is the new normal. Dysfunction affects us everybody personally and as a society. Why do we accept it as the “new normal”? Why do we constantly let it disappoint us and defeat us? Can we live a successful life without dragging ourselves to be under such dysfunctions?
We live in a world of information overload. We are regularly bombarded with stories, news, and issues yet there is no continuation to such news. They appear and disappear. Too much news to circulate therefore no one will never know the full story or much detail of a news item. This had become the new normal.
By a process of relentless iteration, they become normal. Everything becomes normal because it happens constantly and predictably. We accept everything happening around us reluctantly and shamefacedly because we accept as normal for our time and place.
How do we get back to Normal?
As we know globally the mental health and well being, depression and suicide among young people is becoming alarmingly high. The WHO reports one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. The young people are being taken away from the direct social interactions, socializations, and social touch. We the middle aged are debating over new normal and the young people are slowly taking their interest elsewhere. We must learn to spread the gratification among our society may it be another human of another religion, ethnicity or speaking another language? We must try to live by core values that make us different from animals with love, kindness and compassion. Sometimes the animals have these values much more than we have.
Let’s develop resilience to overcome the setbacks. Let’s acknowledge our own false misconceptions, wrongdoings, defeat and so on. Resilience is manifested in our actions – a new contribution, a small win, and a goal that takes attention off the past and creates hope for the future. When surprises rule the new normal resilience is the new skill.
The religious leaders must impartially build up the strength, give the encouragement and be in advisory capacity. Reactionary mindset must be controlled.
The article written by Mass L. Ysuf in Colombo Telegraph about misunderstanding a verse in Quran is a timely and valuable piece of work. I myself did not know about Islam. I never read about Islam and had neither understanding nor knowledge about Islam nor I had any interest to read about it. However when people talked about Quran having a verse about killing, I too unknowingly accepted as the truth. This article came as an eye-opener for me. As Yusf points out ‘when a person is biased even the truth will look like falsehood’. I believe the truth needs to be taught, made aware of to the people who don’t know about it.
The global insecurity and uncertainty is looming every minute. It is time to reflect on
1. What we can do better together for our children
2. Teaching our children right and wrong (normal and abnormal)
3. What we can achieve by stopping mud slinging and dirt digging
4. Human values without comparing and contrasting religions
5. Understanding true interpretations of religions (all religions are about compassion, love and kindness)
6. Following basic moral and ethical principles in living
7. Stopping creating public panic over false stories
8. Curtailing extreme patriotism and reactionary behavior
Unless we set normal order, and ourselves on finding the ways to achieve that goal- a trusting society we all will be fighting till we end ourselves in our grave. We need our epistemic community with heart to drive us towards the social progress, policymaking and reasonable society. Hopefully the New Normal will find its natural exit before long! Let’s stop the social destruction.