I’ve had enough of the new normal.
Normalcy carries the implicit suggestion of predictability, stability and broadly understood expectations. There is no such thing. The more accurate phrase would be new normal until further notice, which is a contradiction in terms, but anyone who has spent much time in the private sector knows what I’m talking about.
After 9/11, we were told, there was a new normal. We came together, for a while. We said we’d embrace a renewed sense of humility and flock back to our churches. That lasted about two Sundays. We said we’d learn the lessons of that brutal day and harden the country against all manner of threats. That meant, among other things, a renewed commitment to a robust public-health system. But that is dry and abstract, and there are no votes in it, so that idea just faded and faded. And here we are.
During the 2008 economic meltdown, we were told, there was a new normal. Paychecks and 401(k)’s looked less stable. As a local pastor noted in a sermon at the time, there was much fear, and people were using that fear to control others. I think we should expect better of leaders and ourselves in such times.
Now comes another new normal, an era of disruption, significant concern, some fear and a lot of “you’re on your own.” We deserve better, but the die is cast.
That said, I am optimistic enough to believe that – for some time at least – we on the ground might embrace a higher degree of common sense and common courtesy, generosity and good old-fashioned thrift. There are worse normals.
Don’t just take my word for it. Read Ecclesiastes, where the operative word is “vanity” and the theme is the inconstancy of humans. In the corporate world, for instance, a new boss usually means a new normal. So does the latest initiative from above that is suddenly the most important thing ever – for today. Keep working, keep adapting.
I remember when the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973, getting us out of Vietnam. It was live on TV on a Saturday morning as I was getting ready to head for confirmation class.
I was 12, and I was keenly aware that I could not remember a time that my country was not in this terrible war. What was peace even like? How did it feel? Can this actually be happening?
Not every new normal is bad. Sometimes progress does happen. But right at this moment, the treadmill is getting old.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.