Maybe “normal” was over-rated

In “normal” we trust?

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

I hear the term “normal” (or sometimes “new normal”) tossed around as if it had some kind of objective, mutually agreed-upon, measurable meaning.

“Normal” simply means “those things we have become accustomed to”.

And once in a while we experience a time when we just don’t look at things the way we used to.

And sometimes we have to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they used to be – or, in some cases, what we thought they were.

Life is always unpredictable, but few of us, until the past few years, had any idea what “unpredictable” could even mean.

From my direct personal and public professional experience, life in just about every category is recognizably, even dramatically different than it was just a few years ago.

My observation is that the further we get from what we thought we had (or were), the more we idealize it. And the more we insist that it, and perhaps only it, fits the category of “normal”.

Maybe every generation goes through something like this; what seemed so real and solid, even permanent, seems vaporous and fragile – even gone.

Consider any aspect of the economy or any aspect of what it meant, seemingly forever, to be an adult with grown-up skills and responsibilities.

Your normal isn’t my normal

Almost hard-wired into young people is a question or principle alien to every generation that came before; why should we learn anything when we can find it online?

Or, for many of that generation; why should I ever “go” to work in an office if I can work remotely as if on something like a semi-permanent vacation?

Many young people find themselves, in the current real estate market, dedicating approaching half of their income to housing.

Throw in a few additional costs, like student debt, utilities or car payments and you quickly approach, or even surpass 100% of the typical paycheck.

Young people have a variety of responses from semi-permanent couch surfing to tiny homes to shared occupancy and many more.

In summary though, more and more young people are just refusing to play the game – or at least according to the standard rules.

Four years of college, with enormous debt and not much in the way of a stable, rewarding career? No thanks.

A job in some cubicle in an over-priced urban center? No thanks.

Standard fossil-fuel combustion engine, individually-owned automobile? No thanks.

The standard meat and potatoes dinner? Nope.

Hanging out at the local mall? No thanks.

Marriage, kids and mortgage? More and more, especially young women, are keeping life simple and saying “Not for me”.

Attics, basements and even storage units full of decades of acquired “stuff”? Who needs it?

Who are we?

For those born after 1995 (Generation Z), racial diversity is their default reality.

As America’s demographics continue to shift, Gen Z will be the last generation that is predominantly white in America – just barely. A slight majority of Gen Z-ers (52%) is white; 25% is Hispanic, 14% is Black and 4% is Asian.

Back in 1980, about 80% of voters were white. As of 2020, 10% were Generation Z.

Those who vote from now on, for the foreseeable future will be predominately young – and not white.

Same-sex marriage is a given to this generation. Why it was ever an inflammatory issue will forever be a mystery to them.

Cannabis (aka marijuana) has been legal (in most states, and several entire nations) for as long as they can remember. The idea of incarcerating people for cannabis use seems as barbaric to them as witch-hunts of distant centuries.

The vast majority of young people believe that government exists for a reason – and should play a greater role in solving problems. They are more likely to attribute climate change to human activity, as opposed to natural climactic cycles. And they are willing to pay taxes for the support of social or political systems they believe in.

Young people, for the most part have shown themselves unafraid of other cultures, faiths and new experiences. Food (many vegans in this generation), work, politics, business -(or anything) as usual, is not on the agenda for the generation just taking its place on the world stage.

Going “back” to an idealized, possibly even fictional America of a previous era is of near-zero interest to most of them; especially if that era depended upon the deliberate exploitation, marginalization or outright criminalization of them and virtually everyone they know.

Many of Generation Z have absorbed, not skills that should have a equipped them for the challenges of their adult lives, but a toxic level of cynicism toward government and institutions of all kinds from religion to marriage to prosperity.

For better or worse, they will have to make their own way in a world they had little hand in creating.

That has, to a degree, been the plight of every generation, but perhaps for the first time, the not-so-comforting assumption that the previous generation has little to teach them just might be correct.