Just because you eat, drink, breathe and sleep does not mean you are a normal person. Many people take it for granted that people around them are normal people. Except for the ones in psychiatric homes or the obvious once we see acting out their abnormalities on the streets, we conclude that every other person is normal. But I tell you that this is far from the truth.
In-fact, just take another careful look around you and realize the shocking truth that you live in a world of abnormality. How? I’d give you a few instances to start you thinking.
1) Some people, without any conscious will of theirs, were born with dada hair (or what is now popularly called dread locks). Mad people on the streets, with no means to care for themselves and without thought to personal hygiene have as a result developed dada hair. Now you tell me that a normal thinking person will wake up one morning, short of hair styles to make out of thousands of beautiful ones, will decide to settle for making the dreadful ‘dada’ hair? Please show me the normality here!
2) Have you ever seen a lunatic dance before? Compare it with a modern day Nigeria dance style popularly called ‘alanta’ and tell me who is really the sane one amongst the two dancing parties.
Are you getting the picture now? Are you beginning to see the thin line that exists between the everyday normal people you know and the supposedly mad ones? Do you still think you and they (the supposedly normal ones) are normal?
To throw more light on this thought provoking topic, let us examine some dictionary meanings of the word normal to see if it can lead us to a better understanding of what an ideal normal behavior is or is not.
Wikipedia gives us this definition of the word ‘normal behavior’. It says ‘In behavior, normal refers to a lack of significant deviation from the average. The phrase “not normal” is often applied in a negative sense (asserting that someone or some situation is improper, sick, etc.) Abnormality varies greatly in how pleasant or unpleasant a thing/experience is for other people’.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines normal as ‘conforming to a standard. Another possible definition is that “a normal” is someone who conform to the predominant behavior in a society’.
The French sociologist Smile Durham indicated in his Rules of the Sociological Method that ‘the most common behavior in a society is considered normal. People who do not go along are violating social norms and will invite a sanction, which may be positive or negative, from others in the society’.
Let us take these definitions piece meal and see exactly how normal is the so called normal behavior.
Wikipedia claims that a lack of significant deviation from the average is enough criteria to classify a person as normal. But the question to ask oneself here is what an ‘average behavior’ is?Taking our nation Nigeria into cognizance, examples of the average behavior includes:
- People eating in vehicles and throwing food wrappers out the window and onto the streets
- Motorist screaming profanity at each other when caught in a traffic jam which they caused with their selfish driving attitudes
- School children cheating audaciously in examinations without any iota of shame or remorse
- Government officials/civil servants misusing public property and looting public funds shamelessly
The list abounds I tell you, this is just but a tip of the average behavior in today’s Nigeria and I dare anyone to contest this fact as untrue.
So going by Wikipedia’s definition of normal behavior, do we say that because there isn’t so much difference between your behavior and that of the average Nigerian, that you are normal? Hmm, I guess not.
The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that ‘a normal’ is someone who ‘conforms’ to the predominant societal behavior. It is without doubt that the above listed are Nigeria’s predominant societal behavior. So does conforming to these societal maladies make you a ‘normal’ person? Hmm! I can see some of you are beginning to question your normality.
Our final definition is that of Smile Durham’s in his Rules of the Sociological Method that says ‘the most common behavior in a society is considered normal. Thus people who do not go along are violating social norms and will invite a sanction, which may be positive or negative, from others in the society’.
This last definition of a normal behavior speaks for itself. From the forgoing, we can now begin to draw a distinction between two types of behaviors in a society; one is ‘a disciplined, moralistic behavior’ and the other is ‘a normal behavior’. There exists a relationship between these two kinds of societal behaviors in the sense that a disciplined, moralistic behavior can be the normal societal behavior or the undisciplined, amoral one can also be the normal societal behavior.
Thus, the criteria for determining normal behavior is dependent on what a particular society accepts as a normal behavior and not on issues of whether the behavior is beneficial or detrimental to that society.
A look at the definition of the word ‘abnormal’ from Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2009 says that an ‘abnormal’ is something ‘unusual or unexpected, especially in a way that causes alarm or anxiety’. A web definition sees abnormal behavior as a ‘deviation from statistical and societal norms’.
Being ‘unusual or unexpected’ or ‘deviating from statistical and societal norms’ i.e. being abnormal is usually seen in a negative light. But what exactly does this mean in the Nigerian context? Have you ever being termed ‘unusual’ or ‘strange’or looked at in a funny way for doing the following things:
- Eating in a public vehicle and carefully packing the wrappers back into your hand bag to be disposed off at the nearest drop off waist bin.
- Buying gas (fuel) at a gas (fuel) station and politely demanding your change.
- Politely advising your next door neighbor to go book an event hall for any subsequent social engagement as the noise generated from the present one is seriously disturbing your peace and that of the neighborhood
- Refusing to compromise when holding public positions
- Refusing to answer the call of ‘siiiiiii’ in an examination hall e.t.c
If you have being thought ‘unusual’ or ‘strange’ for doing the above listed among others then consider yourself an ‘abnormal’ in the Nigerian society. But be rest assured that being an abnormal in Nigeria’s society of today does not make your behavior undesirable.
Inasmuch as the predominant societal behavior is taken to be the normal one and any significant deviation from this predominant behavior is considered abnormal, we must understand that there exists a wide chasm between what is a discipline, moral behavior and a societal normal behavior. The two might at some point be fused into one and the same thing or the chasm might even widen more and more.
However, the fact remains that disciplined, moral behavior will always remain the desirable one in any progressive looking society and any society that succumb to indiscipline and amorality is definitely headed for its end. Thus the mere fact that your behavior is considered normal in your society does not make you a ‘normal’ person in the larger world society. So look around you today and spot the difference, then ask yourself the big question again: Are You Normal? Or better still ‘wouldn’t you rather remain abnormal in your present society?