Normality is a real word

Why there cannot (yet) be a “new normal”

Much has been said and written about the “New Normal”. Like a buzzword, the term haunts the (social) media and company corridors, becomes a topic in zoom sessions - but mostly without being filled with content. In fact, that is not possible either, because the new and the normal are at most diametrically opposed to each other.

If something NEW is, then it is unknown, unexplored, never before - in this form - been there, innovative and initially deeply disturbing. Because everything that is new does not fit into old routines, breaks patterns and can even be perceived as a real annoyance and obstacle. Many people who are confronted with new things even reject it, if they have not manifested the new themselves, because they longingly want to go back to familiar routines. The new always first of all destroys the comfort zone.

The NORMAL is the known, the everyday, the typical and the ordinary. Something you can slip into like an old slipper. The normal is less a law, but rather a social norm to which (almost) everyone adheres, because there is an unspoken agreement about what normatively - i.e. as a guideline and yardstick - has to apply to everyone, so that our society and our coexistence works. On a large as well as small scale.

So if we take the “New Normal” literally, it cannot exist, because either something is new - then it is not normal, or something is normal - but then it is no longer new.

If we want to have a new normal - that is, a normal that replaces the old one - we don't get it on demand, but only when we exchange, discuss and reach a common consensus on what our normality should look like.

In order for us to do that, we would first have to define what the old normal was like. What did we like (or not) about the old normal? What values, norms and agreements existed in the old normal - and which of them should be adopted in the new normal? But which traditions and habits can and do we want to part with?

Personally, I find it very dangerous to leave the “New Normal” as a catchphrase unexplained and unfilled, because this easily gives the impression that the “New Normal” arises “just like that”. And that would be the wrong impression - and it would actually be harmful if everything that is currently new were "just like that" normalized. Because not everything that is new is always good in the long term and in the long term!

Normality is something that arises through a social, collective process, through arguments, friction and diversity of opinion, so that normality can be something that as many as possible benefit from, with which as many as possible can identify - and which creates as few losers as possible.

After the Second World War there was such a struggle when, for example, the Basic Law was formulated and people jointly considered on which pillars a healthy, democratic coexistence is possible.

The last 8 months of 2020 saw the pillars of this laboriously negotiated Basic Law, from which many - self-evident - norms of coexistence emerged. For this reason alone, we need a general social discourse about the status our basic rights should - and must have - again in the future. Where do we take back the violations that have occurred to the legal interests of all people? And when do we finally start?

The new normal that would be conjured up would be a lot of collaborative work. We have to make a decision about whether we are ready to take on this work. If not, we should stop talking about a new normal.