Living for Normality

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Living for Normality

Most people want to be normal. The definition of normal however, depends on the culture of the person making the judgment. Far too often, normal is defined in America by looking at the actions and beliefs of the average white middle class family. This definition of normal fails to let other cultures to be accepted, creating distance and misunderstanding.

One type of culture, which has traditionally been labeled as uncivilized, are those found in Africa. Other more civilized cultures tend to look down on those who belong to African cultures, labeling their customs and ways of life as abnormal. Randall Bass, an Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University, made an interesting argument in his book, Bordertexts: Cultural Readings for Contemporary Writer. Bass describes a passage from a local newspaper out of Louisville, Kentucky. The newspaper coined the phrase, "national geographic nudity" in describing a movie. Bass's impression of the phrase is shown in the following passage, "Somehow the phrase 'national geographic nudity' implies that the natives were not as present or as visible as the other people in the movie." Here Bass is proving the point of cultural differences relating to the definition of normality. While the natives view their nudity as normal, nudity is generally not accepted by any class from America. This difference is a prime example of clashing definitions of what cultures accept to be normal.

The next step up the ladder of normality is the lower class. Unlike the natives who don't look to fit into the normal set by American middle class, American lower class are constantly looking for ways to improve. PBS ran a very interesting special on classes within the United States. In the special, "People Like Us," was a section devoted to a woman named Tammy and her family. Tammy is a typical lower class citizen; she lives in a trailer in a small town, trash piled around, and no car to drive. After being on welfare for eighteen years, Tammy got a job at a Burger King restaurant 15 miles away. Tammy wants to become better; in fact she wants to go back to school. "I'm hoping to go to college and be a school teacher. That was my goal from the time I was five years old up until now." Even though Tammy wants to move up a class, she still realizes to which group she belongs.
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