Bluntly speaking, normalization is a process by which we are made to reject life as we know it and accept a new reality in all aspects of our lives, new values or a new set of values to replace the old one completely, and a new set of expectations for ourselves, people around us, and the future of our world. Now, here is the most important point. This usually does not relate to positive change and upgrades in our lifestyles, relationships, opportunities, things we can buy and so on; this comes on naturally to us. Normalization is when you are forced to accept an overall worse life as a new normal, to change your life, lower your expectations of everyone and everything, and to forget about the fact life used to be better. That way, when life gets back to normal (if it ever does), we are led to believe that this is tremendous progress, when in fact it is not. This, dearest readers, I am told by former refugees- now happy Canadian citizens- is one of the most soul crushing experiences you can have in life. This is especially true because it happens not just to you, but everyone and everything around you so there is no place you can go to experience normal life again unless you run far, far away. Sometimes, run is what people have to do because even such things as complete and utter lack of personal safety becomes normalized.
In Canada, many things have been normalized under COVID circumstances with such speed and efficiency that my head is still spinning. Let us look at some highlights:
Shopping and Hospitality: Media outlets like CBC and Global are reporting that summer shopping is through the roof; people are buying clothes, electronics, cars and even homes like crazy. This is the punchline. The more quiet part is that people who were ready to shop anyways just delayed their shopping until we opened up a bit more. Finally, the quietest part is that some of the sales figures overall for the year are still half of what they were in 2019. HOW IS THIS GOOD NEWS? How is this uplifting and why is the media presenting it as such? They have to try for once to stick with the truth by letting objective facts dictate headlines. Instead, they are trying to normalize our economy's decline as some sort of a rise. There is nothing to applaud here. Just look at restaurants. I am freaked out by how many good ones closed in Toronto, and how many other businesses are now shuttered. A restaurant needs to be filled to the brim like crazy, all the time, to maintain its already thin profit margins. Why are we celebrating our favorite restaurants reopening to half the revenue they had same time last year? It scares me we are normalizing that hey, something is better than nothing, because that insufficient something will make those restaurants fail, and the ripple effect will eventually hit everyone's bottom line.
Masks: I have no on the record or off the record stance on masks. I only care about what we have quickly normalized or the sake of public health. What will you do next time you are out on a quiet street and you see someone wearing a nondescript outfit complete with a mask, sunglasses and a baseball cap? I have 911 on speed dial because people like that cannot possibly be identified if they try something. The other day, my news feed had an article about a guy who jerked off on TTC twice (that the authorities know of) and he used this exact approach to conceal his identity. The same goes for a broad daylight shooting in Toronto downtown some weeks back, where a guy was wearing a mask (at least). Let us also not forget that people can now go inside banks, government buildings and pretty much everywhere else with masks on. How long do you think it will take before people start wearing full face masks in public just because they can? How about masks and skiing or bike goggles in the winter on a cold day? The normalized reason for this is COVID, but nothing about this is normal or ok. How many of you have a creeping suspicion that masks will never go away, even if our government stops mandating them? What will the role of masks be in protests and riots when they occur next time in Canadian cities (as they do, now and then)? Right now, anyone with ill intent can wear a mask and say they are doing it because of COVID. Would you like to read what our own Criminal Code had to say about mask wearing before we normalized it? This comes from Wikipedia:
- After several high-profile protests, the Canadian Parliament introduced Bill C-309, which bans the wearing of masks during a riot or other unlawful assembly. The bill became law on June 19, 2013. Those convicted of it face up to 10 years in prison.
- Canada's Criminal code, Section 351(2), also covers "Disguise with Intent", whereby "Every one who, with intent to commit an indictable offence, has his face masked or coloured or is otherwise disguised is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years". With some exceptions, an indictable offence in Canada is one that is subject to a fine of greater than $5,000 or imprisonment of more than six months.
Work from Home: Most people do not know how to work from home. I have a friend who did so since she was 16! Her first job was in customer service but she worked from a home office part-time after school. Now, she codes and she still works from home. Here is what she told me, as someone who spent her entire work life thus far as a work from home employee or rather, a contractor.
- You are judged harsher when you work from home due to conveniences and savings it brings, so work becomes sacred. Work must come first. If you fail to make sure of that, remember it is so much easier for a company to fire an employee they do not even see every day!
- When you work from home, you do not exist for anyone during work hours! Your bring other people who live with you in life, or you leave and get your own place. You do not exist for them when you have to work, and they must successfully keep noises and distractions to a bare minimum for you. There is zero tolerance and there are no exceptions.
- Sooner or later your income may suffer as your employer may limit your raises or ask you to accept lower pay if you work from home 90-100 percent of the time. You will not financially benefit from working from home for too long.
Staycations: This one sucks big time. We cannot let online magazines, ads and the media normalize staycations. This is like making a consolation prize the new gold medal. They do not want us to face the reality that, even when we have vacation days and money, there is nowhere to really go and nothing to really do- at least not without jumping through serious hoops (not willing to jump through them). I believe in the power and importance of vacations and what a difference a week or two off at an amazing destination far from home can do for your body and soul. Do not try to make me forget about it by normalizing staycations.
I know there are more normalization efforts thrust upon us, but here is the bottom line. When naturalized Canadians who came here as refugees see how our society and economy are changing and they get nervous, we should treat them as the canary in the coal mine. The best way to do that is to follow the rules and regulations set up to fight COVID, but every step of the way we complain about it, we complain about the economy going down, we complain about the damn masks, we complain about Zoom meetings, we complain about not going to Mexico this year, and much much more. We have the right to speak up, we have the right to at least verbally push back, and finally we have the right to demand a return to the real normal as soon as humanly possible. Oh and no, this does not mean we are spreading negative energy. We simply must state what standards we have for ourselves, and how we want our society to get back to 2019 as soon as we can. We have to listen to news and separate the facts from all the editorializing and all that normalization spin they try to put in the news. We can be glad that we can go to restaurants now, but there is nothing to be happy about or to celebrate because we are not back to normal again. Yes, it may be difficult to do this all the time, it may make us carry more burden on our shoulders, but this extra burden will do what extra burden always does- it will make us stronger and consequently more determined to participate in re re-building of Canada, instead of normalizing life in the rubble of what once was life before COVID.