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The New Normal: Where is it taking us and what can we do?

Written by:   Sanderson Sims

Yesterday I read an article in Vanity Fair entitled, “Inside the Dissident Fringe, Where the New Right Meets the Far Left, and Everyone’s Bracing for Apocalypse”.  Preppers, techies, hippies, and yuppies are converging on the American West, the safest place to “exit” a society gone haywire.

After reading this, I felt that it truly did describe and represent one of the current mindsets — a melting pot of perhaps untethered but powerful beliefs.

I shall be the first to admit that I have become, like many, somewhat addicted to the news feeds on my phone, computer and watch. Upon personal and professional reflection ( I had a career in advertising) it is clear that algorithmic feeds are based upon what we think is interesting — and if we will admit it — what is entertaining. If we are following the war in the Ukraine, politics, the domestic and world economy, health, climate  etc;  what confronts us is a plethora of choices, which at their base are designed to create interest and thereby maximize share of voice.  Ultimately news also relates to monitization and news outlets are not always selling the truth but “news entertainment.”

There are numerous dialogues just trying to sort out all of this for us, the media consumers. In effect what entertains drives the whole show.  The challenge in all of this is that what is true, or more importantly, useful is harder and harder to sort out.  We all have our biases and this makes us “cling” to the territory with which we resonate. It may or may not be grounded in universal reality, but it becomes our reality no matter how zany or disturbing the view is to others. 

One side effect of this is that as some people, particularly those with a public persona, achieve recognition their voice begins to count for more. And because they have achieved recognition in one area, they believe that they have expertise in many areas. In other words, they become unaware of just how unaware they are. This is a well-known psychological condition called the “Dunning-Kruger effect” where people overestimate their level of knowledge, intelligence and competence in an area. When this occurs, those that really do have the expertise are often sidelined because they do not command the same share of voice. And so, a certain amount of nuttiness rules. You might say that this has become and is the new normal.

Where does this condition take us? One example is what is described in the article above. Instead of cooperation we get divisiveness. Instead of win-win we get zero sum games with winners and losers. You see the picture. Instead of an evolution of consciousness based upon an awareness of the trials and tribulations of history, there is an ignorance by many who are willing to repeat a failed pattern because they don’t know any better.

So where does this leave us? 

First of all it is very easy to be derailed so to speak. Years ago when I was about to enter graduate school after the military,  I was a guest on a private jet with a very wealthy business man. This was his airplane and we were the only passengers on it. Not long into the flight he began joking with me about the fact that his wife had to be the only one in the world who woke up angry every morning. “ She didn’t even give the day a chance to unfold,” he said. Then he talked about how spoiled and unhappy his children seemed to be, despite their excessive material wealth. I realized then that here was a captain of industry who had mastered material reality, but was not a happy man. He hadn’t envisioned the whole reality he wanted.

The best examples are actually all around us, but they are frequently overlooked. We invariably look to high profile people because they are stars of some kind.  Yet it may be the teacher, the doctor, the shoe repairman you know that always is cheerful, laughs a lot, and seems to enjoy life: these are the high functioning people because no matter how zany the outside world is, their inner world functions harmoniously with joy and likely gratitude. 

We can decide what kind of reality we want to be in. What values we want to be surrounded by. What kind of relationships we want. How we want to feel. That’s the picture we can paint and then move towards that. The hat trick is to not be diverted and absorbed into the drama by those who are fully embracing the chaos around us, which is on the increase. I feel that the most difficult aspect of all of this is that these are conscious creations.

In other words we must be aware of what we are doing because it is the choices we make that move us towards the world we want to be living in.

We can co-exist consciously in the world of chaos, while at the same time not participate in the insanity.  In this way we become the authors of the experiences we desire to move towards and away from those experiences that are not for us. So no matter how crazy things seem to be we can move through it.


Photo by: Matthew Henry, Burst Photos

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