Every so often, there’s a discussion in anarchist circles about how we need to tread lightly, sound more realistic, and stop dreaming about “perfect utopias” because otherwise we’ll “scare the normal people off.” If we keep talking about a world so drastically different from the one we’re in, the “normal” people won’t even want to participate! We’ll never get traction! No one will want to do it!
This sentiment is beyond infuriating, and it doesn’t make me care about “normal” people because “normal” people—or anyone who claims to be “normal”—just don’t care about people like me. Queer and disabled people are never seen as “normal,” so we’re automatically written out of this statement by virtue of existing. The world in which my neurodivergent self can happily and safely exist is not the same one that “normal” people even want to support because they’d rather pretend that everyone understands everything in the exact same way.
Every time we say that we need something, we’re told that it’s “too much” or that it’s “too hard” or “too expensive” to possibly include everyone.
“Normal” also often implies a certain set of hegemonic values that are frequently colonialist and patriarchal in nature. This means that a lot of people, based on a race and ethnicity alone, don’t get to be “normal” in whatever geographic location they live in. They’re often seen as “strange” and “weird” and “foreign,” and their needs go overlooked because “normal” people wherever they live just “won’t understand.”
And yet people keep saying that we should be more considerate of “normal” people, as if we haven’t spent our whole lives doing exactly that. What they’re us is that we’re not allowed to loudly and collectively envision a world in which we want to exist.
Because it “scares people.”
“Normal” people need to be scared. They need to start realising that they aren’t in control of everything anymore and that they don’t get to decide who is and isn’t acceptable. They need to recognise that the world isn’t made in their image and that they don’t own it, that the people they’ve written off as “abnormal” and “weird” and “undesirable” for simply being who they are is abhorrent. They need to know that we no longer accept their constant and systemic bigotries in the ways they choose to try to deny us safety and joy.
They need for us to make it clear that everything they have been doing to us and the planet is unconscionable. “Normal” people need to be forced to reckon with the pain, frustration, and abuse they have made so many of us endure just to fit in and deal with the world they created for their own benefit.
I don’t care about “normal” people.
When I’m told to be less scary and to make myself more legible to “normal” people, it enrages me. Why should I have to accommodate those who see themselves as “normal” in envisioning the worlds we want to exist within when they’ve never accommodated anyone else? Why should we make sure that people who have always been comfortable remain comfortable in envisioning and building the kinds of worlds that we all need?
It doesn’t make any sense. Why is it that we seem to think that they should be coddled while the rest of us are left to struggle?
We’ve already seen what a world controlled by those who are perceived as “normal” looks like, and it seems to be one that they’re intent on killing. It doesn’t even seem to matter to them that they’re willing to go down with it, that they’re willing to die with it as long as they get to live in comfort and luxury and lord it over everyone else that they perceive as “abnormal” or “wrong.” They want to pretend that everything is fine because, for them, it has been.
We’ve been shown repeatedly, especially through the COVID pandemic, that “going back to normal” is what everyone supposedly wanted despite the fact that it left many of us in even worse situations than we already had. Many immunocompromised and disabled people were, almost as soon as people started going back out, left to figure out how to remain connected to their communities and be safe. Anxiety and fear increased among whole populations, and instead of dealing with it in ways that would be healthy for everyone, we were forced to just manage it and figure everything out for ourselves.
“Normal” people don’t care, and I don’t know why we should care about what they think.
Because “normal” benefits them even when it’s lethal to the rest of us.
The concept of “normal” is hard to unpick and to really define because it contains so much within something so incredibly small, and these things all change and have different meanings based on where we are and who we’re around.
If someone’s part of a culture that deviates from that of where they live, they’re often seen as strange and weird—as abnormal—because that “isn’t what we do here.” They often aren’t even allowed to participate in their own cultural practices unless it’s seen as something that can help them assimilate into society, even if it means sharing cultural practices with people who use them as costumes or to pretend they’re more “culturally enlightened” than everyone else. Companies will find ways to capitalise on the existence of these new traditions, trying to increase their audience by pretending to be far more inclusive than they ever really care to be.
Representation is great and being able to see people like you is immensely helpful, but at what cost when the people capturing it are only doing so to profit? When people are still being shoved into some narrow definition of “normal?”
When those practices can’t help in assimilation, they’re often relegated to being hidden behind closed doors when they can be practised at all. The people of the dominant culture will refuse to understand them and intentionally misrepresent them in the least charitable light possible to make it stop or at least force it into hiding. They will enable and use their children to exert pressure on the future generations of a marginalised culture, ensuring that they feel guilt and shame for being themselves. All of those children grow up learning what’s “normal” and what society deems as “acceptable,” and they enforce it upon everyone else.
That’s what we’ve all done. We’ve seen “normal” as we’ve grown up, and we persist in forcing everyone else to do it.
We police everyone into these narrow confines of what we feel is “acceptable” unless that version of “weird” can be capitalised on in some form. Being “normal” is an act of domination. The kinds of food we eat, the clothes we wear and when we wear them, the ways we want to live our own lives are all things that other people feel they should have control over. Because they hold their beliefs and behaviours to be “normal,” they see it as part of their duty to police and dominate everyone else until they fall in line.
We shouldn’t want “normal” people to feel comfortable. We should want them to recognise that shit’s got to change, and there isn’t any way around it.
We’re trying to change the world we have. We’re trying to create space for multiple and connected worlds within this single planet, and we’re scared of what happens when “normal” people find us just a tiny bit terrifying because it unsettles their reality and upsets what they value?
It’s absurd. So many of us have spent our whole lives knowing that we don’t fit in, and we’ve dealt with a lot of years of being made uncomfortable by the “normalcy” of it all. We’ve watched as we’ve been forced into unhealthy situations all for the sake of “normal,” and we’ve seen people completely neglected by “acceptable” society.
I don’t give a shit about “normal” people. It’s their turn to be made uncomfortable, to know that we don’t want their world because their world is harmful and dangerous. And at the worst, the most they will ever have to deal with is recognising that they will have to be a little less comfortable than they were before.
And I especially don’t give a shit about anyone’s anarchism if it coddles them and leaves everyone else to drudgery, abuse, pain, and neglect. If your anarchism is scared of creativity and imagination, if it’s scared of trying to find new pathways out of this garbage world, I don’t want it.
It’s not worth having.