IN any discourse, human beings from different societies of the world are often quarantined to act and think upon various social and cultural orders via different linguistical, cultural and religious frames in order to produce narratives of what these different societies regard to as normal. The world consists of different cultures and religions that have completely different philosophies and perceptions about the world we live in. These perceptions are rooted in different linguistical systems of which every society expresses themselves to build their cultures and religions in order to produce theories of social and cultural knowledge that create distinctions between morality and immorality, normality and abnormality, good and bad and so on.
Geographical factors such as villages, towns, regions, countries and continents also contribute to these perceptions. These views and philosophies are the major determinants of what is normal or abnormal in each specific society without considering the difference in the perceptions and the existence of other existing cultural societies. The question of what is normal is socially constructed and culturally perceived and therefore it is also relative. It can therefore be deduced that we live in a totality of different societies with different norms and truths as constructs that determine normalities. These norms and truths are social constructs unique of each society and cannot exactly be applied to other cultures given the differences in religions and philosophical patterns of each society.
What is culturally true or false in Oshiwambo culture cannot exactly be culturally true/false in a Portuguese culture. This formula also extends the lexical implications of all other languages with regards to meaning of creation and the construction of social norms and truths in order to consider what is normal about a specific society which is abnormal to the other and why or why not. The truth and falsehood is extended to linguistics for each language because each language or lingustical system has its own lexical constructions and style to determine the meaning of what is normal and what is not. Further analysis digs deep on practical examples; What is considered normal in the noble village of Eyanda by those who live in this specific village can be perceived to be abnormal in the city of Windhoek, for instance, peeing in the bush or in an open area is seen as normal in almost all the villages whereas in the urban areas it is a perceived abnormality that one can even get charged for public indecency as our urban laws would dictate. This is so because in the villages people are exposed to a very natural environment with no toilets or sewage systems whereas in urban areas such as in Windhoek people are exposed to toilets and sewerage systems quarantining their ablution behaviour to small hidden environments called toilets.
The concept of normality is an abstract one, its comparative in nature in fact being normal is not absolute, and it’s also subjective in its application. Being normal is a social construction culturally understood by a specific society; there are many theories through which normality can be understood. For instance if normality is applied in the Christianity doctrine, the nature of explanation would extend to something like; “Only those who believe and praise the Lord (read Christian God) shall enter his eternal kingdom”. This truth would apply firstly to all Christians and to any other person be it a Muslim, Buddha or Hindu, this application is very abnormal to other religions for there is no God therefore creating a contradiction between religious beliefs, such nature of truth is said to be relative for it only relates to a particular frame of reference and religion, the dictatorship of a single culture or a religious doctrine is therefore instantly created. It can consequently be deduced that what is normal to a Christian street vendor in Namibia can be perceived to be abnormal to Hindu farmer in India; the two can register different truths over the same event, these truths are subject to relativity.
Relativity is understood as a subjective value or principle upon which truths rest or depend. Some scholars argue that social norms are conditioned by the society and accepted by the majority. German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche whose work exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and intellectual history once marked that; “those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”, his pronouncement is that truth is subjective or rather relative and that reality is just an illusion; what is normal to a spider is chaos to the fly. Normality is how the norms of specific societies define them, its therefore subjective because it is linked only to a specific culture or religion but it might be applied elsewhere were its existence might not hold concrete meaning for the society but only imposed on it e.g. Christmas in China, and English being the official language in Africa.
Being Normal in Oshiwambo would translate as “uli nawa” which if translated back into English would mean “being fine”, a serious contradiction, as there is no absolute logical semantics between the two terms. Normality is considered relative because the points of view of one culture or religion have no absolute truth or validity in other cultures but rather only relative and subjective to specific philosophies, the construction of truths and moral principles applies only to the original society and its application is therefore limited in context, meaning and explanation. The societal contradictions of what is normal not only lies in linguistics but mainly in different philosophies and perceptions which determine different norms on a practical and linguistical basis. Our frames of references are therefore the major determinants of what is normal, when and for whom does normal entails.
A Leftist writer and a critical theorist
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015