The Trouble with Normal…



… is it always gets worse (according to an old Bruce Cockburn song–see below)

To leave the cloistered isolation of Goose Creek and go anywhere other than “downtown” Floyd almost always feeds my inner-curmudgeon. I glimpse pop culture at its worst (is there another side of it?) and am once again disgusted and disappointed that we can’t aspire to higher things.

Mercifully, Ann and I are protected from being commercialized for hours of our days by TV ads (satellite dish came off the hill in 2003) and we see far fewer than the average allotment of murders, muggings and mayhem. But every once in a while we have accidental brushes with “normal” media life in the so-called real world, all the more shocking for the long spells of ignorance in between seeing how far American society has slipped since the last time.

The televisions overhead run 24/7 at the Roanoke Airport waiting area. And out of perverse fascination while Ann bought a newspaper for her trip, I watched. In my small window to the world, I learned that role-model Brittany Spears is now the starlet of her own cartoon feature. Somehow that seems about right. She’s been a bizarre crafted caricature all along, after all.

And, thankfully, now there’s a way for your young daughters and grand daughters to learn to vogue like Brittany. Send them to Miss Bimbo. Millions of others are already transforming themselves into breast-implanted 9 and 10 year olds, paying good money to achieve the perfect Bimbo body before they reach middle school. I think I’m gonna ralph. Where are these kids’ parents? Is anybody home?

Players keep a constant watch on the weight, wardrobe, wealth and happiness of their character to create “the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the world”. Competing against other children they earn “bimbo dollars” to buy plastic surgery, diet pills, facelifts, lingerie and fashionable nightclub outfits. NYMag

Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights What did they think the politics of panic would invite? Person in the street shrugs — “Security comes first” But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Callous men in business costume speak computerese Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see “It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first” But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene When ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst The trouble with normal is it always gets worse — THE TROUBLE WITH NORMAL ~ Bruce Cockburn 1983

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. ugh!!!! that’s horrendous! it makes me doubt the goodness of humanity, things like this.

    we have no TV, either, so i can filter the news by just clicking on the headlines that interest me online.

  2. Boy, that poem reads like post 9/11. My grasp of history is too weak to recall what was the crisis du jour in 1983 when the poem was written. Very interesting that the US response to it was described so much like our response to 9/11.

  3. Unlike you watch a little TV and when I do I shake my head at what they are trying to sell us. I don’t get to see the advertisements meant for kids especially girls but when I try to buy my grandniece’s gifts I have to shake my head at toys like Bratz that express girls as brats. We want our children to be kind and mindful of others and them self’s but we give them toys that say other wise.

    My niece does not let her kids watch TV and they are home schooled so to some extent they are “backwards”. They don’t know the new styles and what is in or out. The 10 year old girl acts like a 10 year old girl. They are not perfect kids in fact they are kinda sneaky at times and when they are at my house I keep my eyes and ears open not knowing what mayhem will ensue in my not child proofed house. But while they irritate me at times these children are not malicious they play like children and with 5 of them that play can be rough.

    My point is this TV and other types of media put pressures on all of us but the youngest ones are the ones who “suffer” the most. Advertisers are not going to change and I don’t blame them. Help our kids; turn off the TV