Tag Archives: culture

No Going Back, No Going Normal

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I talk about what I miss from before the pandemic. When discussing this with my girlfriend, she noted that trying to go back was useless. What you have to do is decide on a future and try to make it.

That resonated with me for two reasons I want to discuss.

The first is because we find it easy to get lost in nostalgia. Humans are creatures of history, and I sympathize when people remember “the way things were.” However, all of us know that the past wasn’t as great as we (or others) remember, as sure as we can’t go back. Even if we could go back to another time, we would be different people.

The second, deeper reason I connected with her statement was “build the future” is a lot better than the talk of “the new normal.”

The “new normal” is a deception. It is a deception because the “new normal” will be changing for some time to come. It is a deception because some things will be new and some will be old. It is a deception because “normal” will be different for many people – “normal” is not one size fits all.

Normal is a lie.

But deciding to build the future? I resonate with that because it means I choose – and making a choice means asking what you want? A lot like Agile (hey, you knew I’d bring it up), you have to ask what’s valuable and worth your time.

I don’t know precisely the future I want. I have most of the picture, but the pandemic has changed some things. I do know it won’t be “normal.”

But it’ll be mine.

Steven Savage

No Real Heroes

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Americans say they love heroes. It’s obvious that’s a lie for too many Americans – we hate heroes and want false ones.

Real heroes are messy people because they’re real humans with flaws and problems. We idolize them but can’t tear our eyes away from the feet of clay every idol has.

Real heroes are creatures of time, of a particular era. As we’ll all too aware, those we admire become less admirable in time. Real heroes are ones we too oft grow out of as persons and as a culture.

Real heroes are a challenge to us because of their reality. Their very existence is a reminder we can do better and be different- while being flawed. If someone with flaws can do great things, why haven’t we?

Real heroes have real results, but also messy results. The extraordinary actions of heroes challenge us to do better. The mistakes and flaws of their choices require us to confront uncertainty about people. Heroic efforts aren’t clear-cut and morally simple, and they force us to think.

Real heroes don’t have the signs of success we want. They may not be rich or good looking, or charming. Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay well, and people who get their hands dirty don’t look clean.

Real heroes don’t fit our template. Real heroes aren’t always the gender we want, the age we want, and or the ethnicity we want. Real heroes remind us that heroism isn’t confined to people like us.

There are many admirable people with us and passed on, but their lives challenge us. To sort the good from the bad in a person is an effort, and when we do so, we confront ourselves. Our simple images of a hero don’t survive contact with history, nor do the images of ourselves.

We hate real heroes, so we often seek false heroes. We find some person who has the right pose, the right words, and follow them instead. We worship the fakers, the actors, the deceivers, and the grifters.

Fake heroes are clean. They present the way we want, act the way we want, say the things we want. There’s no moral ambiguity – unless you look at their actions.

Fake heroes often have money and fame, and the right looks. They have all the worldly things we want, and we decide that’s heroism. The image is there – as long as you don’t ask how they got there.

Fake heroes don’t have any apparent ambiguity because they lie about it or cover it up. Fake heroes are an act, and we don’t have to deal with moral complications because we buy into it. Fake heroes are so much easier.

Fake heroes fit all we expect. They’re the right age, right sexual preference, right skin tone, etc. Fake heroes are a confidence game that looks just enough like us that we’re confident in believing in them.

We so prefer fake heroes in America. They’re so much easier, and the internet and media will help us find them or turn them out for us.

This presents a challenge in a troubled time. But we need to rise to it or drown in false heroes and false faith. We need to know who to trust.

The hero might even be us, flawed as we are, temporary as we are.

Steven Savage

The (Holiday) Fire Next Time: Holidays in 2021

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’re not even through the holiday season of 2020, so I’d like to discuss the holiday season of 2021. No, this isn’t me jumping the gun like every store out there to cram Christmas and such into every mental cranny. Instead, I want to confront three facts that haunt us, the three “Ghosts of Christmas WTF” as it were.

  • This holiday season is not “normal.”
  • The next holiday season will not be “normal.”
  • The next holiday season should not be “normal.”

This holiday season is not “normal,” and it’s even less normal than we realize. We know about the obvious abnormal things – the Pandemic, economic collapse, a president in further mental and moral decline. But there are other things we may not notice because of those things.

Think of all the things that have changed because of the above. We’ve been barely seeing our friends, our exercise routines changed, our diets changes, and so forth. Many of us have come close to tragedy or have faced it. We’ve had abnormal after abnormal flung at us over and over so much we might not be able to acknowledge it.

So let’s acknowledge it and give ourselves a break. Don’t beat yourself up – or bother others – for not doing things “right.” It wasn’t going to be “normal.”

Such acknowledgment let us gear up for next year – because the holiday season of 2021 is going to be different too.

Next year isn’t just going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., in 2021. It’s going to be us recovering from the Pandemic and the economic crisis. We’ll be reliving the traumas of this year, on top of whatever holiday stressors we have. Too many of us will have empty seats at the table and fewer holiday cards to send.

The next holiday season won’t be “normal.”  Get that into your head, and you’ll be happier next year. You’ll be able to acknowledge the trauma you and others faced. You’ll know to go easy on yourself and others.

By acknowledging next year’s holidays will be different, that means we can deal with the fact that the next holiday season should not be “normal.”

We will have confronted so many issues about life – the fragility of it, our ignorance of essential workers, grinding poverty, political corruption, and more. We will want to rethink what the holidays mean and what we want to do in light of these unavoidable truths.

We will want to mourn. There will be so much sadness, so much death, and we’ll need to deal with it. During the holidays, sad things often come out – so let us prepare to deal with such things healthily.

We will want to dispense with some traditions.  How many holiday events are horrible mental grinds we never wanted to do anyway – and this Pandemic let us avoid them or ditch them? How many traditions don’t seem meaningful now? What do we need next holiday season – and in the years to come?

We will want to return to or elevate some traditions.  What holiday events now mean more to us than ever? What events should we make the center of our holidays in 2021? I usually did holiday potlucks, and believe me when I say I value them even more.

We will want to make new traditions.  What have we learned this horrible 2020 that can be dealt with by new practices? What deserves to be remembered, or despised, or forgotten? You’ve probably created or taken on other holiday traditions before – what should you make (or just appropriate) for next year?

Steven Savage