Fifty is the new 40. Orange is the new black. Thick is the new thin. We’ve all heard some variation of the claim that what was once the standard has been effectively and immediately replaced by a new and improved model. Coke was to be new Coke. That attempt at modifying the syrupy concoction proved so unpopular that it was ultimately retracted by the soft drink giant. Still, they revisited the wisdom of claiming the king to be dead when they worked to nudge Diet Coke with Coke Zero.
Sure, things change. The child becomes the parent. And the student becomes the master. But are we all too eager to claim the transition complete before the assumption is tested by the most grueling of standards — time? Axioms develop slowly. Well, they should. We humans have flourished for eons precisely because we are adroit at determining safe and practiced patterns and staying within them. Every child can tell you why a little pig shouldn’t build his house out of straw or twigs but only of bricks! It is a dangerous world. More than one big, bad blowhard will do their best to knock the house down.
So today, we are told of “new” normals. That everything has changed. That we will never be the same. Perhaps. These times test the foundations of our nation and its institutions. But are we humans really that different? Are we evolved? Or do we still long for power over others? Do we still seek protection for our own and advantage for our tribe? Do we still laugh, love and obsess? Is our sense of self-awareness only temporary, as it has proven to be with so many crises before? In the long scope of history, when is a “new” normal determined to be the new normal?