Being normal is not an option

The current season’s premieres push the individual to the fore. Everyone is a king or queen. The protagonists of this piece are people from very different contexts, frequently on the periphery of normality. We challenge the view of the other, of what’s special outside of the norm.

Antiquity, with its thinkers and theorists, is the cradle of the institutionalised society. Aristotle observed people in their habitat and saw that they have a tendency to connect with other people into communities – “zoon politikon”, the individual as a social and political being.

Now, it’s not as if the individual doesn’t want to live alone from time to time, but according to Aristotle they can evolve better within a community, in order to then fulfil their inner raison d'être. Elements that merge in Aristotelian understanding – realisation of the individual and co-existing – apparently has become a paradox in today’s world: the individual yearns for community, but this need collides with the desire for individual development.

The only thing that prevents the individual from developing, is the individual itself, because collectives tend to penalise differences. People forbid one another from living out their otherness. This of course continues today. And especially in communities that tend to bisect in the public discourse – into a majority society and a minority society.

Sections of the majority society then label issues of a minority society as niche topics to question their relevance. There are many so-called “minority issues”. As many as there are people in a society – gender-biased and minority-biased language, social discrimination based on origin, homo-negativity, persecution fuelled by religious fanaticism, antisemitism, discrimination because of a migration background or racism. When these issues are discussed, the following principle often applies: We, the majority society, determine the relevance of an issue and consequently also the societal efforts we are willing to expend to find out how relevant the issue is for us, the majority.

If the individual is a “zoon politikon”, a social being, which fundamentally relies on the care and recognition of others, then a society shouldn’t view its minorities as a threat. We must weather the “adventure of co-existing” together, as the Bulgarian-French author Tzvetan Todorov says in his 1996 book, because a pluralist, liberal society, as we would like it, in particular benefits from its unique selling points – plurality and liberality of course. Minorities are the other. The special, the greatest asset. A society must celebrate its differences, otherwise they don’t exist. Everyone is a king or queen. The current season’s premieres heighten our awareness of the other.

Author: Christopher Warmuth