17 October 2009

Norms and Normality

Where I live, in Stroud, a delightful town of white stone cottages that nestles into the Cotswold hills and is shortly to be twinned with Rivendell, we are distantly aware that we may not see the world through exactly the same sort of lenses as other people. It isn't exactly the land that time forgot, more likely the place where we remember what times were like before selfish individualism was the dominant ideology, and try to recreate those times.

At least that is what I like to think. There is nothing backward-looking about our culture. It is sustainability with a soul - taking the best form the past and being creative about innovating a future we can all share - the low-carbon high life.

But last weekend I learned something that gave me a bit of a shock. I do stray into the urban jungle of our local city of Gloucester on a fairly regular basis, just to keep my feet on the ground. While there last weekend I was told that they have a phrase they use about us and our kind: NFS, or Normal for Stroud! This applies to anything involving lentils or beards or free-thinking, I assume.

At first I felt rather upset, but then I thought maybe it was a backhanded compliment of sorts. Our urban neighbours were acknowledging that we live in a different way, we have a different set of what sociologists would call 'norms'. These may make us something other than 'normal' but the fact that we are an identified group proves that our changed values are starting to have an impact on those who live near us.

As behaviour changes in an adaptive response to the climate crisis, some communities and organisations will lead the way. For a while they will not be 'normal', especially as the norms that define our normal today tend to be competitive, exploitative and destructive. I like to think that where Stroud leads the world will follow. I'm not sure whether the invention of NFS proves that this is the case, but it certainly proves that we are being watched.

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