Avoid acceptance of the norm

Here’s a word you may not be familiar with: Habituate. It literally means to make you become used to, to acclimatize you, to condition you. In the Second World War the families seeking shelter hundreds of feet underground in the subway (tube) tunnels were at first terrified. The thump, thump, thump of bombs exploding overhead caused fear and confusion. But after a few nights, seeing that they were safe so deep in the earth, people relaxed their fears of imminent danger, brewed cups of tea, napped and children played. The real destruction was never lost on them, never forgotten, but they had become accustomed to the relative safety, they had become habituated to their new conditional safety abode. But they never forgot.

In the world we live in today, it is all too easy to become habituated to the very real nonsense and fears that surround us. Bombarded by the media -—right and left — dismayed by the constant erosion of values we hold dear — private and public — we develop a thick skin, avoid the news, allow what are considered small transgressions by politicians, police, the military and other people who — like it or not — control aspects of our lives — we simply let these small items roll off our backs, out of our consideration. We have become our own censors, habituating ourselves simply because the very real transgressions, if allowed to impact us every moment of the day, would debilitate any semblance of normal life.

However, it is a good thing, every once and a while, to evaluate what you are doing to yourself. Don’t blame others for your myopia or acceptance. That myopia and acceptance may be completely necessary to continue to function, but after a while such “normalcy” of acceptance, self-habituation, can become permanent. That’s how propaganda works by the way. Repeating lies, spinning facts into “alternative facts” — all designed to force normal people to throw in the towel and say, “It is easier to go along ...”

That’s how nations are lost. More importantly that’s how individualism is lost: that very American quality that makes this nation great. Great tribunals and trials in the past, especially after war, recognized individual accountability and rejected historically used defenses based on state sanctioned “orders.” The problem today, as I see it, is that we’re issuing those orders to ourselves each and every day as we accept the deterioration of the morals and ethics around us.

What’s the cure? After all, we all need to cope in these times of stress. The answer may be simple: Pick apart one small news item every day, see where an event, tweet, edict or action around you is wrong and admit — to yourself — that it is wrong. Live with it? Sure. Look forward to a day when you can expunge the wrong and come out of the bomb shelter? You bet. Meanwhile, try not to become too complacent and expediently accept all the nonsense you read, hear and see. That’s their game. Stay an individual with your own brain intact.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.