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Some animals just don’t make good house pets. I’m not talking about hell-hounds here, I’m talking about fish. They are sooo boring. At least the devil’s own hunting pack would bring some excitement into the mix. Hm, maybe excitement isn’t the right word…

Oh, right, corpses. That’s the word I’m looking for. My mistake.

The older I get the more I realize that “normal” is relative. Watch any show on the Travel Channel and you’ll see what I’m getting at. If you’re more perceptive than that, you can just watch and listen to the people around you and you’ll start to figure it out. What is and isn’t normal seems entirely defined by culture and upbringing. For instance, I am not interested in eating bull testicles. The people Anthony Bourdain hangs out with, on the other hand, often are. See what I mean?

Television is so educational.

Arguments about normalcy have been raging since before globalization was even a word and have only got more intense among social scientists as the earth has continued to remain in tact and un-irradiated. The problem with globalization is that culture is strong, it has years to develop and specialize a people to fit their environment and their needs. When cultures clash, what really happens is a battle over what can and cannot remain normal. While this is not a well defined process with leaders or philosophers debating the particular merits of a set of beliefs versus another, it is a process that happens over time when cultures meet, share experiences, or fight one another. The Roman Empire had an enormous impact on its subjects largely due to the success and spread of its culture, the effects of which can still be seen today.

So what does that all mean? Does it mean that what we think of as normal has no merit or that we are brainwashed by our societies? That’s a tough question. The most likely answer is that it’s a bit of both. We’re conditioned by our societies to experience things in certain ways (laws, media, politics). We’re entirely capable of fighting this by simply being aware of these conditions and resisting where necessary. It’s not a hopeless situation for those that desire free thought, however abstract that concept may be. As far as whether our view of normalcy is valid goes, I personally don’t subscribe to the notion of cultural relativism. In my eyes, and there are those that disagree on this point, logic and emotional well-being win the day on any argument with regard to customs and traditions. If your social norm is harmless or, somehow, beneficial, then I see no problem with it, but if what you view as normal is aggressive or harmful, then I believe there is an issue to be handled.

Really what it all boils down to is the difference in experiences among us. It’s important to note that while many of us are similar genetically or physically, our experiences differ vastly and those differences are responsible for making us who we are. That doesn’t mean we can’t find common ground, it’s just something to make you pause and think about what you’re saying and thinking about the people around you.

Because while you may think a dog shouldn’t be spewing flames from it’s fetid maw like some kind of nightmarish campfire, your friend may find that to be exactly the way things should be.

He may just be terrified that it sneezed.

FINAL NOTE: I will be at table W33 with William at SPX in Maryland this weekend! Stop by if you’re going to be there! I will have some shirts, buttons, and single comic prints on hand to sell and I would love to see some of you stop by and say hello!

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