What is Normal? Tradition?

Recent years have seen a shift in acceptance in many Western countries with regards to accepting people with different sexual orientation and allowing them similar rights as others – like gay marriages, for instance. Also some non-western countries have at times been moving in that direction, like when Nepal recently announced that they would put a third choice of gender in passports, as mentioned by Reuters/Yahoo News a couple of days ago, making it possible for a Nepalese to be either male, female, or indeterminate.

But some countries are moving in the opposite direction and most strikingly Russia seems to have moved towards an official policy about what is normal, saying that only a so-called “traditional” lifestyle can be accepted. And apart from simply showing disrespect, as has often been the case towards those who are not considered normal, Russia has made laws regulating their behavior.

A quite absurd level of this harassment by law has now been reached, as it has become forbidden for transsexual and transgender people to obtain a driver’s license. Apparently because homosexuality in Russia is considered a mental disturbance, a personal disorder, that could lead to dangerous behavior. BBC News Europe wrote about this recently.

The absurdity becomes obvious when visiting Russia and seeing how people drive. I guess that ruling out one minority from being on the roads will allow for a little extra space for the others, but honestly, if the purpose was to make driving safer, many other precautions should be considered first: the technical condition of vehicles is by large miserable, traffic police is corrupt, speeds are too high on crowded roads and there seems to be an “order of social level” applied to rights in the traffic, meaning that some people are holding back while others are making their way.

What is the most interesting here is how the world has been split – that one part is moving in one direction and another part in the other direction. But maybe there are good reasons for this – in the West, we are fed up with traditions to a degree where we now want changes, in Russia all traditions were either lost or seriously challenges with the fall of the Soviet Union, and in times of crisis people might seek back to something they can share as a common identity.

We have seen this phenomena many times through history, around the world – each time leading to trouble. The Cambodian genocide was an extreme case, as was for instance various waves of witch-hunt, and the Hitler-German idea of cleaning up the Aryan race. But the hunt for a common identity is almost always leading to discrimination of minorities.

Howling with the flock and perhaps killing odd individuals seems to be a normal behavior for the human species, while respect for the individual and acceptance of differences seems to be less normal. Or maybe each of these extremes are just end points of a pendulum, meaning that we can be certain that whatever is the rule now, will change into the opposite later?

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