Are We Allowing the Abnormal To Become Normal?

I recently attended a conference in Brussels, Belgium and was there to speak on Community Trust and Police Legitimacy, and heard the statement, "We can't let the abnormal become normal," as a speaker was talking about a certain leadership concept. I began to think about this statement in the context of my topic of community trust, and began to ask myself if we, as a society, are letting the abnormal become normal?

What is normal? A social norm is when a group shares some standard of behavior. Norms are social rules which define correct or acceptable behavior in a society or a group, to which members of the group are expected to conform. These are shared values. But there are different kinds of values, instrumental values and terminal values. Instrumental values are how we want to be treated and how we feel we should treat others. Some of the words associated with instrumental values are: fair, equitable, courageous, forgiving, etc. Terminal values are how we want things to end up (terminate), goals that we work towards, such as: freedom, equality, happiness, security, etc.

I began to wonder if our "abnormal" is beginning to become "normal" because our Instrumental values and our Terminal values are in conflict with each other? I considered the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. It has only been 15 days since that event and many things seem to be "back to normal," when they shouldn't! Because of this, I wondered how long it had been since the previous mass shooting, and the one before that, and if there was any pattern over the years that indicates that what was once "abnormal" (mass shootings) is becoming "normal."

It didn't take me long (thanks to the L.A. Times and Google) to find a list of 51 of the most notable mass shootings since San Ysidro, CA in 1984, where 21 people were killed and 19 people wounded, up to the October 1, 2017 attack in Las Vegas, Nevada with 59 killed and over 500 wounded. Some quick work done on Excel and it was pretty clear what the trends are.

In looking at the data, the trend line shows that the shootings are coming closer together than they had in the past, and the body count is steadily rising.

The above chart shows the red dotted line data trend of the time in months between mass shootings.

Body Count Chart

This chart shows the red, dotted line of the body count trend. This chart only shows the number of people killed, but when number of people injured is included the trend climbs at a steeper angle.

Now, consider that our instrumental values (how we treat others, and how we want to be treated) had to change, and consider that there has been a steady increase in mass shootings of other people, with more frequency, we should look at our societal instrumental values and what they are. Yet, many of those shootings were committed by people who felt they were not being treated fairly, equitably, etc., so their terminal values became different than the shared terminal values of society, which is in conflict with their instrumental values for treating others and how they wanted to be treated.

But because these shootings appear to be coming closer together, with a steady increase in body makes me wonder if we, as a society are actually allowing the abnormal to become normal? After all, isn't our behavior, as a society just a manifestation of our beliefs, our shared values, our norms? And we, as a society, at least since 1984, haven't changed the pattern of behavior yet, so is what used to be abnormal, becoming normal?

About the Author: Dr. Chris Fuzie is the author of "S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior," and Owner of CMF Leadership Consulting. Chris is a developer/trainer/consultant for leadership of public, private, profit, and non-profit organizations. Chris holds a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D), M.A. and B.A. in Organizational Leadership, and has graduate certificates in Human Resources and Criminal Justice Education. Chris is honorably retired from the Modesto Police Department after 28 years of public service where he last served as the Assistant Division Commander of Investigations.

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