But this is not so. Namely, there was indeed a problem, the fact that the event was caught on camera and aired in news broadcasts. The courageous company commander suddenly looked more like a cruel militarist. He forgot to wait for the media to leave (closed military zone, state security, you know). This was indeed a professional hitch. However, it was not a “normative problem”.
Norms are an illusive matter. Originally, a norm was a carpenter’s ruler, something fixed according to which things were measured. However, in a society where absolute moral standards have disappeared, the only way to ascertain what is a norm is by conducting a statistical examination. What is usually done is a norm; what the majority of people usually do is a norm.
If we examine the IDF’s conduct in the Territories, it’s not difficult to see that the norm is violence, absolute disrespect for human life, theft and passionate cooperation with settler extremists. Occasionally, IDF forces do not behave according to these standards, but this is the exception to the rule. When this happens a commission of inquiry should be established because this is when there is a “normative problem”.
Normalization of what was once deemed irregular is approaching us on all sides - it is infiltrating everywhere. Is the “breach of trust” by politicians and public figures considered a normative problem? Is “light”, borderline corruption a normative problem?
The contrary is true: They are the norm.
Is the cheap sale of our common future for the sake of short-term political gain a normative problem? On the contrary: It is the norm. Is the close friendship between members of the media and politicians evident in their articles everyday a normative problem? No. It is the norm.
Culture of lies
We are living in a culture of lies, of plastering things over, of covering our tails.
It begins with the army’s outrageous reports (the biggest plasterer of all) on incidents occurring in the Territories (the problem is always local; there is never a need for root cause treatment, only the addition of more anesthetic,) through to the prime minister’s endless spins, which are trying to convince us that his proven tendency (evident from his days as Jerusalem’s mayor) of talking from above without doing a thing except for himself is an optical illusion, and that the problem with the war boiled down to the deployment of forces and not the lack of any political insight.
And it ends with the public rituals marking Jerusalem Day, “the unified city”. Unified? It’s not even funny. It’s a lie. To lie is a norm after all.
A well-known story by Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav describes a king gazing at the stars when he sees that the following year’s yield of wheat will create madness. He summoned his subordinate and they mulled over the problem.
The state does not have enough surpluses in order to supply the entire population with good wheat, announced the subordinate. He therefore proposed using the current year’s yield of wheat for himself and the king only; thus, when his people all go out of their minds they will remain sane.
The king disagrees. If we do so, he protested, WE will become abnormal.
In the absence of absolute moral standards, the statistic majority is the norm. There is no choice, therefore, rules the king: They must eat the bad wheat. However, he proposes, they would have to brandish a mark on each other’s foreheads so that they will know who is mad.
This is a very optimistic story; we are all walking around with a mark on our foreheads. The air is full of warning buzzes; the walls are full of signs. We simply ignore them. It’s not a problem. It’s the norm.