Mantra of the MIsguided: The New Abnormal


Pet peeve: the phrase “new normal” when applied to the current locked down, fear-fueled situation.

Abnormal - Tablet Dictionary image

There are a number of buzz phrases, repeated over and over on social media, on public service commercials, in product ads, and in government propaganda, that have gained prominence during the COVID crisis. I hate most of them:

Safe at home – which disregards the fact that for victims of the mostly-hidden crimes of domestic violence and child abuse, home is not a safe place.

Stay home and save lives – which is an attempt to guilt you into believing that if you don’t stay locked down, you’re killing people. But where is the evidence of that? It presumes a) that you’re infected, b) that if you leave your home, you’ll automatically infect other people, and c) that those you infect will die — even though this virus has a 99% recovery rate. And more important, what about the lives that are being lost to the lockdowns themselves, that have nothing to do with COVIDthe suicides, stress-related illnesses, untreated unrelated medical conditions, and those aforementioned victims of domestic violence and child abuse?

Social distancing – there’s nothing social about it. It should be called anti-social distancing, as it has created an atmosphere in which people are terrified of every human being who comes near them.

We’re all in this together – which implies a) that we’re all making equal sacrifices, which is completely untrue, and b) that we are or should be all in agreement about how this is being handled, which is ridiculous given the sharp divide in public sentiment and the animosity between the two camps.

Safety first – which, if actually practiced, would mean never taking any kind of risk again. In real life, safety isn’t, can’t be, and shouldn’t be “first.” It must be balanced with quality of life because in order to live a perfectly safe life, you can’t really live at all.

I don’t deny that mantras serve a purpose. For those with an agenda, they’re used as a subtle form of subliminal seduction — or brainwashing, if you want to be more blunt about it — designed to make people feel virtuous about blindly following the rules. That’s a subversion of their original intent.

Mantras have traditionally been used in meditation to focus the mind inward, to soothe and calm and remove the distractions of the outside world. The word comes from Sanskrit: man = mind, tra = vehicle. A mantra can move your mind in a particular direction.

The good news is that we can choose our own mantras, and thus the direction in which we want our minds to go. If you need a slogan to repeat, how about these:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Keep calm and carry on.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Dawn comes after the darkness.
A life lived in fear is a life half lived.

Those are some of my favorites. You can find more inspirational and motivational quotes all over the web, that are far more inspiring than the COVID quotes.


While I intensely dislike the COVID quotes listed above, my absolute least favorite is the repulsive idea that we must all now accept and learn to live with “the new normal.”

Surrealism,3d,faces,trees,free pictures - free image from

I refuse to accept that this absurd real-life episode of Black Mirror in which I find myself today is any kind of “normal.” It’s a temporary anomaly and one way or the other, it will end. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll completely go back to the “old normal” — which in some ways is a good thing and in other ways isn’t.

I acknowledge that there will indeed be a new and different way of doing some things, but this — entire states and nations still under house arrest, governments ramping up to track the movements of their citizens, requirements to wear mostly-useless masks in public venues, even outdoors, serious discussion of forced vaccinations and/or “immunity passports” required to go to work or even enter a store or restaurant — is not it.

Some parts of our lives are probably going to be changed forever. I’m afraid that cruising as we once knew it is over, just as flying as we knew it pre-9/11 is gone for good. Again, that’s both good and bad.

Royalty-Free photo: Closeup photo of boy's face | PickPik

If cruise lines do away with self-serve buffets and switch to a cafeteria style serving model where people can’t grab the rolls out of the bin with their hands or use their finger to get the sticky mashed potatoes off the community serving spoon and onto their plates, I’m all for it. If they do away with those self-service soft-serve machines where the kids make huge messes and smear ice cream all over the place, that’s a win.

I can live with having my temperature taken in the terminal before boarding (although I do have to question whether temperatures will register at all accurately in those circumstances). I’m willing to sign a waiver absolving the cruise of liability if I catch COVID-19 on the ship. Personally, I wouldn’t even care if the public pools and hot tubs were taken away; I never use them. And I wouldn’t be thrilled to see the gyms and spas and hair salons shut down but those wouldn’t be deal breakers for me. They would for some of my fellow cruisers, though.

On the other hand, if they start doing blood or nasal swab testing of all passengers in the terminal or requiring people over 70 to bring a doctor’s note to cruise (which is age discrimination; I know 70+ year olds who are far healthier than some of the 40 year olds I’ve met), that’s going to slow boarding way down and raise the cost of cruising for, in my opinion, dubious benefit.


If food in the dining room had to be served in cardboard boxes with one-time-use plastic spoons, if we were all forced to wear masks in public areas of the ships, if theater shows, deck parties, and other high-density activities are all cancelled, if we have to spend each cruise worrying about whether we’ll be denied reboarding the ship in port if our temperature reads high after spending a day in the Caribbean sun, if we’re required to present proof of vaccination to cruise at all — these are deal breakers for me. I think they will be for a lot of formerly-avid cruisers.

Cruising is only one of the many areas of our lives that are likely to be impacted for years, maybe decades to come by this fiasco.

I think/hope the time we spent in government imposed confinement will make some people stop and think about the freedoms we had and how it feels to live under a true oppressive regime, and perhaps changes some political views. That would be a good thing. I also think/hope that the time spent together may revive some marriages and make some families stronger – even as it tears others apart.

But I also fear that the distrust and fear of strangers, neighbors, even family and close friends who don’t live with us that’s been instilled by this “keep your distance!” brainwashing campaign is going to become hard coded if it goes on too long and it’s going to be difficult to deprogram.

I think we are going to be a less outgoing, more isolated and more paranoid society for at least some time to come even after the official restrictions are lifted. I despise the ease with which people have been convinced to turn against each other, to “tattle” on others who are doing innocuous and harmless things like taking a drive in their cars or spending an hour in the park nowhere close to anyone else because “it’s against the rules” and the (lack of) logic of those rules be damned.

I’d like to think that having this shared common enemy (the virus) will bring formerly divided groups together but I’m seeing the opposite. We seem to be more divided than ever, as individual and in the U.S. as states. That’s sad. But through the Internet, the virus issues have also revealed to us who in our circles are strong and who are weak, who are optimistic (mostly) and who are doomsayers, who panics and who doesn’t, who thinks and acts based on emotion and who insists on logic, with whom we want to be in the bunker and with whom we definitely don’t. And that knowledge, while it may cause some pain, is invaluable as we head into an unknown future where an as yet unknown new normal will prevail.

About debshinder

Technology analyst and author, specializing in enterprise security. Author of or contributor to over 25 books, including "Scene of the Cybercrime." Fourteen-year Microsoft MVP, married to Microsoft FTE Tom Shinder, and proud mom of two wonderful grown-up human children and three amazing Japanese Chin pups. In my spare time, I love to travel - especially on cruise ships - and write about my grand adventures.
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