“New normal” is an old phrase, traceable to science fiction author Robert Heinlein’s 1966 novel, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” It’s 2075; the moon is a penal colony; the inmates revolt and look forward to a better future, when “life can get back to normal, a new normal … free of the Authority, free of guards … free of passports and searches and arbitrary arrests.”

The crisis-ridden 21st century has given the expression new life and a lurid cast. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States; the 2008 Lehman Shock; the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdowns; worldwide weather events of unprecedented violence; and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic, all spawned warnings of a “new normal,” more sinister by far than the old, in which anything can happen and much that does is ghastly — hitherto unthinkable, now commonplace.

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