Conformity: behaviour that follows the usual standards that are expected by a group or society.Cambridge Dictionary
Everything around us is governed, to some extent, by rules i.e like charges repel unlike charges attract. We establish these rules to try make sense of what is happening around us. There are rules which are accepted because they define law and order i.e when the red light on the robot goes on, you stop because if you do not stop there would be chaos but then there are ‘unknown’ rules which we have subconsciously accepted and adapted to govern our daily lives and the question is where do they all come from?
I grew up in a functional home with both parents present and I was raised a certain way and expected to behave in a certain way. My mother’s childhood fascinates me because she told me that when they grew up the word “why” was forbidden. So basically we still surrounded by a generation of people who still believe questionable statements but they can’t ask why; first red flag. So I was expected to also accept this ‘forbidden’ word but I couldn’t; everything had a why to it, everything still has a why to it. So I became that one cousin that everyone avoided because I would challenge you to think about why do you believe in the things you do. Again we are surrounded by people who believe in certain things but they do not know why they believe in those certain things; second red flag which brings me to the point of discussion: conformity. My definition of conformity is accepting something just is because something just is. As cliché as this sounds but we are subjected to conformity rules every day of our lives and we struggle to differentiate between what is and what really is and all of this comes down to our environment and what the people in our environment are subjecting us too.
Question: We are told that everything we have learnt has been passed down from generation to generation; is it possible that our whole lives might be based on a continuous game of broken telephone?
I had a maths lecture today and long story short more than half of my class flunked the test we wrote on the previous day and as you would guess, the lecturer was not happy. In her state of unhappiness she said some things which when processed can be processed differently because we are all different people. She said and I quote: “If you still cannot do maths as basic as fractions then you are in the wrong course, maybe you like reading or writing and a BA would much better suit you than a Bsc and changing courses should be something you really should be considering because scientists work with numbers and if numbers are not for you then you are in serious trouble.” So sitting there looking at my mark, knowing my dream is to become a scientist, knowing I did not fail the test, I wondered if doing a Bsc is something I really should be doing and just like that doubt was instilled in a person who had no reason to doubt and this is what I mean that we struggle to differentiate between what is and what really is; however, lets not think of the lecturer as an ogre. She comes from an innocent place; she does not get paid to babysit our emotions, she has one job only and that is to produce capable scientists. “Produce” I do not know about you but I am still frowning at my choice of words but unfortunately that is our reality. In people’s eyes we don’t exist as mere human beings trying to establish a sustainable world. Our existance is defined as a can of beans on a shelf that is about to be sold; difference is our purpose is different. Offensive but true. We exist as an amount, we exist as a quantity, we exist as a thing; now who is going to nurture our dreams and aspirations? Whose responsibility is it to process what we are subjected to, filter it in an appropriate way so that our dreams and aspirations are not on the verge of extinction? This is how conformity works: we have our own beliefs and systems and when we try to express ourselves, our actions are questioned, we start asking ourselves “are we doing the right thing?” and then we alter ourselves so that we do not get questioned. My question is, instead of quickly changing our “make up” instead of rethinking whether we are fit for our own dreams, why don’t we ask what the right thing is? why don’t we ask what the wrong thing is? Why don’t we ask why do we need to convince society that we are fit for our dreams? But that’s the thing – there is no tangible and qualified person to answer these questions, we answer these questions subconsciously and there onwards a decision is made. 99.9% of the time the decision is to alter ourselves so that we can form part of this society that we ourselves define.
Now lets go back to our red flags: we are still living amongst a generation of people who believe in questionable statements all due to the fact that they were forbidden to ask why. So my mother was forbidden to ask why because chances are the person didn’t know why and they were also told not to ask why and the generation before that was also subjected to this practice of ignorance and further down the line. My question is: did anyone actually know? This brings me down to the subject of parents: we often hear that parents mold their children but sometimes I wonder if parents are the best qualified to mold their children. Parents unknowingly subject their children to conformity. The idea that domestic work is more emphazised to the female instead of the importance being equally shared between the male and the female already paves a pathway to destruction but that’s how they were taught and the generations before that were taught the same way and now we are being taught the same exact thing; difference is we are now living in a society that is trying to uproot a deeply rooted patriarchy system but there is no progress because we are still surrounded by people who do not know why they believe in the things they do.
Question: Are our parents preparing us for a world that does not exist?
Now we have a system called Conformity Lite which does not stray away from the concept but we engage in it unknowingly. We associate certain things with certain characteristics and automatically we have categorized things; we fall into these categories and we are expected to act and look the part and when we don’t, society asks why. A general example would be skimpy clothes associated to prostitution. Well that originates from us seeing prostitutes with skimpy clothes but if you are just a regular person trying to wear a pair of normal clothes, because that is what they are at the end of the day, already we have labelled you as someone who is undeserving of respect. We have labelled you as someone we feel uncomfortable around because your clothes do not speak modesty. It has reached an extent that we have become targets for merely just wearing a pair of clothes. There is always a lingering danger to everything we subconsciously accept and what the process of normalization tries to do is to simply gather your subsconsciously made decisions and ask yourself why do they exist in the first place. I do not know about you but I am very curious to knowing why I have made certain decisions that I am not aware of. Since we are animals with two main focuses: survival and reproduction, we tend to want to survive the easier way in a harsh environment and that is to go for the option which needs less effort and that is adaptation; for merely just changing your lipstick colour which you really like to not come off as a “certain person”, you have stripped yourself of your identity. I believe in change. Change is gradual but the long term goal is mindblowing and evolution attests to that. So my proposal is 1 person. 1 person does, another person sees, that person begins to question the significance of the act and then the person adapts. Two important facts: 1. The act was questioned before it was adapted: let us not live life to accept things as they are, whether good or bad; accept things because you are aware that by merely accepting it, it alters you and everything that you do. 2. I did not say this is a spontaneous process. It is gradual; the process does get tedious, the process will seem meaningless, you will get ostracized from a society you played an effort in building but the thing is that nothing worth having has ever come easy, to have peace, you need to seek and pursue it, to be happy, you need to forgive, to start normalizing things, a conversation needs to start.
Now I want to challenge you by telling you a story: I had a friend who was an artsist and she had the most beautiful roses in her garden which she liked to sketch. She misplaced her sketch book and as a result she had to redo all her sketches. She redid them and the sketches were exactly identical to the one in her previous sketch book and I asked her why couldn’t she just sketch something else because she had a variety of flowers in her garden and she said and I quote: “I can’t sketch anything different from my roses, I have never tried it and I am not willing to.” Few weeks down the line she found her sketch book and guess what? Now she has two identical sketch books with the same sketches, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Moral of the story: In life we are given countless opportunities to try something new, to give some of the wondrous things on this earth a chance but instead we decide to go through extremes to stick to the same routine because we don’t know what lies ahead and we are not willing to find out.
Question: Is it possible that we conform because we don’t know what may lie ahead of us if we just decided to pave our own roads?