Thursday, 26 January 2012

Non-conformism (again)

Thirty years ago, it would - I am told - have been fairly normal for a black person to be referred to as a nigger, and for a gay person to be arrested. Today, "things are different" in developed countries - racism is more subtle and less socially acceptable, and anti-gay bigotry is also rendered more subtle. Both are still problems, and where discrimination has "disappeared", new forms of discrimination have cropped up in its place.

Nonetheless, in many parts of the developed world in today's society, our generation, Gen Y, the Millenial generation, the 5-16's of 2012: we are now taught from a young age that these things are wrong. Racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, we're told "That's bad, don't do it." With good reason, of course, but it doesn't always work, and as a school student, I've seen this teaching become an object of ridicule, sarcasm, calls of "You racist" whenever anyone says anything remotely affiliated with the colours black or white, people jokingly calling people "homophobes" whenever the word "gay" finds its way into a conversation.

Conforming is the done thing: that's why it's conforming. In a school setting, you do whatever the fuck you can to make sure you don't stand out and don't attract attention. In a workplace, you abide by the law and follow the customs of the place in which you work. Academia is built on conformity, what with all the academic standards and practices. If you don't conform, you're odd, you're off the wall, you're a freak, "that guy who does stuff." However, some people don't conform. And this is where I come back to the education system and schoolchildren.

Another message drilled into us from an early age is "It's okay to be different." The problem is that again, despite the good intentions, the message becomes an object of mockery, the butt of jokes, and something that is ignored even when people are consciously aware of it. It's something that you absolutely have to be able to figure out for yourself or you won't act upon it. And so people go around and make insincere comments to people who are different that "It's okay to be different." But do you know what they're doing when they say it?

They're fucking conforming.

It's a little peculiar, when you think about it, that the very important message that encourages diversity, difference, tolerance, acceptance, itself is a thing that people repeat mindlessly, have in their head, ignore completely but are aware of, when that's precisely why the message came about in the first place, to combat that kind of thing. Not everyone is like this, but as I said, if you can't figure out yourself that there is more to life than what is done, then you're less likely to appreciate it if someone simply says as much to you.

I was actually going somewhere completely different with this post, and was going to talk more about where non-conformism becomes conformism, but I've made this long enough, so I might carry on in a third part.

~Tired Leonidas

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