Saturday, October 06, 2007

filosofstvane...thoughts on conformity

I love capital cities. The mixture of expats, diplomats, and nationals who are desperately fleeing from the past, and those who stubbornly refuse to admit that, like time, tradition all too easily passes into the world of things ephemerally treasured.

The interminable question seems to be; change or tradition, or perhaps, conformity versus individualism? But here is my question- need we live our lives based on the philosophical stipulations set down by long-since deceased old white dudes?

Here are some recent conversation topics that I've had in the last two weeks that have brought me to this post.
*Country music- is the old stuff as good as the new, and more importantly, is the new stuff really even country?
*Architecture- areas of downtown Sofia are obviously influenced by Vienna-educated Bulgarians
*Success- Why is an individual's redefinition of the standard of success cause to incite hostility in others?

When we choose a different path in life, some people seem to see that as a challenge to their chosen path- as if our declaration of what’s good and right for us is inherently a denunciation of theirs. Ever so more is this true if the offended party is living a typical and successful life. So what is it about the average person that they feel a need to be so possessive about an experience that is really more about the collective – society’s goals- to the extent that those who deviate, either “above” or “below” the mainstream, are seen as a threat?

Conformity allows society to run smoothly. Without conformity, there would likely be political and social chaos. Conformity means that Coca-Cola can more easily observe the average 14 year old American and determine what kind of product to release. After all, isn't it nice to go to the store and realize that you like all the stuff that's available? (I assure you, its much better than going in and realizing that half the products scare you into hunger...)

Idividuality, on the other hand, is the thing that bring us new ideas. Sure, conformity is the thing that makes them happen (acknowledgement of employee-employer responsibility, free markets, mass-media campaigns, etc), but without the innovative person who is willing to deviate from the norm, where would the new ideas come from?

Everyone is glad that Steve Jobs gave us the iPod, yet Cat Stevens can't come back to America. Go figure.


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