Conformity is a dirty word to most ears, because as most of us see it individualism is the sacred ideal for which we must strive, and to which we owe every great social advancement. The message is clear: individualism good, conformity bad. And nice, personable celebration of our inherent uniqueness we can all
conform rally behind in union.
However, I have to admit that I’m a bit puzzled by the knee-jerk reaction people have towards conformity. After all, isn’t out conformity to societal norms the means by which society even exists? Isn’t our willingness to conform to the practices of individuals that preceded us the means by which culture is maintained? And isn’t our occasional willingness to break away from what we perceive to be the wrongdoings of our predecessors a reflection of our conformity towards the rightness of some other ideal or cause? So you’re wearing clothes that set you apart from others in your community, thereby showing your individuality. Great, but aren’t you still conforming to the practice of wearing clothes? Putting on pants isn’t something that’s innate to people, it is something we are conditioned to do (and, I think, for good reasons).
My point in this post is not to claim that conformity is good, it is to claim that conformity is unavoidable. You will conform–and you do conform–to something or another (I know I sure as hell do). But I don’t understand why this should bring despair to anyone. I don’t see why the fact that we enjoy and take part in activities that we are introduced to by others (people or society at large) should be instantly seen as a sign of a weaker mind. As long as you, as an individual, truly do like what you’re doing and how you look, isn’t it still an expression of your individuality; even if it is contained within conformed perimeters? Because, if we are honest, everything we do is causally dependent on the situations and actions that preceded us, thus we are by necessity going to conform in one way or another.
I understand the need we have to assert our individuality, but it’s silly to be so obsessed with being original and enjoying things that only belong to the fringes of pop culture simply because it gives you the right to claim a sub-culture as your identity, unless you are genuinely interested in said sub-culture. I think that what most people imagine when they hear conformity is submission; the submission of one’s personhood to another. This is a frightening prospect, so we design clothes, dye our hair, change our speech pattern, and write blogs to show the world that we are individuals, standing apart from the herd. Now, if we could just get all those other bastards to stop copying us–those damn conformists!