The Wages Of Conformity
We are social creatures. We depend upon each other for our physical and emotional survival. Few of us possess the ability to survive on this planet without the help of others. Because of this dependency, if we do not properly fill the roles and responsibilities expected of us, we represent a threat to the larger group. As social creatures who depend upon each other for our very survival, we are designed to conform. This promotes social harmony and makes the survival of the larger group more likely.
Our emotions are geared toward integrating us into the larger group. Social exclusion causes us to feel uncomfortable emotions such as fear, shame, and loneliness. Social inclusion brings feelings of well being such as love, pride, and happiness. Our emotional health depends upon a sense of being connected to others. The lower our degree of harmonious social integration, the lower our sense of well being.
Of course, I do not conform to the needs and expectations of society. I exist as a kind of foreign body that represents a potential source of chaos and discord in the social network that sustains me. I am a source of instability, a destabilizing force. Society, being a homeostatic system, will seek to eliminate me. It doesn’t matter if I think the needs and expectations of my culture and my country are deeply flawed. Since I refuse to accept my assigned roles and responsibilities, I am a threat to this society, as it is currently structured.
Consequently, I have experienced quite a bit of internal, emotional fallout: depression, anxiety, self-hatred, fear, shame, loneliness, anger, and self-destructive tendencies. Externally speaking, there has also been a lot of fallout: discrimination, diminished economic prospects, emotional abuse, physical abuse, diminished legal rights, and general ostracism. These examples of internal and external fallout are designed to bring me into alignment with the roles and responsibilities that my culture and country expect of me.
Since I refuse to conform to social expectations, this system is designed to destroy someone like me. At the very least, the system will attempt to limit the level of power I have in my community and my country. Ultimately, this equates with diminished levels of survival. Whether it is by my own hand, the actions of another person, or the action of a social institution, the social pressures exhibited by society are designed to ensure my marginalization, and ultimately, my demise.
This is reality. It’s harsh. It’s terrible. But it’s true. My continued survival and my continued sanity depend upon my understanding and embracing this truth. My culture and my country are not my friends. The institutions and people of my country are a threat to my existence. My own emotional responses to these social pressures are also not to be trusted, as they are designed by millennia of evolution to bring me into social compliance.
This is pretty fucking angering.
I’ll be honest. Knowing this, acknowledging this reality, there is a small part of me that wants to bring down this entire society in a grand conflagration of blood and wreckage. Why not share my pain with others in the most direct fashion possible? If you wish to treat me as an agent of chaos, then why not bring chaos to your doorstep?
Thankfully, for your well being and mine, it is not my nature to be violent. Furthermore, my socialization as a woman acts in a way that strongly discourages physical violence. However, when I remember what it was like to be a teenage boy, I suspect that as a man, I might have become a physical threat at this point.
Do you remember the Columbine shootings? When they happened, I wasn’t terribly shocked. I understood, on a deep intuitive level, why the shootings happened. It wasn’t the untoward influence of video games or violent music, I can assure you. This is the price of deep alienation. Some of the alienated will inevitably take others’ lives. Once the social contract between a person and society is broken, violence is a likely outcome—from either party. If a culture is structured in such a fashion that alienation is a common experience, these incidents of violence will be common. I don’t condone this, but I do very much understand it.
The flip side of violence against others is violence against oneself. Sometimes, when one succumbs to the emotional destruction that commonly accompanies alienation, ending one’s life seems like the only viable solution. What happens when someone figures out that society doesn’t want them to continue existing? What happens when one can not and will not conform to society’s expectations and there seems like no escape from negative social consequences? The series of teenage suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota is a testament to this reality. These deaths were not an accident. The parents and school staff of Anoka-Hennepin sent a very clear message to their children as to what constitutes the expected properties of an acceptable human being. Being LGBT is definitely not included among these properties. This message was transmitted from peer to peer and the social violence of ostracism lead to the self-inflicted violence of suicide. The teenagers who killed themselves acted in accordance with society’s unspoken wishes: they should not exist, and so now, they do not exist.
The expectations of an authoritarian, racist, heterosexist, cissexist, gender-normative, ethnocentric, classist, capitalist, christianist, ageist, abelist society includes the death of those who can not manage to toe the line. This is not an unintended consequence. This is by design. Authoritarianism and oppression use our emotional makeup as social beings as tools in forcing our compliance. In the event that we choose not to comply, we are sabotaged from within. If that does not work, then the system will try its best to marginalize, impoverish, incarcerate, and kill us.
Personally, I do not plan on taking my own life. My continued existence is my own personal “fuck you” to this cesspit of a society. I will not comply with expected roles and responsibilities, and if this helps contribute toward the demise of this hateful system, then I am grateful.
I am a living agent of chaos and I embrace this. Out of chaos comes change.
This article is one installment of a five part series:
~ by timberwraith on March 12, 2012.
Posted in Alienation, Authoritarianism, Bullying, Columbine, conformity, Internalized Oppression, Kyriarchy, LGBT, opression, Prejudice, Queer, Self-Hatred, Suicide, Violence
Tags: Alienation, Authoritarianism, Bullying, Columbine, conformity, Internalized Oppression, Kyriarchy, LGBT, Opression, Prejudice, Queer, Self-Hatred, Suicide, Violence