To be different or not to be different?
The biggest question we don’t seem to be consciously answering in our everyday interactions or actions, but which determines and influences us to a large extent, is whether to conform to societal standards or to deviate from them? The dilemma often isn’t limited merely to conformity or deviance; it makes us question the very standards set by the society and who even makes up this society in the first place.
Riding on the theory of thesis and anti-thesis in every other generation, our generation is most certainly living up to the reputation of being the anti-thesis to the thesis for our parents’ generation, their societal standards and expectations. We rebel, as we should. It seems an absurd kind of contradiction where we are merely conforming to the societal expectation of rebellion when we rebel against, yes you got that right, societal expectations and conformity. These rules seem to have been fabricated keeping in mind that an adrenaline deprived younger generation would flout them one day. Maybe our ancestors really had a handbook to make the life of a younger generation a living hell for not conforming to their societal rules, while the macro societal picture considers this to be the social order.
But this paradox of conformity only gets more ridiculous with the coming of our generation. Contradictions bred within our generation; conformity and deviance weren’t terms limited to inter-generational chasms. With a multitude of personalities one could be, belief systems one could have, fandoms one could belong to, overlapping categories each person invariably fell into, “To be or not to be” was far from the question. “Who to be?” is a question that sums up this conflict. With multiple choices came the freedom to choose one’s own identity, and with this freedom came a great inertia in making choices that led to indecisions and insecurities regarding each choice and blurring identities.
Along with this choice to choose one’s own identity came the age-old question of whether to conform to societal standards or to deviate from them. The contradiction lies in the fact that while deviating from a particular society and its standards, you are invariably conforming to those of another. If you unsubscribe a particular belief system, you are inevitably subscribing to the system that doesn’t believe in your former system.
Should you choose to suspend your belief or disbelief about God, you would be considered an agnostic person, yet theists would consider you an atheist for your very doubt. Should you be someone who believes in burning bras in order to get gender equality, you would be classified as a feminist by supposed humanists, but feminists wouldn’t count you as one among them, considering you a femi-nazi. Should you prefer to eat vegetarian food, then dropping those carbohydrate loaded dairy products would land you with an overlapping label of being vegan, or alternatively add some eggs to your diet and be considered an eggetarian. Gender diversity and its multiple associated tags further complicate the matter, yet allow more freedom to express one’s identity.
In a society that has categories and labels for every form of expression and every creature that crawls, how can you different, really? Or how different can you really be? We live in a society that would in all probability have a label for those that don’t conform to labels, or are those what hippies are supposed to be? Fun fact, the society is essentially imposing a label on lableless-ness. How can you really be different in a society where being different could become the norm? Listening to ‘music no one listens to’, following YouTube channels that don’t have more than a few hundred people following them, liking pages that don’t have more than a hundred likes; a constant pursuit of the unconventional, the novel, the ‘unheard of’. This search for something novel to align oneself with isn’t a novel effort in itself. What happens when every second person in a society wishes to be different from the first? When every second person wishes to be unconventional; doesn’t that make unconventionality itself the convention? Going back to the theory of thesis and anti-thesis, our generation has succeeded in creating both together, simultaneously, within the very same generation. With extensive deviation, we may have successfully put an end to the very essence of deviation itself.
So you could be a metrosexual feminist socialist vegetarian nerdy, Tumblr addicted weight-o-phobe atheist, or you could be a bi-curious Marxist hard core non-vegetarian Twitter butterfly. You could be menninist (yes there are people who associate themselves with that label), meat (and eater)-hating sci-fi nerd agnostic hippie or a homophobic strictly heterosexual eggetarian femi-nazi theist, to name a few. And within these four categories exist at least 16 other labels, included within the innumerable categories to begin with. Within these infinite combinations of categories and traits we exist as a multitude of our own being, and that I believe is the greatest paradox of this generation.