Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cowardice and Conformity

Rollo May, psychologist, thought of conformity as one of the greatest vices of man.  “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity,” he asserted repeatedly.  You are not fully alive, not even fully human, unless at some point of time you felt that the world around you is wrong and you wanted to scream at it, “This is me and the world be damned.”  Isn’t that what Socrates did?  Isn’t that what Jesus did?

People love conformity.  It makes life much easier.  It is easy to swim with the current, to move with the herd, to be a faceless shape in the crowd.  It is not just easy, it is beneficial too.  Trophies belong to those who abide by the rules of the game.  Pain, on the other hand, is the essential companion of the one who chooses to stand out.

No one becomes fully human painlessly, Rollo May quoted Dostoevsky.  Pain is what you undergo necessarily when you choose to be what you are rather than what the herd wants you to be. 

But why should anyone choose pain?  No, you are not choosing pain.  It chooses you, in fact, if you are on the road to inner freedom.  If you want to live your life as a subject rather than as an object.  If you want to be your own master and not a slave of the systems that stultify your very soul. 

You don’t seek freedom unless you are a rebel.  Civilisation begins with a rebellion.  Conformity is savagery.  Mass murders have been committed by those who followed leaders blindly.

The rebel, the non-conformist, is a truth-seeker.  And truth sets you free.  Though painfully.  The rebel seeks new frontiers of freedom.  “He is drawn to the unquiet minds and spirits, for he shares their everlasting inability to accept stultifying control.”  Personal integrity matters more than anything else for the rebel. 

The real tragedy of the rebel is not the pain he has to endure endlessly but that he will be made a god after his death.  He or his symbols will be used to create thorough conformists.

PS. The above post is inspired by a random reading of Rollo May.  May was not really advocating rebellion.  One has to go beyond rebellion and achieve creativity if one is to be really successful in life.  (Or remain a mediocre conformist who adds more and more to the pollution in the world.) I wrote this, however, seeing the tragic death of rebellion altogether.  Conformity has become a serious vice in our world, I think. Too much obsequiousness!

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  1. Agree with Jyotirmoy..a very powerful post :) I myself is a vehement supporter of non-conformist thoughts if it gives direction to a new and better beginnings......but on a second thought... besides deriving solace in numbers by conforming are we not empowering ourselves....unifying and synergising our capabilities... and that is why we raise our kids telling them to conform to society. Perhaps, it is genetically coded in us perhaps somewhere during evolutionary journey as a survival tool. May be I am off-tangent on this topic.. :D

    1. I'm sure you won't mind my answering you, Bushra, though you've addressed your question to Jyotirmoy. I know you as a blogger and I believe I don't intimidate you. :)

      Children have to be raised with some degree of conformity. Otherwise they will go berserk. Children are natural rebels. Rebellion is our blood by birth. It is education, society, religion and such forces that kill the rebellion. How much rebellion should be killed? That's my question. As adults why do we fail to question what is obviously wrong? The victims of religious riots today are supporting the same people who killed their family members.

      Creativity is the next step of rebellion. Why are we killing that creativity? Look at the earth today. We have killed it with our conformity. Conformity with traders and plastic manufacturers, for example.

      I know the story of a priest who tried to make an adult a conformist. The priest never succeeded. The rebel died miserably in the end as a total failure in life unable to fight the strong religious forces led by the priest. Finally the rebel was buried in a religious graveyard much against his wishes. When the cross, which the rebel detested in his whole life, was planted on his graveyard, the priest crossed himself solemnly and said, "Praise the Lord." He had achieved success. That is all what conformity can achieve.

  2. Certainly...I like a good debate. And thankfully blogging world is not infested with trolls that we find in copious amounts on social media generally :D Very much appreciate your response :)

    The story of that rebellious youth is indeed tragic and the irony you pointed is agonizing. The person laid down his life for his beliefs only to be turned into what he rebelled against. Sad!

    ... am glad you agree the little imps, I mean the kids, need to be disciplined and I agree the control and conforming standards should not kill creativity.

    While adult world is conforming out of necessity and love for easy life is understandable. Then certainly conforming equates cowardice ..a reluctance to venture into new. But there is also a section of society which is breaking the norms...and hats off to those bravehearts.


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