I’ve come to sense that we live under both great and arbitrary social norms, most of which we are not conscious of and those I call social conditioning.
I understand that some level of identification with a group, with a set or rules and customs can enhance the productivity of a nation, of a group of humans, and ease the natural attrit of our complex beings.
On another hand, what good is it to have such an “efficient” world moved by fast “progress” if our most basic human aspirations are not only unmet but constantly and subtly being judged revolting, shameful, puzzling.
Maybe it was a dire need to survive in the past, social cohesion was needed for efective organisation, production of food, maintenance of peace. Maybe.
But is it still true today? Even if it is, I would argue we could, witty animals that we are, find a better way to organize than to push and maintain constrictive and mostly irrational, obsolete and unspoken social norms.
A more sensible approach to the world
I plead to you: do not to forget we are bound to be blockheads, our view of things sidetrack constantly to the biased, our feelings try to evoke the vision that those things who are most common to us are too the most natural ways of the world, and everything else is backwards and should be corrected.
I ask you to catch yourself before saying with convictions “that’s so weird”, “that’s crazy”, or any other subtle enforcement of the norm, of the arbitrary and vigent social conditioning. Unless you have well thought out why something should be the way you think it should be or is, there is no shame in not knowing. There is no shame, no silliness in constantly checking and doubting your most rigorous beliefs.
I ask not because I want to cultivate a hip cosmopolitan personality, not because the social norm now is to accept everything and lower ourselves to ones that cannot make any judgment. But because our unwillingness to contest our social reality has let to insurmountable pain over our human existence. From early slavery and wars, to religious-motived burnings to slaughter of indians to nazism and racial linchments, our narrow vision of how things naturally should be led us head-first into raping the reality of fellow man.
When you react with arbitrary opposition to some new fashion trend encountered in the street in the form of a young hipster and out of your mouth and of your heart comes a sharp sliver of disdain, on a subtle level you are saying “in this moment, you are worth my indignity for being different”.
Look closely. Even if you are factually and rationally right in criticising a human behaviour or expression, this thought “you are less deserving of respect because you are different” is one of the most silently poisonous of views.
This exact stance of mind will always manifest itself in damage, in your daughter being abused my her friends because she is considered a “slut”, in your wife being put down in meaningful comments by coworkers for being “fat”, in your grandmother being physically abused by caregivers for being “slow”.
To disregard someone as inherently problematic and underserving of compassion for being or acting wrongly is to disregard the full range of human expression and to arrogantly testify that you know, for sure and without a doubt, what is right and wrong. How things should be.
Arrogance is thus equal and inseparable to ignorance. Ignorance being the double blindness of both not seeing things from all perspectives and not having the awareness of what you are missing on.
Thus, it isn’t that your snotty comment of someones overly bright shirt is so damaging, but you’re subtly yet virulently propagating the view that they’re deserving of your negative emotions for being out of touch with your model of reality, or even more strange, to a socially constructed model of reality that you have adhered to, and is yourself worried of not being able to follow. And so tend to be mirroring your status anxieties on others, attacking others as a way to say “hey! I’m worthy of recognition! I understand what the social rules are! I can be the smooth, high value individual!”.