Conforming to Non-Conformity

Posted on March 20, 2010 in Specials

Mireille Rodrigues:

Oprah Winfrey is the biggest success story to hit the media sector. She reaches out to millions of television viewers everyday around the world. Her talk show has been on air for over 20 years now. She covers widely varying topics and has won a number of awards for her efforts. Her show was not the first or the only one on air. But, it has lasted the longest. A single viewing will tell you why. It has its own personality, and is unique in its own way; something that no other shows had quite been able to replicate.

Non-conformity is what you get when someone refuses to follow established standards or practices. Aren’t the only people who stood out in history, the people who dared to be different and break conventions? Someone who blindly goes with the flow is not going to get anywhere soon. Today, many people can demonstrate the importance of being different, not only celebrities, because the topic of conformity is not just limited to fields of art or fashion. It’s about making a statement in your own right. For example, standing up for someone you know is right and when no one else will. A person who stops to help out a stranger on the street is also a non-conformist (although it really shouldn’t be.) People conform for various reasons like peer pressure, parental pressure or current trends. While it is perfectly acceptable to follow a trend because it agrees with you, blindly aping someone you barely know is not. Remember how Bon Jovi sang, “We weren’t born to follow.” The world would be so much more colorful if everyone set his or her own style statement.

But, while on this topic, we should consider keeping a tab on free expression. Rules after all, are there for a reason. No one wants non-conformity with respect to traffic rules or in the ticket queue at a cinema! In many cases, it is just plain wrong to go against them for ungrounded reasons of dislike. Rules don’t always represent a dictatorship. And, sometimes, people need to appreciate the rules before they break them. These rules could be dress codes in colleges or curfews. Another limitation is that non-conformity may be misinterpreted as flaunting of wealth or just plain showing-off in some cases. And if it at all matters, a reputation is also at stake.

Should there be limits on non-conformity? Taking into picture the tolerance level of society, acceptable safety standards, tradition and those who set these limits as well, it can be argued that imposing a limit restricts the development of art and confines the individual. Or, on the other hand, it could be a measure to prevent anything from getting out of hand. A misled, wild venture might tend to hurt someone. Is a rule of conduct necessary to respect the art and its connoisseurs and to protect public interest? Moreover would the imposed limits actually restrain any determined individual?

Despite arguing on both sides, I am inclined to end on a more liberal note with the words of Emerson. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student at BITS Pilani- Goa.