The Ups And Downs Of Conformity

1538 words - 6 pages

The question of individualism vs. conformity comes to mind when dealing with the human psyche. Some people value being independent and self-sufficient, while some like to keep themselves in the confines of conformity. The American society tends to lean towards the conformist point of view and it is mostly due to the effects of media. Americans crave the idea of association and strive to become the individuals that the media deems worthy. Conformity is a quality that is present in the hierarchy of American society. It brings a psychological feeling of correlating with a group and creates the notion of liberation from solitude.
Individualism is the idea of being self-reliant and favoring non-conformity. It is often seen as outlandish and bizarre and individualists tend to be ostracized by society. Individualism is not present in American society because people value the common American ideals. Qualities outside the norm are treated with distaste. A prime example of individualism vs. conformity would be the European colonization of Africa. The African people were exposed to the norms of European society and were taught that it was universal. Africans had the choice of either conforming to this “universal norm” or staying true to their ancient culture. Those who sided with conformists believed that obedience guaranteed them safety. Individualists on the other hand, who valued their venerable civilization, did not receive the same benefits that the conformists did. They were less successful because they did not fit with the changing society. The story Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe tells of this tale. The protagonist Okonkwo was an individualist who did not want change. He did not agree with the colonists’ point of view and decided to take matters into his own hands. He ended up killing himself, realizing that the society no longer shared similar sentiments as he did. He failed to realize that over time, the society developed and that the people decided to conform to a different idea.
Although both individualists and conformists are present in society, obedience often has the upper hand. In a typical American classroom, those who conform to classrooms are rewarded by the teacher while those who have different points of views are often punished. This phenomenon carries on to the adult years where adults who conform to the rules of their jobs are again rewarded, while individualists tend to not have recognition. Conformity helps society run smoothly because if everyone follows the same rules and value the same ideas then there would be fewer conflicts. This and the fact that people like to shelter themselves in the bounds of conformity is the reason why there tends to be more conformists than there are individualists. The balance has to be in order because although conformity helps society run efficiently, individualism advocates free thinking and the spread of new ideas that will expedite the progress of society.
The American people are easily...

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