Monday, January 14, 2008

Psychologists call it stereotyping. I call it Conformism

A beautiful wife, an obedient son, a caring mother, a good husband, a studious child… The list of such almost universally accepted adjective-noun combinations signifying desirable qualities goes on.

What I’m getting at is that you would readily associate the attribute with all the members of the group about which you are talking. You know what is the phenomenon exemplified by these phrases. The psychologists call it stereotyping. I call it Conformism.

Why don’t we men look for good wives instead of beautiful ones or for that matter smart, independent or a thousand other adjectives? Are we still stuck with the orthodox notions, when, due to the stifling environs, the only positive qualifier that women could hope to have was “beautiful”. Incidentally, ‘Orthodox’ was an adjective used for characterizing a dominant sect of Christianity and not traditional values, another example of conformist behavior. But I digress. Why are love marriages still frowned upon in India, divorces even more so? Widow re-marriage is heresy, widower remarriage almost as rare. What about Child marriage, did you say? Well what about it indeed. ‘They aren’t children anymore now, are they? Child marriage – the “tradition” of our elders’….you are told.

Well we sure are following blindly in our ancestors or at least someone’s ancestors in matters of such importance. Conformists. Definitely not. We are just respecting, and here I go using the holy word again, TRADITION. Or else could it be the classic Howard Roark “Copies in concrete of copies in wood of copies in stone” syndrome.

Questions, Questions and more Questions. Who has the answers? I don’t. I have my own problems and my own answers. You’ll have to do the same.

Have we suspended our thinking faculties, giving in to whoever has had the most recent chance to tell us why we are wherever we are? Maybe the Matrix is real, for all we know and care. Till the time I get my next cheque on time, who cares if it’s a dream world I’m living in, right?

Has there been any scientific invention of any consequence in the past half a century. The automobile, the Internal Combustion engine, the Atomic Bomb for god’s sake. What are the overriding scientific achievements of the second half of the 20th century? I hazard a guess on the reader’s behalf here, the Internet and Space Travel, the foundations of both of which were laid in the first half. The “new” products have started to become monotonously evolutionary, when the very basis of science was radicalism and Original Thought.

Who decides the standards that govern our lives? Do you. Think again. How much money is enough? How much success is enough? Can it ever be enough or is there a reverse vicious cycle at work? How did the animal called ‘society’ get absolute power over so many decisions of my life?
Any child who shows even the barest of promise is pushed to either medicine or engineering. Still how many disease cures or engineering innovations happen in India. Is the (in)famous “Brain Drain” phenomenon just a function of money and material comforts? Would it not be better if we just leave them to their own devices and try to sort out the direction OUR lives are taking.

No two persons in this world are alike. Yet our education system is inexorably moving towards a 1984-ish assembly line producing unthinking robots who do what they are told to or whatever it is that his peers are doing. Another brick in the wall? Not me. I’m here to forward my learning. What’s that term……Ah!, Value Addition. Right. That’s why I’m here.

We are taught to follow the crowd, to embrace the values of someone else who was smart enough to preach them. When we don't understand, we turn to our assumptions, only on this case they are someone else’s. Why has there been no public outcry against the proposed rural employment scheme – the biggest money for loot program instituted in the history of India. We don’t understand the merit in it, but we are taught that whatever the government does benefits the whole country in the long run.

Let us go deeper into the meanings of a very simple word in the English language, “Good”. Here conformism comes out with all its power and is still safely ensconced out of sight. A sort of Krishna’s Divyadarshan. You know the one in Mahabharat where he comes and display’s his divine image, one so bright that nobody is able to catch a glimpse much less understand!!!
Can a child who does well in sports or plays a musical instrument well or reads a lot of books etc ever have the good fortune of being called good? No it is a very specific quality, being studious, that’s going to earn him that accolade. The others are the scum of this earth, Aye.
What are the qualities necessary for a girl being called a “good” wife. Independence, Intelligence, Professionalism, Love. Nah. Again a specific quality, being domesticated, merits the absolute adjective.

Ever heard of a word called Euphemism. The mere presence of such a word in the language signifies the deep roots of Conformism. When enough people have shown their backs to things like taking initiative or being accountable or worse still honesty to merit coining a new word. This is a word which tells me how badly people want to belong. How they don’t want to upset the applecart or even seem to be.

Ever observed that every male writer use ‘his’ when he is giving an example. Case in point being myself…I guess not. Who taught us this. Or does conformism go far deeper than you and I think?

I won’t attempt to answer any of these questions. Rather, want to put them to the whole community to see if they have any answers for me. Even if you don’t, at least keep the questions in mind. The right questions are harder to come by than the right answers.
Next Article: Eastern Mysticism and Modern Life Kushagra is a PGP II student of the 41st batch. This is his first contribution to IMZine. Thanks, Kushagra! Editor Speak Team Contribute Feedback IIM Calcutta Our Archive © IMZine - Indian Institute of Management Calcutta 2002-2007

No comments:

Post a Comment