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Conformity By Rebellion Essay, Research Paper
“It’s like living on the outside of society and seeing what a crock of *censored* it is, but then approaching it again with a sense of humor. I mean, when you’re able to see society as this sort of funky, funny illusion, it makes it easier to deal with it because there is no rhyme or reason to the way it works.”
RuPaul, on fringe culture
(Genre, March ‘99)
Rebellion. *It’s about articulating that little inner voice that’s in all of us, the voice which resists being assimilated into the mass conformity that is American society. The quality of our interaction has diminished so much that we barely recognize each other as human. The “American way of life” has destroyed our individuality while pretending to cater to it, and the natural interdependence of society has been compromised by the shrieks of mass media and the cubicle farms they call workplaces. We are all gearing up for some heavy *censored*, all around the world. The yuppies are putting together their silly stock option plans, the Pakistanis are aching for jihad against India, the major labels are trying harder than ever to saturate our culture with Limp Bizkit bull*censored* and kill Napster while they’re at it. To me, it fits together like a puzzle. It’s all related. This is more than a complaint about social differences. It’s about human nature. Stick around; I think I can prove this. The hippie and freak hordes would have us believe than they are the sole bastions of non-conformity and acceptance left in America. They are not.
I really dislike stories like Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling. Not all ugly ducklings turn into swans. Some of us turn into ugly ducks. We need to learn to accept it, and to find that being an ugly duck isn’t really necessarily all that bad, because going with the flock isn’t always the best or most satisfying way to go, even if it does seem like the easiest. I was never one who “fit in” with my peers. From the day I began school at the age of five, it was obvious that I was somehow different from the rest of them. Since I was hyperactive, kind of shy, and too intellectual to be popular, I rarely had many friends, and at times found myself a subject of ridicule, mocking, and outright abuse. My first ploy, which lasted for a number of years, was to attempt to conform. This was very much a failure. It’s basically impossible for a square peg to fit into a predefined and uniformly drilled round hole. So try as I might to bang myself into the “acceptable” state of existence, I couldn’t, and it was apparent to all the nice, shiny cute little round pegs that I was a “wannabe”. So I went the opposite direction. At around the age of eleven, I became a rebel. I deliberately swam upstream; intentionally bucking every convention I could think of. I wore odd jewelry, which got me quite a reputation. I got my ears pierced in strange ways in an era where dual piercings were unusual; I wore odd clothes, like jeans with holes in them (when they came into fashion a few years later I stopped wearing them). I went out of my way to annoy, shock, and irritate the primarily working class and middle class people around me. Yes, I was still an outcast. Yes, I was still drawing a lot of negative comments and being picked on, but I felt as if I were in control (at least more in control) because I was now doing something to draw criticism. I got to the point where I sort of took pride in being able to rile the “mundanes” by having the amazing audacity to be different.
Then, one day, I realized, In fact, that I wasn’t all that revolutionary. I was following a well-established pattern and had a lot in common with all the other “rebels”. I was different, just like them. And truth be told, I wasn’t all that radical. I mean I had purple hair, but not a Mohawk, facial piercings or anything really shocking. I was just a rebellious kid looking for trouble. I had conformed. By trying to be different by being provocative and shocking, I had become just like all the others. I had become just another sheep in the flock.
I chose to reflect on the poem by Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear The Mask”. The poem shows how people wear a facade from the world. We all wear masks in front of others whether it is purposely or naturally. It shows how people hide the way they really feel. It seems so many people in this world wear masks. So many are afraid to show others what they’re really like. It’s amazing what problems can come from it; Problems that may not have existed if the masks weren’t there. Everyone wishes to feel accepted in life, and the character in Dunbar’s poem is no exception. We wish to fit in with our peers, so we “wear the mask that grins and lies.” (Dunbar, ). We will hide what we really feel so that we may feel accepted. On the other hand, no one likes being humiliated. It is a horrible experience and most people would do anything to avoid it. Most would wear a mask while smiling “with torn and bleeding hearts.” (Dunbar, ), So we hide our true feelings to avoid humiliation. So, one uses a mask to hide behind.
Whether it is from humiliation or non-acceptance, people will use masks to hide their true emotions, and pretend that everything’s okay. Everyone has his or her own masks to wear. Some people wear their masks by choice, other times it is just horrible fate that people end up with what they have. NOTHING is perfect. But, at the same time, perfection lies in the imperfect world. I know that sounds like a contradictory thing to say… but perfection is something to stumble upon. Our own hands cannot create it; it’s something that the fates can only control. Embrace chaos before it bites you in the ass. That’s my thought for the day.
The subject of W.H. Audens “Unknown Citizen” not only has to do with one particular mans life, but could apply to the life of just about anyone. The theme of the poem is that the man being discussed in this section is an all round normal guy. Many of his attributes resemble the typical person. W.H. Auden enriches this poem not only by having an implicit theme but also through the use of such elements of poetry such as, rhyme, speaker, setting, and situation.
A hero system is protocols by which certain people dependent on the rewards they receive and what they have accomplished receive notoriety and publicity. The hero system in our country does not benefit the people of this nation in any fashion. All America’s hero system does is provide the general public with entertainment. Auden’s “Unknown Citizen” typifies the idea of a man left to rot in a society that he has given his livelihood to. In his poem this individual went through life working for the common good of a community, which he may not have completely agreed with. He worked for it anyway. He worked for his family. He paid his union dues as a symbol of trust in the good that the many could do, yet he did not even receive a tombstone with his name on it upon his death. Auden gives the reader a clear image of how seemingly insignificant this hard working individual was to society.
Not only does a hero system exist in America today, but also, just as in Auden’s poem, many hard working Americans go ungratified for their hard work and dedication. There are many reasons that Auden may have written a poem about such a closed minded society. It would seem that Auden’s “Unknown Citizen” might be condemning himself to a life of hard work and frustration without gratification. The other side of the spectrum reveals an even more socialistic idea. How important is it that people always must be recognized for the work they do. Why is it that people can’t just do good things for their community and sit back to enjoy them rather than getting all fussy over whether or not they are going to get anything for it. Is the self-satisfaction not enough? It seems as though it was for Auden’s “Unknown Citizen”, but it seems to me that there are people out there that give of themselves for the good of the community and the country that do deserve recognition for their efforts. Police officers, firefighters, and teachers just start a very long list of under paid and under-appreciated job titles in America today. That does not even include that thousands of Americans that do social or volunteer community work during their own time to help better the bond that tie American communities together.
So in the end, this man died, he conformed by everyday standards, but these standards were made by conformity. The union itself is some form of rebellion. By being apart of that group, he conformed to the “rebel’s” standards.
A cultural movement is a cultural movement; be it hippie, skater punk, raver trash or otherwise. Nobody wants the whole world to live in peace as one big happy family. It’s contrary to instinct. We all want to be the bottisavatta in the flowing robes who dictates the gospel to the rest of the world. And that’s not the way things work. This world has winners and losers, geeks and popular kids. Junior high repeats itself until you are dead. So what’s a rebel to do? I don’t know. Try reading. Jack Kerouac is not still a best selling author because of his cool Gap khakis. A nation of people didn’t follow Lenin into almost 80 years of collectivist silliness because of his natty goatee and adorable accent. Or try remembering these simple rules:
1.) Rebellion is free.
2.) Rebellion does not come in six different colors.
3.) Rebellion does not have a soundtrack and a movie deal in the works.
4.) Rebellion is not found in a piercing store, tattoo parlor, drug store, hash pipe or a Quentin Tarrantino movie.
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