Even in Western culture, which proclaims freedom to be the highest of the high on the list of perks that make our country great, our society quietly dictates how we should present ourselves as individuals at every turn. We are taught from a very young age there is an acceptable “green zone” in terms of what we should wear on our bodies and how we should behave if we are to be welcomed into society. Boys wear blue and play with footballs, girls wear pink and play with Barbie.
If we don’t conform to those unspoken demands placed upon us, there are consequences. We’re often targeted with ridicule and bombarded with hate-filled speech, regardless of our age or the reasons why we choose not to conform to someone else’s idea of how we should present ourselves.
So, let’s talk about freedom…
But why does society resort to such awful behavior when one of it’s own is seen exercising a power we are supposed to hold so dear?
The reality is that most people are absolutely terrified of real freedom. By that I mean the willingness to present oneself or behave in a unique way that deviates from social norms. This is the stuff that scares the hell out of people.
Let’s face it, we are all conditioned, or at least compelled, to constantly conform to the status quo. Society quietly demands this for one reason and one reason only – so it’s members can quickly and easily categorize everyone else using only a very minimum of information gathered. If it has a penis it’s a man. If it has breasts it’s a woman. Simple, right? It’s all about comfort in one’s own environment and ideas.
Not being able to quickly and easily discern who is who opens us up to potentially uncomfortable social situations, and we can’t have that now can we?
As an individual, when we are met with someone new who is not presenting his or her self as we have become accustomed to according to society’s rules, it challenges our idea of how our world works on multiple levels. For example, once we decide that this group or that group is “bad”, then we meet up with someone from that specific group and they prove to be quite likable, it obliterates our currently-installed belief system, and we have to reassess. That takes effort and introspection, and requires the willingness to be wrong and to change as a person. That’s all a whole lot harder than just pretending we’re always right and we always will be in the future.
The lesson here is that although the harder path to travel in life is usually the right one, the reality is…people are lazy.
So, how bad is it?
Freedom to express one’s self to most people has become the willingness to add a custom wallpaper to our smartphone that refelcts one of our interests. It is wearing a t-shirt or necktie in a different color than the next person. It is sharing an opinion publicly, as long as it cannot somehow be twisted into being offensive to a specific group of people within our society. It’s socially acceptable to say “stuff”, just don’t say it too loudly or at the wrong time. You definitely don’t want to say it in the wrong place.
As a result of all this, society is (at best) badly broken, because this is not what freedom is supposed to be.
Together, we as a society should be celebrating the vast diversity of who we truly are as individuals. Always.
If we as a society were healthy, one sure measure would be that diversity would be encouraged within, not met with vengeance and evil doings.
Now, let us create…
We as human beings seem to always default into one basic way of thinking socially. We like things to be simple, and we love it when others agree with us. But that overly simplistic way of painting our world only allows us a minimum of colors with which to put to canvas, and as we all know, life does not occur in black and white. Whether or not it’s accidental or purposeful, the limitations we bestow upon ourselves creates an end result that is far from a glorious masterpiece…and that failure is our own fault for not being willing to see all of the colors the world has to offer to start with.
So here we are, a society that has clearly chosen personal comfort over personal freedom. This is exactly what happens when society becomes a spoiled, demanding brat of a child whose behavior is not under the supervision of a responsible adult.
Maybe it’s about time those of us who understand what personal freedom really is begin standing up and embracing the role of the parent as it relates to our badly broken society. After all, living life as a non-conformist, for many, is a life and death issue. Today, hatred and violence against minorities of all varieties is a reality. Just look at the news for proof of this point. Our behavior as a society at times has been (and still is) absolutely appalling.
What time is it?
If not now, then when are we as individuals, who have not yet begun to act, going to start instituting some change in our lives, and in the lives of those around us?
When we see an example of bigotry, hatred, or violence occurring in real time, it’s time to stop being so fearful of what could be and get involved. For the sake of our society, we need to tell those who are responsible for those acts to stop, instead of shuffling past and pretending not to notice! We need to send a consistent, continuous message to the evil-doers that walk among us that what they are doing to us as a whole is not OK! They are the dregs of society, not those who choose to turn their backs on the tradition of conformity and embrace diversity and freedom.
It’s also time to get involved with groups that have already formed to help them change the face of society, so that more and more individuals know that it’s not OK to succumb to bigotry and hatred in the name of anyone or anything.
People need to come to know that it is not OK to act out of fear, because what always follows is darkness, and in that void, someone innocent always gets hurt.
What’s the strategy?
Changing of the hearts and minds, in my opinion, will not occur in the courtroom or in the nation’s capitol.
The best way to combat evil deeds in a modern society is to use any and all methods to expose the deeds themselves and to shout out that bigotry and hatred are now what are socially unacceptable. We need to make people hear this message even if they aren’t in the mood to listen. This message needs to be carried to all venues, even those where it may be considered to be inappropriate. Change is hard. Communicating the message is vital. Essentially we need to flip the script and use everything that worked for the other side for our cause. Ironically, this is the language modern society understands all to well. Fitting, isn’t it?
It’s been written in many places and by many brilliant people that love always wins over evil. So, when in doubt, when you’re at a crossroads in you own personal life, always choose love, always speak of love, and always value love. It’s that simple really.