A discurssive essay revolving around James Moloney's book, 'Touch Me'.
|When all else fails: ‘Be Yourself’
The values of society contradict those of the individual, whose values aren’t about what society’s opinion is, they don’t want to fit in with everyone else. Some individuals pride themselves on being different and others go about their lives oblivious to the rest of the world. Billboards show, ‘Be Yourself’ and greeting cards say, ‘Be Yourself – You’re the Best One Qualified’, and nearly everywhere you go there are signs encouraging people to be their own person. But people still insist that they need to fit in with the majority; obviously there is something appealing about following the crowd. Does society actually enjoy introducing new norms just to see people go crazy trying to keep up with them? In a way, society makes the rules just so individuals can break them.
Chanel, Givency, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace – the hot shots of the fashion world. Fashion shows throughout Europe flaunt the latest and ‘coolest’ designs. Of course not everyone can afford to buy expensive clothes, but if you look at discount stores like Big W and Kmart and larger department chain stores such as David Jones and Myer, millions of consumers flock to buy up new pieces that are guaranteed to keep them ‘in with the crowd this season’. But there are always those people out there who insist on being individuals, ‘aliens’ to society. They wear cargo pants from St Vinnies and hand-me-down t-shirts. To them, following the latest fashions is NOT cool, but being their own person is; their thoughts focus on not being about how they look or what people think of them. Today, peasant-style is in, tomorrow, it’s denim and people continue to change their personal opinions on clothes just so they can feel ‘cool’.
Young people especially, have a tendency to give in to what’s ‘cool’ instead of wearing and doing whatever they find comfortable and suits them. Peer pressure is a huge problem with teens with brands and stores like, ‘Roxy’, ‘Billabong’, ‘Quiksilver’, ‘City Beach’ and ‘Surf Dive ‘n’ Ski’ being targets in shopping centres for the most ‘in’ clothes and accessories. Kids without such labels are singled out and looked down upon as though there is something wrong with them for not wanting to dress like everyone else. With all the pressure being placed on them, people have simply adapted to this way of life, the way of giving in to society and going with the flow, just to avoid the shame of being singled out. In James Moloney’s novel, ‘Touch Me’, Nuala is a girl who dresses like a guy, though she receives support from her female peers but is rejected by the males. She is no longer seen as attractive by the guys, but is still content with being an individual. Her non-conformity gained her respect and helped her to overcome her past. Society rejects those who choose to be individuals, yet accepts those who choose to conform.
People have found contentment in being similar to the rest. A humans’ need to belong overtakes their own heart and they are no longer listening to their inner desires, but are found to be going along with society. They like to tell themselves that they are their own people, but in reality they are still acting as ‘sheep’. When this happens, persons’ integrity has been lost and instead of being true to themselves they are in denial of reality. Society won’t tolerate the individuality of the common person, but works to inwardly transform them in to the perfect images of the next fool who has already decided to be a ‘lemming’. People are losing their identity every day, by conforming and not standing up for what they believe in. In Arthur Miller’s play, ‘The Crucible’, John Proctor is a man struggling with his decision of whether to give in to the court and confess that he has compacted with the devil, or stand by the truth and die for his innocence. He desperately wants to stay with his family, but by doing so he would lose his true identity and would never be able to hold his head up in the community ever again, his sense of integrity would be destroyed and he would be viewed as an out cast. He asks his wife for guidance and forgiveness but is told that it is a decision he has to make on his own. Some people today aren’t in such a position where it is a life and death situation, but if they insist on throwing away their own beliefs and values then they had might as well consider themselves ‘dead’.
A persons’ values and beliefs shape who they are; an identity which they then convey to other people. If everyone portrayed the same values then the world would be a monotonous place. It is only through those who choose to have separate ideas that we are able to change existing thoughts and values. Society has its’ silent convictions towards those who deviate from the majority. Of course, society can’t just suck people in to its vortex on its own; there are incentives that make it appealing. Like bees to honey, people believe that conforming can make them safe and they are accepted and feel a sense of belonging. In ‘The Crucible’, some of those who have been convicted of witchcraft have confessed to lies just to guarantee their own safety, in particular, their own lives. If people would let go of society’s restraints then we would find ourselves living in a much happier place. It’s not about doing what people expect of you, it’s about doing what’s right and what you believe in.
This generation of people have been severely influenced by society’s expectations, so what will their futures be like? Will the battle of the ‘coolest’ continue or will they change and follow their own hearts? If we look over the past couple of centuries, society’s grip on people has actually decreased. Their expectations by way of behaviour have gone down, but by way of academia and achievements they have sky rocketed. There will always be pressure in society and it’s up to the people to change. We are all born with separate minds and beliefs. Following the crowd isn’t worth the effort, but being and believing in ourselves is worth every ounce of effort we put in to it. We’ve only got one shot at it, so what do you say?