As a Star Trek fan, a maxim that has stuck in my head from the series, is the motto of Star fleet “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Whenever I remember that statement, I always remember the discussion I had recently with a friend of mine, an academic, on the thematic focus of a research he was conducting. According to him, he was “tired of contributing to topics that had become mainstream,” and he “wanted to go to the fringes of that field and bring up issues that were not part of the main discourse.”
That discussion set me thinking about the subject of wanting to be different, not conforming to the popular opinion. Some days ago, I was surfing the internet when I stumbled across this piece by Christina H on www.cracked.com on December 07, 2010, about conformity and anti conformity. In case you don’t know, cracked.com is the dick jokes capital of the internet, so to find this kind of piece there was a bit surprising and pleasant. I hope you enjoy it
While the core of the article still belongs to Christina H, I have managed to add some personal thoughts and rework it in some places.
Some people are so desperate to be nonconformists that they devote a great deal of their time to doing exactly the opposite of whatever “the masses” are doing. This form of “nonconformity” is more like what I would call “anti conformity,” because you’re not really doing your own thing, you’re just doing the opposite of someone else’s thing. Not only is it at least as stupid as being a conformist sheep or whatever, it’s actually worse in a lot of ways.
.#5.You’re Letting The People You Hate Control What You Do
Whoever you’re rebelling against — The Man, your parents, D-Banj or The Nigerian music industry — if they change their habits, you have to change yours. What you wear, what kind of music you listen to, has to change every time their tastes and ideas change. Everyone has a PC? You have to get a Mac. Macs becoming the hot new thing? Time to go Linux. Every time something turns “mainstream,” you have to change your lifestyle. You’re on their schedule, not yours. This reminds me of the popular joke in which people were asked what they would do if they got to heaven and found Michael Jackson, Sani Abacha and Fela Anikulapo- Kuti waiting for them there. Some people, presumably devout Christians, went on to say that rather than stay in heaven with these three, they would rather go to hell. As the lyricist Green Day once said:
I want to be the Minority
I don’t need your authority
Down with the moral majority
Cause I want to be in the minority
If this thought is taken to its logical extreme, if your goal is just to be a rebel, instead of an actual belief of some kind, you’d actually have to switch sides once your side wins. For instance, the late icon, Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid, he was the ultimate anti conformist, because what he was fighting for was not the popular opinion. Now that apartheid has been defeated, the kind of equality that he fought for is now the popular practice (at least in theory). So in this case if you wanted to be an anti conformist, you have to start supporting apartheid. This is just an illustration that the anti-conformist lives like a cat on a hot tin roof. For instance if you raise a discussion on a previously unknown issue and your arguments are convincing, people flock to your side, the issue becomes mainstream, and then you are no longer the fringe exploring, anti conformist you claim to be.
#4.Sometimes Everyone Is Doing It One Way For A Reason.
The problem with doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing is that quite often everyone does something one way because it’s a good idea, and sticking to your principles and doing the opposite means you are stuck with something stupid. I am not talking about superstition here; this is not about what people believe about Friday the thirteenth, or about taking babies to funerals or things like that that. However there are some bits of conventional wisdom, like, drinking acid will kill you, that playing in the lion or crocodile enclosure in a zoo is a bad idea. These are things that you do not try, no matter how much of a badass rebel you claim to be. For instance, my father likes to tell the story of the time he drank a whole bottle of Schnapps in order to win a bet. For that night he was a badass rebel anti conformist, but he usually adds that he vomited for three days after that night and felt awful for weeks afterwards.
During a panel session at the Ake Book and Arts festival last month, Tolu Ogunlesi made a proposition that Nigeria should be looking to develop in spite of corruption, rather than for Nigerians to believe that it can eliminated altogether, a process he calls “responsible stealing.” In that panel He appeared to echo what is regarded as popular opinion in Nigeria today. This opinion did not initially go down well with some of his fellow panelists who attacked him ferociously for being so reactionary. But at the end of the day, Tolu was able to get virtually everyone who attended that panel session to agree with him that it would be much easier and more convenient to work around the “norm” (corruption), than to believe that it can be entirely uprooted. As Idalia says in The Outstretched Way
“try to understand how and why something works, before you attempt to change it.”
It’s difficult to believe, but sometimes uncool people happen to be right and there are just some times when you really should do what everyone else is doing. Like breathing.
(TO BE CONTINUED)