Thursday, June 04, 2009

The principles governing individual choices

Any society is constituted by three sets of people - conformists, non-conformists and individualists.

Conformists are those who abide by the rules of the society - explicit or implicit - and believe that the social system and social laws are for their good and try to get them passed on to their future generations.

For example, many-a-times, when students are in school, they abhor the sheer idea of smoking since this abhorrence has been imbibed in them and their parents have passed to them the idea of smoking being a taboo. Such an opinion is formed by a student based on the social imprint of the parent being passed to him/her. The student also recognizes the social repercussions of breaking the code of social conduct. If an individual thus comes to take it for granted that smoking is a bad idea, it is the principle of conformism being put into effect.

The conformist thinks like the herd - or perhaps, lets the herd think for him/her. His/her faith lies in the majority. Such individuals imbibe the good values of their generation to the next but at the same time, carry forward wrong ideas and beliefs prevalent in society. For example, when child marriage or dowry was a common practice, most conformists would agree and stick to these practices believing that what the society thinks is in everyone's best interests irrespective of whether this appeals to his/her individual sense of logic.

The next set of people are the non-conformists whom we encounter frequently these days. Most atheists would fall in this category. Non-conformists reject every idea that the herd sticks to. If the herd says one should not smoke, the non-conformist would make it a point to break this social code and will be happy with the idea that he/she governs his/her life and it is not governed by the masses.

It isn't uncommon phenomenon to hear elderly people say, "Aaj kal ke bachche humaari sanskriti bhool gaye hai". [The current generation of youth has lost touch with our traditions and culture] But, in fact, there is an underlying conformism in this non-conformism. Non-conformists conform to the belief that they have to non-conform to any conformist idea. They oppose for opposing. They believe they are independent from the herd, but actually are equally dependent on it. They work on the herd mentality, albeit, the task they perform is to oppose it. The rejection of the herd thought is a motivation for them and thus they too are dependent on the herd. Yet, most non-conformists would call themselves individualists as calling themselves a part of the non-conforming "herd" would destroy their sense of individualism.

A lot of people move from being conformists to non-conformists due to development of a rationale and a sense of logic and after being disappointed with the existing frame of thought in the prevalent social system.

The last set of people are the individualists. These people judge each idea on its individual merit irrespective of whether the herd accepts it or rejects it. Their judgement arises from a deep sense of emotional understanding coupled with their rationale. "To smoke or not to smoke is an individual's choice but I do not smoke since it is harmful for my health" is something that you might hear an individualist say.

An individualist might reject certain ideas, notions or practices prevalent in society and yet he/she would not hesitate in accepting the social norms which are for his good. The transformation from a non-conformist to an individualist happens due to high emotional maturity which comes through various experiences in life.

Most revolutions that came about in this world were brought in by non-conformists or individualists. The non-conformist replaced capitalism with socialism while the individualist thought of a third alternative imbibing the good part of both the economic systems.

Individualists look for alternatives which take along all the right ideas and try to strike a balance between the conformist and non-conformist ideas without compromising on the right means and morals. In this process, they develop a highly creative bent of mind coupled with a beautiful understanding of all sets of people.

We are all made up of one or more of these three constituents of conformism, non-conformism and individualism. And we all have a choice - to adhere to the herd, to reject it or to base our decisions on the current frame of reference without being prejudiced for or against the herd. It is, after all, a matter of being in balance!

[This post is dedicated to students of various colleges indulging in use of abusive language, substance abuse, ragging etc as these appeal to their sense of non-conformism. I wont conform to being a non-conformist.]


sayrem said...

y only B-schools??

its there everywhere.

Shreyans Mehta said...

It is a special dedication to B-schools since I m headed to one right now :)

Saurabh said...

nice post...finally, i came accross an intelligent blog !

Saurabh said...

and don't worry about b-schools, all the students there are beyond the scope of this debate about conformism, non conformism and individualism !

akanksha said...

It is nice to see someone so simply resolving the basis of the general tendencies and mentalities of people into two simple categories: Conformists, and non-conformists.Good work!;>

Ketan said...

Hi Shreyans!

First time here, and to say the least, I'm impressed. You've really resolved the decision-making-tendencies very well!

But there's one more issue that you've not touched upon in this post. What are 'society's views'? What makes them distinct from an individual's views? After all, society is composed me individuals only! At what point does an amplified individual's view-point turn into a social view-point?

Blogrolling you! All the best for your B-school!

Take care.

wise donkey said...

"Individualists look for alternatives which take along all the right ideas and try to strike a balance between the conformist and non-conformist ideas without compromising on the right means and morals"

I dont think all individulists are people with morals.

there are opportunists, who mingle with conformists and nonconformists without caring about the issue..and make the decisions based on what is convenient for them..

for example someone who would not bully someone in person, but wouldnt hesitate to do it on the net, since it would be easier to get away with it..

PS : Congrats on the ragging decision.

PPS : i couldnt use the smoking analogy, hence the ragging analogy..nothing personal

wise donkey said...

better eg
an Independent MP/MLA, who supports or takes away support, to the government, depending on what he gets out of it..

Shreyans Mehta said...

@Wise Donkey
Point taken. But what I am referring to is the inner motivation. In the MP/MLA example, I am considering the reason why he wants to get something out of the deal. Is that motivated by a sense of conformism to societies' respect for wealth? So, the intention here is to write more about intrinsic motivations than extrinsic ones and how external factors influence intrinsic choices!