society, culture and behavior – some thoughts on social manipulation

Well, it’s been over a month, I doubt anyone looks at this site anymore, but I didn’t have a computer for a long time. I’ll try to woo my dwindling readership with something good. I don’t know. =)

I have been at a few traditional and a few non-traditional weddings in my 20-something life. I have never been too bound by feelings of tradition in my way of doing things. I believe strongly in many traditional institutions like the church, marriage, the justice system, etc, but I don’t buy into the idea that those things should be handled and executed the same way generation after generation if people’s ideas, values and customs change.

I get a wierd look from some people when I tell them I got married in a courthouse on an otherwise regular day in May and had a reception 10 months later. I spent the rest of my “wedding day” in Chicago enjoying a nice dinner and shopping trip with my husband. We didn’t feel that different than most other days leading up until that day. I didn’t really tell anyone I was getting married until after the fact, although most were aware that I was goinng to get married.

Anyway, I may sound a little impulsive, a little odd, but this is what I wanted. What is amazing – and I am not excluding myself from the coming criticism – is why as people we are not only influenced by tradition and norms, but that we are so bound by it. How as a race, species, whatever, did we get so conservative? I don’t mean politically. What I mean is that it seems everywhere I look in society I see people fearing change, disdaining the different and scoffing at individuality.

A lot of times this is very subtle. I see it even in myself. When someone tells me something unusual they do/did/will do I sometimes comment with a sound sort of like “oh.” But, this kind of “oh” is really a not-so-smooth cover for a varying degree of disapproval. It’s sort of got a high start and falling tone, that gently lets the other know that deep down I think it’s wierd. I consider myself an open-minded, accepting and generally liberal person, so when I make comments like that I generally follow it up with, “not that I think there’s anything wrong with that,” or, “that’s cool,” but at times I am just trying to compensate for my disapproving half. I don’t know why I do that. In fact, I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t even try to cover their distaste for the lifestyles and choices of others.

I write this because I have recently pondered how much we feel we have the right to interfere in other people’s lives. I am not trying to knock relationships or downplay the importance of advice and mutual support, but there is something so degrading about being condescended or judged, yet so many of us seem to do it every day. We try and talk people out of their passions, convictions or ideas so that they will be a little more like us. Perhaps we just want to be accepted for who we are and therefore try and shape others to be like ourselves. But didn’t we all learn in kindergarten and Sunday school that everyone is different and this makes the world interesting? A mystery of life. Thoughts?


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