Thursday, April 4, 2013

Defining normal.

We have all seen pictures of people in Japan or China wearing some weird outfit. Having that image stuck in my head I wanted to talk about self expression and the norms that render it acceptable or appropriate.
As part of the now western culture, many countries such as Germany or Britain have lost most of their own culture or merged both the western and their own into one big globalized ball . That's not necessarily bad, but it has as result that we aren't that much accepting towards other ways of expression, not the outlets themselves, but rather the way they are used.
If we see a documentary about a person who enjoys playing the flute in a country house in southern China on TV, we immediately think " he's definitely poor and doesn't have Internet access". That again is probably the first spontaneous reaction. But it's not surprising, we live in a world where the Internet and other media consume most of our days, and we love it.
The norm is that if we want to have fun, we go to the movies or a party, and if we see a person who says they'd rather stay in and look at their stamp collection, we laugh at them. It's not something personal, it's just the way we know the world.
That is what defines appropriate behavior and acceptable preferences, the society we live in. And ultimately that's what forms our personality and the way we choose to express ourselves.
I have a story for you.
Imagine you have a big ball of clay. Then you randomly punch it, to see what happens, because you can't form anything aesthetically pleasing. But you know you want it to be a cube, or at least to have a cube-like form. That means you know not to punch the corners, because if you do, no cube for you.
Now think of the story this way. You as a child are born in a certain environment, let's say you are the newest part of an American family.
Your lovely family raises you to be a great person, so they force you to clean up after yourself and always be polite. They want you to be a cube. That is what is appropriate according to the society. And, what if one of your corners is rounded?
Then you are the person who dresses up weird, or the person who plays the flute to his dog in his home, when you "should" be on the Internet surfing until your heart's content.
But is it really that bad? I mean, you are unique, what is wrong with that? And in another society the person on the Internet would be the weird kid. Not you.