Dave's Progress. Chapter 29: A Culture of Conformity?

I know I tend to go on alot about how I get bored, bored, bored in this blog. I generally, in the past, put these feelings of ennui down to having experienced a mental health problem which, in many ways, has left me somewhat socially isolated. I am often on my own for large spans of time and, almost without fail, find myself bored. I have been known to fall asleep out of sheer apathy and lack of motivation. Before, again, I have perhaps put this down to "negative" symptoms of the illness from which I am told I suffer, but lately I have been wondering whether this boredom thing goes a little deeper and is perhaps the product of a society which expects us all to be overwhelmingly conformist in our natures. I believe I feel this more acutely than perhaps other people do because I have been, at some point, at a stage where my behaviour certainly didn't conform to the "norm". It was deemed inappropriate, unreasonable- "mad".
To use a literary allusion to explain myself, of which I am wont to do, I have been reading Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" recently, and the main character, Emma Bovary, seems to echo my own sentiments regarding her ingloriously banal bourgeois life. Married to Charles, by all accounts a mediocrity, she is frantically bored with her life, at first escaping into romantic novels to alleviate her tedium, and then embarking on a desperate love affair with the libertine Rodolphe in an attempt to satiate her desires. Initially a succes de scandale, the book now appears to be, in many ways, a diatribe against the prosaic banality of bourgeois life, of which Emma is a victim, eventually committing suicide with a fistful of arsenic because her increasingly romantic ways have led her into penury. Emma, then, much in the same way as Hardy's "Tess of the D'urbervilles" is as much victim as perpetrator in her downfall, and it is the sheer boredom of a society to which she cannot conform that is to blame.
Indeed, it would seem, that even in modern times, the whole of that which binds society together is the notion of conformity. I remember in my days as a student of literary theory that we were told that it was the ability to conform which holds society together. So, just how do you get people to do what you want them to do without becoming a Hitlerian dictator. One example of how this is done is the notion of "salutary anxiety", whereby you induce just enough fear in people- e.g. fear of crime, fear of drugs, etc.- to keep them consuming and conforming. And then, of course, there is the notion that we are all just gently indoctrinated by ideology or discourse. Anyone who has read Althusser's "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" will know what I am talking about. What, not on your reading list. For shame! For another literary theorist, Michel Foucault, the answer of revolution therefore lies in creating new forms of identity which do not succumb to the authority of the state.
OK, this is all well and good, but could it just be that this is not a political question at all, but just an ovewhelming fact of life that life is boring and conformist. Perhaps the greatest exposition of this is Samuel Beckett's play about the futility of life, "Waiting for Godot", in which the very first line is, "Nothing to be done." At which point we all say, yeh, I know how you feel mate.
Some would also say that perhaps our brains are hard-wired to suppress the darker sides of our natures. In a programme on TV recently it was shown how three year olds are more violent than those older than them. This is because it is only when we become "socialised" as we get older that we learn to suppress our more violent tendencies. So it is that those suffering from some form of brain damage or, on the rare occasion, mental ill health, become irrational creatures whose behaviour we can barely tolerate, let alone understand.
For me , though, I suppose it is my own experience which leads me to question our culture of conformity, for at some stage my behaviour was judged as such that my liberty was curtailed and I was forced into hospital and a "medicated" life. So for those of you who believe that we are truly free and can "do what we want", just try eschewing all that is held dear in our society. Try being unreasonable. Try losing all your manners. Try being angry, instead of passive and forgiving. Try painting your face green and going out into the street and shouting that the world has gone mad. You'll soon find the men in white coats waiting for you around the corner.
That's all for now from your normal, average paranoid and delusional man.


dcrelief said…
Hi David,
I like the way you turned and tweeked this post to resemble a snake giving birth; slimy eggs needing time to conform to a nice dry, hard shell.
My pharmacist once told me, "Don't ever leave home without your drugs." Then I discovered Benadryl eases withdrawals and anxiety. Why not switch to that?
This post was actually very indicative of where I've been, am at, and still travelling. I've been thinking this for the last five years. Nice to know someone else questions it as well.
Excellent writing.
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Glad that you enjoyed my post, I shall be back to comment on your blog again soon. In the meantime take care and very warmest wishes to you.
klahanie said…
Hi David,
Another highly informative blog
I agree with what you have written. In regards to conformity, from what I have observed in many cases, being unreasonable, being devoid of manners, being angry,is bordering on the norm.
David, it was very nice seeing you on Monday. I look forward to further constructive interaction.
Take very good care, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your comment and apologies for my lateness of reply.
Perhaps your comment is a salutary reminder that we should all just be nice to one another. Oops, I never thought about that when writing my blog. So thanks for reminding me that civility should always come first, maybe we can think about the revoultion later.
Yours with all the Best and hoping to see you soon,

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