Individualism vs. Conformity The lives of human beings are centered around the thin blue line that separates conformity and individuality. Many times one is confused and rushed, and this line is drawn too short or too long, thus being too much of a conformist or an individual. The “individual,” in the American conception, is an independent and inventive agent, relatively autonomous and morally responsible to him or herself.
A widespread of specific propositions concerning “human nature” was derived from this ethnocentric premise. While these cultural propositions are still maintained, at least on the ideal level, in reality a considerable degree of dependency and conformity has developed. Conformity is, in a sense, the remedy for isolation. In the opinion of many Americans, this trend threatens standards of individualism by personal property and product, decisions amongst American youth, and conformity as a whole.
First and foremost since the beginning of time, men and women were ideally allowed to voice disagreement with the decisions and practices of the authorities, they were expected to choose the occupation of their preference and be self-supporting, and encouraged to follow their own convictions and beliefs. A number of regulations have been introduced, presumably guaranteeing security and consistency of economic well-being for all Americans; these include, for example, Social Security, Medicare, and other similar measures.
However, claims are made that freedom is no longer clearly tied to a social system of private property and passive government. Aside from human property there is human production. In the industrial realm, modern technology and its efficiency have resulted in establishing norms and standards for production as well as consumption. Efficiency and expediency has always been of fascination to outside observers. In the course of this growing industrial efficiency and expediency, individualistic and creative participation in the production process has become greatly reduced for the vast majority of employees.
There is even a question whether the product itself meets standards of individuality and uniqueness, since it has been mass-produced and is designed to suit the tastes of thousands of people. Secondly, American youth, on one hand, are brought up in the knowledge of American history, which includes many well-known and glorified examples of individualism and are encouraged to practice this “truly American” trait. On the other hand, however, American youth are constantly challenged to conform to national and patriotic standards requiring high degrees of conformity to majority opinion.
There is a widespread public opinion which perceives an expression of independent individual thinking and believing but as subversive and “un-American” conduct. One is inclined to conclude that the original individualism is now at war with a strong emphasis on conformity. It appears then that there is a serious discrepancy between the American ideal of “rugged individualism” and its actual implementation. A teenager has to learn carefully that this blueprint for American individualism is not generalizable and that there are definite areas of limitations and prohibitions.
The fact of non-generalizability destroys the simplicity and predictability of always responding in identical or similar ways, thereby complicating the learning process and rendering the behavioral blueprint. Conformity is some sort of a psychological shelter. If one does not know what to do and are scared, it is natural to follow the steps of others so that eventually one can find a group to take shelter in. Conformity is essential to life. Humans, being complex animals, live in a society that functions as a whole.
If there is a mistake, the entire system may crumble. So, they are obligated to pay taxes and respect the law so that they can stay together as a whole. Conformity is perfectly natural. Everyone naturally wants to belong to something bigger. They naturally want to be accepted by others. However, in modern terms this acceptance can only be obtained by going further than natural conformity and stepping into popular conformity. At that certain stage Americans tend to follow the same trends in style and personal taste, whether it is music, movies, or even morals.
In conclusion, individuality, like conformity, is essential to life even though modern society may not appreciate its value. At one point Americans want to be different from all the rest in one way or another. So one might dress a bit differently and choose to do things that intrigue one another. And, for once, individuals might form our opinions based on what they really feel. However, sooner or later Americans are forced to curb their spontaneous desires so that society does not label everyone as eccentric or weird.
Modern life is confusing, so sometimes the vision is blurred and the choices, made in the midst of confusion, may force people in extreme directions of either conformity or individuality. Many Americans may follow everyone in everything they do, or may so much of an individual that they become somewhat of a hermit. Yet the trends that threaten standards of individualism by personal property and product, decisions amongst American youth, and conformity as a whole may show a sign of weakness. However, conformity may dominate the lives of Americans, but there is always the chance to make a mark, to become more of an individual than a clone.