Imagine feeling free to be who you are. Imagine having the freedom to act the way which you wish. Imagine just being you. These might sound like simple enough imaginations because these are acts that we live out each day effortlessly. Simple enough for us, yet there are countless others who face difficulty in having the free will to freely express who they are. I believe the statement, ‘to be different is to be condemned by society, is true because if a person is unorthodox he is shunned by the general public. He is treated as if he is extremely strange and is disliked by the majority of the community.
A person can be unique in one or more ways, however, he may still be treated differently than others. For example, in school, a child who is far more intellectual than others may be dubbed a ‘nerd’ and may be snubbed by other students. Just because a person has different opinions than those of the majority he is sometimes treated disrespectfully and is not given credit for having his personal ideas. A person who stands apart from the majority and is part of the minority is sometimes oppressed and demoralized. For example, an atheist living in a highly religious area might be damned by the community or be physically or mentally tortured to accept their faith. Linguistic and cultural minorities sometimes are also discriminated. Hence these people are all rebuked by the population for being distinct.
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A person can be exalted for his individuality or be isolated for it. If a rich person is different from the rest in the society he will be looked up to with awe and everyone will be more than willing to accept him in their midst. However, if a person belonging to the lower class of society is dissimilar to others, he is looked down upon and is persecuted for his originality. He is banished by the public and is expelled from all activities taking place within the community.
The life of man has usually been dictated by the norms of society. Success in the socialization process creates a positive self-image, whereas failures in the socialization process may lead to a negative self-image. Sociologists believe that society has developed a great many inequalities in the divisions between groups that exist. If a person, belonging to the majority feels that maybe the minorities deserve rights as well, he may not be able to voice his opinions due to pressure from society.
Hence the fear of humiliation leads to conformity. People agree with others because they fear ridicule or being isolated from the crowd. They fear the idea of not being a part of the whole. They fear isolation or worse, being ostracized by the group. Most people usually have an innate desire to fit in with a group. Consequently, they follow others not because they comply with what the majority is doing, but because they want to be a part of the powerful majority; not the weaker minority. Still, those that resolve not to conform have to deal with the conflict of going against the majority. Man is a social creature. He needs the support and company of his fellow beings. Therefore if one is atypical, he is condemned by society, or mentally tortured. Thus, his self-esteem and morale are completely shattered.
Moreover, a person belonging to the majority often assumes that he is superior to the minority. This may cause conflicts to arise from bias and prejudice or from a difference in communication styles. Prejudice is a prime cause of pain and suffering of people for many centuries. For example, in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, racism is the cause of much agony for the African-Americans living in a small town in the state of Alabama. Along with them, other groups of people are also judged unfairly, just because of their differences from others.
The prejudice and bigotry of society cause the victimization of people with differences, which is formed from their own ignorance. Some who are discriminated against are those who are born differently than the majority. Ethnocentrism is often the foundation of bias and prejudice that leads to conflict. Ethnocentrism is the “idea that your own race, nation, group etc is better than any other.” Unfortunately, minority groups are usually under the impression that they must conform to the ways of the majority in order to succeed. As a result, the ramifications of ethnocentrism have often caused minorities to change in order to “fit in” with society.
It is human nature for vast changes to be difficult to digest. People do not like things to change a lot and prefer to stick to the conventional ways. Therefore if a person is a nonconformist he is exiled from society. The most common reason leading to people being separated from society due to their uniqueness is that they are misunderstood. Consequently, I believe that people should get to know and understand individuals before passing judgment about them.
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