There is no denying that humanity is like a giant flock of sheep. Fads, rituals and traditions regulate our day-to-day existence. I believe our irrational tendency to kowtow to social norms condemns many of us to live less fulfilling lives than we could potentially live. Those who believe they are not sheep, consider this.
Look at the clothes you’re wearing now. You insist that you wear them because they are the clothes that you find most attractive. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are students all over this campus who happen to be wearing something similar. Was there a genetic mutation that affected most babies born between 1987 and 1992 that instilled a natural appreciation for flip-flops, shorts that extend past the knee, blue jeans, and sweater-shorts combinations? I don’t think so. You may be right that the clothes you choose to wear are a result of personal preference, but I insist that those personal preferences are rooted in a desire to conform.
Consider your personal faith. If you were born on the opposite side of the world or a few hundred years earlier, you would almost certainly have a different set of values, or pray to a different set of deities. What about your political preferences? Numbers show that almost all of our political beliefs are determined by the opinions of family and/or friends. I am sure that if you were born in another place or time, even your music preferences would change.
Many of us revel in conforming to social norms. Ovations from the solidly orange student sections in Sun Life Stadium are contagiously thrilling. You would most likely not idolize UM’s football team if you attended a different university.
My intended message is not that people should be nonconformist (even that is a cliché). My sole argument is that during this critical moment of our lives, we should take stock of the things that we truly enjoy. The greatest members of our species were the ones who sailed in the direction of their choice. Those who simply date, drink, marry, study, pray or jump rope to follow the ritual flounder aimlessly at sea.
Josh Kornfield is a junior majoring in international studies and political science. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.