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Ten Reasons Why Conformity Is Evil

Ten reasons to avoid conformity

Any community that requires conformity as a rule for inclusion is inherently flawed and will fail in the face of a community that is both inclusive and diverse, writes Alex McNabb.

April 8, 2013 10:04 by

Something of a departure from the usual aimless half-thoughts, this is a list of half-thoughts. It’s come about because of a number of conversations I’ve had recently that have revolved around individuality, independence and creativity vs suits. When I first went to work, I used to wear a suit. It was very much expected of you back then. I can’t remember precisely when all that changed for me, but I have a horror of them now. Both the apparel and the phenotype.

1) Conformity suppresses independent thought
The requirement to conform to a given set of behaviours encapsulates those behaviours as essentially sacrosanct. The very nature of conformity is that it is beyond question, because questioning it is in itself non-conformist. How many times have you heard, ‘Don’t ask questions, just do it.’ – shortened by Nike to a cunning call to brand-conformity. Conformity is comforting because you can be lazy and just settle into that nice rut. So much easier to do than break out and ask quite why we all jump off the cliff because it seems, well, sort of counter-intuitive.

2) Conformity is a bully
The first thing those with a vested interest in conformity (often, although not always those higher up a given food chain than you) will do is use it to beat you around the head. It’s marvellously self-fulfilling. ‘I don’t see anyone else around here questioning it. It’s the way we do things around here, so you’d better knuckle under before there’s trouble.’ Stop thinking, stop questioning, just put on your grey drone suit and join the rest of us in the chain gang.

3) Conformity is a liar
There’s a wonderful scene in the novel Watership Down, in which the little group of travelling rabbits the book is set around come across a foreign warren. The rabbits talk in the book, which does involve a certain degree of willing suspension of disbelief but there we go. The foreign rabbits are incredibly well fed, fat, sleek and behave in a more ‘sophisticated’ manner, including doing odd things like dancing. But the word ‘snare’ must never be uttered in the warren on pain of death. It turns out the local farmer is feeding the rabbits, whose warren is a police state, and snaring them. Conformity, see?

4) Conformity is not community
You’ll often hear calls for conformity dressed up as a requirement for ‘the good of us all’. The idea is simple: if you conform, we all benefit. But if you should wander, poke around in cupboards and in any other way refuse to adopt a set of accepted behaviours, you’re somehow threatening the fabric of society itself. The truth is, any community that requires conformity as a rule for inclusion is inherently flawed and will fail in the face of a community that is both inclusive and diverse. When I talk about communities, by the way, I don’t mean neighbourhoods or clubs. I mean any group of people gathered around a task.

5) Conformity hates diversity
My own little foray into experimenting with communities, GeekFest, excited me principally because of its diversity and inclusiveness. But where individuality is subsumed to the need to conform, diversity goes out of the window and insularity comes with its bags packed for a nice, long stay. Insular communities start to rely on their insularity to maintain cohesiveness and so is born racism and other forms of intolerance.

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