Conformity is kind of a dirty word for me. I think of myself as anything but a conformist. A big part of conformity is accepting what you are told without questions. That makes good soldiers but I don’t think it makes good citizens. Here are a couple of quotes from one of my heroes on this topic.
To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.
— Albert Einstein
When we quit questioning we allow others to tell us what to think and do. We become sheep following the latest demigods, the latest social and consumer trends.
Some parts of our lives demand more conformity than others. One of those areas is our religious beliefs. For the most part almost all religious organizations demand that we strictly tow the line. They demand homogeneous compliance. One of the versions of religion that I most admire for their dedication are the Amish. But they are also demand the highest level of conformity. You are told you must totally submit to the authority of your elders with no questions asked. You are not to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t follow these rules you are often shunned by the community.
To me the opposite of creativity is conformity so that is why it is a dirty word to me. Creativity is how we have advanced in almost every area of life in the last 2,000+ years. It took a brave Belgium doctor hundreds of years ago to question if going from one patient to another without washing your hands was actually doing more harm than good. It would take decades of being chastised for his “radical” beliefs before physicians would finally scrub up between surgeries. Let’s face it, if conformity were the only possibility we would very likely still be living in Middle-Age conditions.
We in the United States pride ourselves in being a unique nation but in reality we at least in recent history are for the most part just bowing to conformity. We allow talking heads, especially those at Fox News and MSNBC to tell us what to think and do. It seems for far too many people if Rush says it then “ditto”. We jump from one social and economic trend to another without really thinking of the consequences. Aren’t we really for the most part just a bunch of conformists? Yes, thank heavens, there have always been few of us who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd. They are the ones who are always asking questions and as a result moving us forward. But I am afraid that given our current stands on educational conformity we might even lose that in future generations. If our kids don’t conform to our current standards then they are likely to be given a prescription of Ritalin to force them to stay in line. From my study of biographies of Einstein I’m sure he would have been one of those chosen for a dose of that drug if he were growing up today.
How sad is that??