Conformity

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

Before humanity spread around the globe there were isolated tribes of people who conformed to tribal practices passed down from one generation to the next. The elders of the tribe established the rules and those who wanted to be nourished and supported had to obey the rules or be shunned. Fast forward to modern living in city environments and diversity is the order of the day. Even with all the diversity people in cities tend to gather in groups with the same language and cultural patterns.
I remember when radio first came in and we were hearing people from other parts of the country. It seemed strange to hear someone pronouncing syrup as ”seer”up or
tomato pronounced as to”mah”to. And one of my favorite candies, caramels, which I pronounce “car’muls” is pronounced “care-a-mels.”
But it isn’t only people of different cultures who show such diversity. When teens began to attend huge high schools they began to show individuality by getting tattoos, tongue piercings and such. Personally I am such a hyper that if I had a stud imbedded in my tongue I would be licking it constantly. It would drive me crazy.
It is not only wearing apparel and adornments that set people apart. Try figuring out the shorthand on Facebook. I know, I said I wasn’t going on Facebook anymore unless I wanted to view my great grandchildren’s pictures. I am careful not to reveal anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want my minister to read. Yes, my minister is on Facebook and any number of people whom I have never heard of before are asking me to be their friend.
At the same time we say we like conformity we secretly enjoy and delight in
variety and the excitement of what is new and different. It depends upon your social circle what is considered too way out to be acceptable. In my circle, there are no car chases or over-indulging in alcohol or crude behavior. But I must admit that I sometimes deviate by appearing on the comedy stage. You can say things on the comedy stage that you wouldn’t say in your ordinary conversation. On the comedy stage I can freely associate and come up with some really way out jokes sometimes. I must say that I base my comedy on my day to day experiences with a little embellishment to add to the joke value.
And I love calling corporations and having fun at their expense. Have you watched TV commercials lately? They are marketing DVDs of Carol Burnett with the enticement of “free shipping.” I called the 800 number and asked who pays for the shipping if I don’t pay. Then there’s another commercial that advertises a product that lasts a lifetime and they are now two for the price of one. I called their 800 number and asked why I would need two if one would last a lifetime. Then there is the corporation called A Place for Mom serving the elderly who need special care. I called and said Washington is an equal rights state and you can’t advertise a place just for an aging mom if an aging dad could use the service as well.
Yes, my mother taught us to think for ourselves. We were not taught to conform if in our better judgment it didn’t make sense. That makes for having to develop a tough skin when one goes through the world challenging what is presented by authority figures. Maturity is balancing our skepticism with our need to conform. Changing the world takes time and we only have one life to live so we have to balance our need to be “right” with our need to survive. I learn something new about this every day.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at gnkunkel@comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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