Conformism Versus Non-Conformism

Repost from the old site.

In the comments, Perry notes:

Your description of your youth – hippie, glam, disco, punk, goth etc – doesn’t strike me as ‘not normal’ or ‘fucked in the head’. Not an outsider, a reject or outcast.

Rather, it is the trajectory of the Ultra-Conformist, always clinging to the dominant cultural strand. What is called culture and ‘counter-culture’ are like the twin strands of DNA revolving around each other. If you can’t escape that, then you are cattle. You say you followed and adopted each culture, but then say ‘I never want to fit in, be normal or be accepted.’ That’s exactly what you wanted.

Allow me to differ here.

As far as hippies, OK, we had a group, but straight society treated us like serious shit, the older generation especially. I seem to recall I lost a number of jobs over being a longhair and suspected doper, and there was no end of warfare with my folks, all of their friends and all of my older relatives. It was generational war, but we had to get jobs from these older assholes, and they seemed to delight in firing us just for who we were.

There was no way to be a member of serious, normal, straight society when you looked like that. It was like one rejection after another, especially in the workplace.

I refer especially to dope. There was never a time when dope was accepted by straight or mainstream society, especially older folks. It did get close there for a bit around thirty years ago, but then Reagan came in, the War on Drugs hit, and it was out in the biggest way.

I can’t tell you how much endless rejection, hassle and general crap I got for being a doper, and all I was was a pot smoker. Vast numbers of people, even my own age, were just flat out not into it. Especially as you got to the university and then into good high-paying jobs in offices and whatnot.

Nowadays, dope is more condemned than ever. The honeymoon is over. A lot of kids hate all dope, and the older generation truly despises it.

A very large # of folks even my age never got into it and seriously look down on you if you did, even if it was years ago. God forbid if you still get high. This is especially true in the medical and psychiatry fields. Doctors won’t tolerate pot at all, and therapists and p-docs will all try to blame all your problems on it, even if it was 30 years in the past. It’s like a guilt trip that never goes away.

At this point, straight society seriously rejects dope in all forms, and I do include pot. I’m not talking the working class here. I’m talking older folks, and especially once you get into proper and respectable society, older folks who dress up for work, wear jackets and ties, make good money, work in an office, etc.

All dope is seriously out with that crowd, even past use. If you talk to most folks like that, even my age, they deny all current use and as far as the past, well, they smoked a joint once.

You can’t discuss dope at all in public (you’re liable to get tossed out of the establishment) other than to condemn it. You can’t even mention past use. At work, it’s pretty much off the table and it’s probably reason for firing.

Even a past history of drug use is thought to make you unqualified for many jobs. I speak in particular of education, as I was a teacher for years. If any of us told our classes that we so much as took a hit off a joint once, legions of parents would march down to the office and we would probably be fired.

The glam scene was not popular at all at the time and people who were into it were really treated like shit by most ppl for it. It was a fringe thing.

Disco was popular, but walking around with 4-inch blue platforms, velvet pants and silk scarves was not. People who did that really got hammered a lot, mostly people calling them queer.

Sure, punk is pretty normal now, but back then we were really outsiders and rejects. Most everyone really hated it. As an example, almost all of my old friends hated punk and weren’t impressed that I was into it. Punks got treated like serious shit all the time. It was serious fringe stuff. We also got called queer a lot.

I don’t remember the goth scene well, but in the early days, it wasn’t really normal to be into that stuff. Just one more reason for most everyone to think you were a fucking weirdo.

Furthermore, all of these were countercultural movements that were at odds with mainstream society in a serious way – but disco much, much less so. If you were into them and it was obvious, you got stared at a lot, pointed to a lot, and got treated like a general freak. You got called names like weird, strange, creep, etc all the time.

You had your sanity questioned all the time and it was just assumed that you must be mentally ill in some way. In most cases, you also got called faggot a lot for some reason. I guess to the macho straight society idiots, any nonconformist is automatically a “fag”.

I recall my father nearly punching my lights out one time for having long hair that according to him made me look like a fag.

No sane person went into any of this stuff to be accepted. Sure you got some acceptance by the scene people, but even for all of these, they were a serious minority. They’d be like 5% of the people, and the others (mostly haters) would be like 95%. You’d have to be a moron to go into most of these things to make gain acceptance. It was like hitching a ride on the Rejection Express.

And none of these things was “the dominant cultural strand” at the time. It’s not like nowadays, when punk, goth, hippie and whatnot are all mainstream aspects of youth culture. In the beginning of all these things (except disco), the first people really were outsiders.

More importantly, all of us got used to constantly being called weird, strange, bizarre, freaks, not normal, creepy, crazy, nuts, psycho and all that stuff. So if someone calls me something like that, that’s like a compliment.

Now how many normal society types get called stuff like that all time? And how many of them take it as a compliment to be called something like that?

So I’m not buying your argument.

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3 thoughts on “Conformism Versus Non-Conformism”

  1. You do seem to have been an ultra-conformist in your youth. There’s no shame in following whatever the current cultural trend was (for how long, 10, 15 years? yikes), but you shouldn’t pretend you’re a rebel for doing so. A Zelig maybe, but not a rebel. I don’t think anyone could call you “weird, strange, bizarre, freaks, not normal, creepy, crazy, nuts, psycho”. Just doing what you peers expect. Millions upon millions of people went through the same path as you.

    There is always a ‘generational war’, but the war which really shows you individuality is that with your peers. How different were you from your glam peers when you were wearing heels? How different from you punk peers when you were snarling and dressed in leather? You were no different at all. How different were you in your long hair smoking pot with your long haired friends smoking pot? Your conformity was very, very extreme. Calling yourself a nonconformist is hilarious.

    1. I think you have a point when you say that the war which really shows your individuality is that with your peers.

      The question then might be, “Who exactly are your peers?” Your peers might be the people you hang out with directly, but they might also be people who are roughly in the same age group you’re in, who received the same cultural messages you did about what’s acceptable.

    2. I was actually a nonconformist in most of those guises since there was a tremendous penalty to pay for such things:

      Hippie stoner: Popular, but a lot of people seriously hated it. And on the job it led to endless troubles from straights who despised me and kept firing me over and over. This led to tremendous rejection, including getting arrested a couple of times. You have no idea how many people hated pot back in those days.

      Punk: At the time, hardly anyone was into this scene. My friends and I were some of the few, and the vast majority of my friends were not into it. At best they thought it was weird and unfathomable. In general, people had opinions ranging to incomprehension, suspicion, thinking it was weird all the way to out and out hatred. This was no way to win friends!

      Glam: Almost no one was into this. My friends and I were alone. Not so much hatred, though some people really hated it. Mostly others were simply not into it at all, and a lot of people seriously hated the bands and music.

      Goth: By this time, people were used to countercultures, so this was not such a big deal. But no one else was really into it, so it was one more way that I was weird.

      Most of those things (except for hippie stoner) were not the current trend, and even back in those days, a vast number of young people totally despised pot and other dope. The older generation? Forget it.

      Punk wasn’t conformist at all since almost no one was into it. At the university, punks would be like less than 1% of the population. We were simply weirdos.

      Glam was not a trend at the time in the mid-70’s. No one was into it, I mean no one. We were alone.

      I got in endless trouble and had neverending problems with my peers over all these fads I was a part of.

      All subcultures and countercultures are considered nonconformist at the time. Conformism means going along with the majority. Most of the time, that means being a square.

      Nowadays, things are quite different. Goth, punk, hippie, even stoner, all those things are basically part of the mainstream and no one thinks twice at anyone who dresses or acts that way. But back in the day, it was not so!

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