Conformity Or Dare To Be Different

Conformity Or Dare To Be Different

Paul Chong         Saturday, 17 July 2021

In terms of human behaviour, conformity simply means behaviour in accordance with socially accepted conventions. 

It’s interesting to note that human beings are gregarious in nature. We like company & we live in nests. As John Donne would say “No man is an island”.The phrase means that no one is truly self-sufficient, everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others in order to thrive.

When growing up as kids, however, children can be most cruel if you are different. They can make life miserable for you if you don’t conform to their system. So you learn to conform. Conformity sets the standard of our behaviour in all aspects of our life. So we learn to confirm for at   least 18 years of our young life to play & act like the others in the group. Then came the services, offices & work places, we were again told what to do & obey orders for the remaining part of our working life. All in all, we would be spending some forty years of our life in conformity.

Let’s take a look at conformity in today’s fast changing world.  If we conform, that is, we act like everybody else, the odds are 95% to 5% that we’ll miss the financial boat too!  

Why do people conform?

Once the great Dr.  Albert Schweitzer (a theologian) was asked, ”What’s wrong with man today?”  And   what’s the answer? He said “Man simply don’t think.” Man conforms simply because it’s the easiest thing to do. They were taught to conform – from the time they were born, or in school they were told what to do. They wanted to be liked, belong to the group, play and act like the others.  They don’t want to be different.  They wanted to be liked, belong to the group, play and act like the others.  They don’t want to be different because children are sometimes cruel to those who are different. They spent at least 18 years of their life learning to conform to their group.

Then came the service , again, they were told what to, again they confirm. In the military, orders are expected to be obeyed without questions.  Suddenly a man is out of service and on his own for the first time. Now what is the most natural thing in the world to do?  Right, it’s to look around to see what the other fellows are doing.  Since we’ve been always told what to do, why should we start thinking for ourselves at age 25?

So he gets a job and he looks around to see how the others are doing theirs.  Well it seems to be a pattern of human nature to do no more than what is necessary to get the weekly pay check.  Due to peer pressure, he’s not about to set any standard.  Again, he conforms.  He knows that he has 40 years to become great, plenty of time, but does he do it?  Not if he follows the crowd!  Not unless he decides to join the top 5%.

It takes a courageous man to be different . . . one who would rather die on his feet than live on his knees. This like making the choice of being an eagle & not a duck. An eagle commands aerial supremacy & great vision far & wide. Great leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Xi Jinping & Deng Xiaoping are a different category of men. They adopt systems that work & discard those that failed to work.

To Deng Xiaoping, it does not matter whether it’s a white cat or a black one, so long it catches rats.


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