Thursday, 1 June, 2023

Coerced Conformity

Nishtha Shrestha

THE power of people is well documented. From toppling governments to bringing reforms, the world has seen it all. A country progresses when all the citizens believe in the same core values. The growth is accelerated and problems are identified on time. However, when this strength in the mass is misused, it may have some negative consequences. A perfect example is the phrase we have all heard, "what will people say". This phrase has caused conflicts and has been used effectively when a dream is misunderstood by the people.

Each individual is different. Though we fall under the same category of Homo sapiens, the variations within us is endless. The differences in bodily structures, colours, orientations, beliefs and perspectives form uniqueness in the society. But these deviations are unappreciated if they threaten to change the existing norms. Even if the mental health of a person is at stake, the approval of the people is sought. While the failures of the past are valuable lessons, this fear of failure may stop individuals from choosing their own happiness over conformity. The result then is a lifelong bitterness and dissatisfaction which is then taken out on the loved ones or the society.

A family evolves with time. It is a smaller unit of the larger society and tries to uphold the values passed onto it. Each addition is bound to alter the dynamics of the existing family and the inability to adapt to the change causes friction. The excessive reliance on this intangible larger structure stops a family from providing complete acceptance to new norms which could be in the form of a ritual, behaviour or as simple as a food habit. The problem is escalated when personal dislikes are disguised as teachings of society. The threat of social exclusion always looms large and a family is forced to suppress their desires in order to maintain harmony in the whole system.

Every country is free to create policies that best suit the circumstances of its citizens. Unlike in the past, physical wars cannot be started easily because of a slight provocation. But despite many treaties, the interference by stronger countries continues to exist till today. No country is self-reliant as resources are scattered all over the world. But underdeveloped and developing countries have not learnt to productively use their wealth. This weakness is exploited by advanced countries and the fear of displeasing them makes lower income countries hesitant to take a decision.

Similar to how individuals are convinced that the common path is the best choice, the mental game takes on a whole new level when weak countries are tricked into believing that the assistance is for their own good. It appears then that this term "people" changes its dimensions based on the level it operates in. The guiding principle, however, is the same; promote conformity through fear, threat or pressure.

It seems to be a psychological technique that uses our dependence on basic needs to its advantage. We seek love, togetherness and support and by controlling these elements, this invisible entity keeps us all under its rule. Some dare to move beyond this domination but the price they pay is high. Not all rebels are praiseworthy but it is a pity that each one of them had to fight for their individuality which is a birthright.