On Conformity

by Josh Smith

A lot of kids grow up in a world where news headlines, fads, trends, and political opinions are fed to them everyday on the internet, on TV, in the tabloids and news publications, at school, with their friends, in their scenes, etc. It comes as no surprise to me when they seem confused or offended by the fact that some people don’t agree with them on everything to do with politics.

In punk rock and hipster circles, kids are encouraged to join movements such as feminism, veganism, gay and trans rights, etc. I find it ironic these groups strive to be counter-culture, but tend to think the way they are told to by the government(but only if a democrat is in office), and by the mainstream media. Simply because it’s hard to think, and easy to believe what you are told. Or maybe because it’s the opposite of the way their parents raised them to be. Let’s take a look at the history of punk rock and hipsterdom to better understand the thought process behind these movements.

Punk rock is a rebellious rock music genre developed between 1974 and 1976. The Punk rock bands that are recognized as pioneers of the genre include the Ramones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, etc. Punk rock has always been rooted in the DIY mindset, as many bands self-record their music, and use unconventional methods of distributing records. Punk rock music is typically simple, and right to the point, with many songs only using three or four chords, and a simple hook and vocal melody. Lyrics in Punk rock are known to be deeply political and anti-establishment to the core. So with all of this in mind, wouldn’t we expect modern Punk rock-type communities to swim against the tide and reject the government’s idea’s and remain indifferent? I’ve noticed a lot of kids with red or blue hair, piercings, and who listen to alternative music, wearing Bernie Sanders T-shirts, which seemingly should not be the case. Considering the fact the Bernie is wildly popular, and despite Hillary having the majority of Superdelegates pledged to her pre-election, Bernie has been shown to have the majority vote from Democrat voters. I understand that people in Punk scenes from years ago may have had a kind of Anti-establishment agenda, and that some might be that way today. But from what I can tell, it’s not the mainstream for them anymore. Yes, punks and hipsters have been known to be intentionally ironic. So maybe political conformity is just a symptom of that. This shows that there may be a lot of uncertainty in these people. For a lot of individuals, they look to their social surroundings for guidance when they aren’t sure what to do or what to think about an issue. Another factor that may contribute to the blind following of certain public figures, is that individual’s Likeability, and support of them from people that they like. Robert Cialdini’s theory on Liking explains this well. Cialdini’s theory uses the analogy of Tupperware marketing. It explains how people are more likely to buy a Tupperware set if a person they like, or find attractive is selling it. It’s one of our natural biases as humans to be more accepting of things that are endorsed or favored by people that we find attractive.

Now, let’s take a look at Hipster culture. Hipsterdom was formed in the late 90's and early 2000's. Hipsters typically reside in places like New York City, New York, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Seattle Washington, Berkely, California, Williamsburg, VA, Nashville, TN, etc. They are typically known to hang out in coffee shops, record stores, used book stores, etc. Hipsters tend to gravitate towards alternative or avant-garde literature, music, art, film, food, clothing, house decorations, and whatever else they consume that’s not supposed to be mainstream. A lot of them tend to do drugs and smoke cigarettes or weed, and drink cheap alcohol, or whatever alcoholic beverages no one else is drinking. Their political views often lean far to the left, and are typically supposed to be anti-establishment. But the funny thing is, most of them seem to support Bernie Sanders these days. It’s probably because hipsters and punks alike, have a long history of showing contempt for rich people. Especially “The One Percent, who hoard Ninety-nine percent of the wealth”. My simple answer to that viewpoint, is that most of these people earn their wealth, and use it to invest in new companies, real estate, other stock, and spend on their current businesses to improve them and make a better profit. Liberal media voices such as the YouTube liberal news outlet known as. “The Young Turks”, claim that said wealth should be taxed from the One Percent and given to the middle and lower-classes, so they will spend it on everday things, which will therefore stimulate the economy. I do think that they have a bit of a point here, but the argument is flawed to the core. Of course, when money is spent, it will help the economy one way or another, but that’s exactly why Millionaires and Billinaires should be left alone with the money that they earn. Why? Because they spend it on much more important things. As we said before; businesses, real-estate, and other stock. The more profit they make from the businesses that they own, the more money they have that they can use to pay their employees, hire new ones, and make overall expansions. It helps everyone. My second problem with this kind of rhetoric from TYT and their liberal friends, is that they usually think that most rich people have inherited all of their wealth. This is mostly false. Some of the world’s billionaires did inherit their wealth, but in 2014, 69 percent of those on the Forbes 400 list were self-made.

Do you see the pattern here or not? I find this incredibly predictable. Many people who join hipster circles, do so because they are conformists. Especially when the new movement that they are in seems to be rebellious and authentic. They don’t want to go through the pain of thinking for themselves. They look for what we call “Social proof” to guide them. That way they know what to say, what to believe, how to dress, and everything else. All while they can think that they are being original, simply by acting counter-culture, or avant-garde. This looks to me like a classic case of Symbolism Over Substance.

The problem with conformity, is that the level of trust within it is far too high. When people just trust that politicians and celebrities are always right, they end up rallying behind the wrong people and joining the wrong movements. Take Nazi Germany for example. Most of the population thought that the Nazi(National Socialist German Workers Party) party had a righteous cause, and therefore supported Hitler when he would do thing that the rest of us might find to be questionable. . The Nazi’s gained support from the German people around 1930. Due to the great depression, many people were in poverty and unemployment, and the Nazi’s promised an equal, socialist society that would benefit the working people, rather than the rich. This political party were socialist, anti-capitalist people. They wanted to destroy the wealthy 1%, and build a socialist nation. Sound familiar? If so, that’s probably because Bernie Sanders preaches the exact same thing. The only difference is that he calls it “Democratic Socialism”. Usually if a group takes the name of an old ideology or belief system and adds a new word to the end of it, such as “New”, “Neo”, or in this case “Democratic”, it’s probably the exact same thing as the old version. One might say that Bernie doesn’t talk about world domination or violence, so therefore he isn’t like Hitler. If they say that, they may not realize that Hitler didn’t talk about these things at first either. He got the peoples attention by talking about an economic system that benefited the working class and not the rich. Then slowly eased the people into violence and world domination. I’m not saying that Bernie wants to do the same as Hitler, in fact I even doubt that he would. My main point here is that conformity is very, very dangerous for society and culture.

With of this being said, how does one defend against conformity? How does one avoid believing the hype? Read. Read books, magazines, essays. Even garbage, even things that you don’t really agree with. Even things that are written by your least favorite public intellectuals. You need to read and be a discriminating reader. History is one of most valuable subjects to learn about, it teaches patterns in thinking, especially when the psychology behind the situation in context is given attention. Of course, we need to remember what the philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana told us; “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Learn about history. Learn what you can about other subjects like psychology, economics, literature, etc. It could help you not fall into the traps that a lot of our society sets.

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