Is Freedom Even Real?

I can’t recall a time where I wasn’t brought up to believe that going to school, getting good grades, working really hard and getting a good job are the steps that I would need to take to become successful. Until I arrived to college did I realize that maybe a higher level education was not the right choice for everyone, even if they are looked down on for not going. As a nation, it is important for us to allow room for individual freedom. We cannot be raised knowing only one path, or sticking to what a society views as the only option. There is an assembly line of clones being produced at rapid rates and in high masses, and we need to fix it before it is too late.

There are certain ideals that are put into our heads the moment we are born. If you’re a girl, you like pink sparkly toys, if you’re a boy, you like guns and robots. But society’s standards on human behavior go beyond the toy aisle, although that may be where it all stems from. We are required to look a certain way, act accordingly, and speak freely (if you are a man.) Who determines the rules of what is right and what is wrong?

Part of the answer in sourcing social norms lie in the natural human response to survive and thrive in their ecologies. Looking at the ecological conditions, including individual’s access to social information, mobility, etc, are important initial indicators. Since we are a group-living species, it is important to examine interdependence vs. dependence. Beliefs, expectations, group knowledge and common knowledge are central concepts in the development of a philosophical view of social norms.

No one wants to be “weird.” We learn it the hard way in middle school when our noses are too big, we talk too loud, or we come out of the closet and we are tortured on the play ground for the rest of eternity. Why else would we have plastic surgeons, orthodontists, hair stylists, gyms, makeup, or name brand clothing? Surely we do not buy things in hopes everyone will riot about them. We all just want to fit in a little bit more than before. We are set up to believe that these materialistic items and services will make us truly happy and quite frankly, we listen.

If you think about it, the “weird” people, those who defy the status quo, are often the most daring, successful, and memorable. Think about Rosa Parks, Steve Jobs, Helen Keller, Vincent Van Gogh, Joan of Arc, Beethoven… you get the point. How many of those people followed anyone else’s rules? Author of “Normal Gets You Nowhere,” Kelly Cutrone sums up the individual perfectly, “I know you don’t feel normal so why are you trying to act it and prove to everyone you are?” Rather than changing themselves to accommodate what others thought they should be, these people shined a spotlight on their differences and changed humanity in the process.

I think we both fear to be different as well as fear the different. We fear to be unaccepted, countering, bold, quirky, daring, and unsuccessful. We fear when others are those things because no one wants a bunch of “uberfreaks” roaming the streets doing what they love and expressing their individuality both because we are jealous of their courage and because we know that there is a consequence that comes with being openly different. Some fear the different because those differences are often concealed and we fear the unknown. But no one quite understands that their are 8 billion people in this world, and no one is alone in their quirk. If we are able to voice our bodies, minds, and souls freely, the norm will be being yourself. We hate when people are fake, but how many times have you changed something about yourself to feel more successful or accepted?

The ability to change an ecological condition starts with an individual. When people feel outside of the box, they are told and grown up to know that appearing difference is a heavy burden to carry. This associates a negative connotation with the idea of individual freedom. A majority of suicide risks can be attributed to feeling lonely, unaccepted, or looked down on. However, having the courage to express your individuality can result in extremely positive results. Starting a revolution in what ever part of your society you would like to change begins with a single person. The corruption only stems from the self destructive nature of society onto the individual. Our differences are what make us human and yet, we continue to set ourselves and the future generations up for a “normal” lifestyle. We need to reinvent who we are, what we value, and what we want from life.