Stephan has a passion for understanding the nature of both the physical world and especially its complex inhabitants, that is, humans.
Groups and Identity
A group is a collection of individuals with common interests and by extension a common purpose. This implies that a group has individuals, all of whom have some shared identity or intent. Biologically, a group of individuals who abide in the same place and can successfully interbreed is a population, and a collection of populations is a community. Every human on the planet belongs, or at least belonged at some point in time, to a community. We may look at society as a community. Since we know society is a group or groups of individuals, we also know by inference that society has one or more common identities. An identity is a defining characteristic of some entity. An example of such can be that a society frequently eats rice and so rice is seen as its cultural dish. Or that individuals ride bikes regularly rather than using automobiles. The point here is that individuals in the society are "pressured," or the cultural upbringing is to participate in the activities that promote or support the group identity.
A Conservative Society
So what of a case where an individual prefers to eat starchy fibrous provisions like potatoes and yam instead of rice? The individual may see his/her preferences overruled by the preferences and mentality of the society. While this may be a trivial example, the situation may get quite a bit more problematic. For example, if instead the identity of the society was defined by a very active extroverted lifestyle. If in this situation there existed an individual that was very reserved, there is a direct conflict with the social ideals. Such an individual would be a potential outcast of society. Such an individual would be faced with two choices, either change themselves to conform with societal norms or be a social reject. We see very clearly in this situation that society works as a force to erase the individuality of a person.
A "Balanced" Society
However, if in the same situation the societal norms were not so strictly enforced and individuals in the society had the tact and respect not to force actions and behavior from other individuals in society, the situation may be very different. While this person may be allowed to "be themselves," there would nevertheless exist social pressure for the person to be more outgoing, but in a healthy way. We as humans should strive to be balanced in every way so as not to lose out on the opportunities life may throw at us. Accordingly, the societal pressure may help this person become more balanced and able to better function "in the real world," facilitating the development of social and interpersonal skills while never truly destroying the uniqueness of this person.
Genetic Vs Environmental Conditioning
We now see that a conservative society may unwittingly remove individuality and create a widespread herd mentality. Differentiation can breed growth and development, instead of always sticking to the status quo. In a negative light, however, it can breed intolerance and weak communities that may hinder development. As always, balance is necessary, and a society of balanced ideologies is required. And so, depending on your personality traits and their relativity to social norms, we may be pushed toward to becoming a better person, or pushed away from being ourselves.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.