Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Pressure to Conform

Hello people, I have been tied up with exams and other responsibilites which account for my long absence from this space. Do bear with me. Hopefully, I will keep up with regular updates of my post here again starting with this one.

To conform means to act in accordance (or harmony with) to the prevailing standards, attitudes, practices, etc. In our society, there's a lot of pressure to live, act, be, and talk a certain way. What prompted this write-up was my visit to the salon to have my hair done sometimes back. While the stylist was busy weaving my hair, I heard the owner of the salon talking to a young lady who had just had her hair done. The salon owner had a debt book and told the girl that her new debt is N7000 for the hairdo and a few cosmetic items she had purchased. She seemed like a university undergraduate and indeed many of the customer of this salon are from the universities around. I had no idea how and when she intended to pay the debt but what struck me was the principle behind the act – being in debt just to look a certain way at that very young age. I know debt is not a big deal to many people but personally I abhor going into debt whenever I can and will only do so for major projects like education or mortgage. Even with this worthwhile venture, I still try as much as possible to utilize savings by planning way ahead of time. I had no idea that ladies go into debts on account of hairdo and cosmetics. The point I'm trying to make is that when people get into debt for clothes, shoes bags and hairdo, the only explanation is that they must be under some certain duress/pressure which is placed on them by the society or themselves to adhere to a certain way of life. I then ask the question “is it compulsory to live under such burden?” What will people say if they used to see me in these kinds of clothes but I no longer wear them? What if my hair is not Brazillian, won't my friends laugh at me? These are common questions that people who have chosen to live according to the expectation of society ask themselves. 

It's sad that our society is at best aimless and young children grow up to become self-aware in a society as this. That itself is a tragedy. The young lady described earlier represents the average Nigerian woman. For the male folk, the pressure is usually centred on the purchase of designer clothing, electronic gadgets and cars. A friend once said that people buy things with money they don't have to impress people who don't give a hoot about them. This just summarizes the point of this post. One thing I have observed among different societies of the world is that societies in which members live under a certain pressure are usually consuming-prone but societies where members live freely according to what each person has are more producing-prone. Hence, many individuals and organizations in the latter group will aim at developing skills that will help them to produce goods and services which the former group will be willing to buy whether they need it or not. The result is that the producing societies get better at producing whilst developing a strong economy and a better developed society. The former group merely becomes better at consuming. Ironically, the former group will do anything to find their way to the societies of the latter group. 

This pressure make people go to different lengths to abide by (as though they'd die if they don't) its rules. Many people develop skills to move money or goods from the company they work in through what someone described as “underground economy”, politicians at various levels focus on “stealing” the commonwealth of the society, religious leaders “twist” the words of truth to be able to manipulate people into financing their “adherence to status quo”, ladies yield themselves to “runs” while men engage in various illicit and dangerous trades to be able to finance those “runs” babes. 

Slavery is not just about the physical binding of fetters or handcuffs on the hands and feet of people but about a lack of freedom to BE who one is or to DO what one wants to do (in a right sense). This is also called mental slavery. This pressure that people willingly allow into their lives is a choice to yield their personal freedom to the society (which by the way doesn't really care what befalls such person). It's a very wrong choice indeed! This is a call to get people to begin to question the reason why they do some certain things. By doing so, they may determine whether their goal is actually to satisfy the society or to fulfill an inner desire for one's own good and for the greater good of society.

I used to do things because others were doing same
I used to say things because others were saying same
Nowadays, I speak for myself and do what I really want to do. ~ Mary Achor-Ogungbola