No human baby is born a conformist

Tuesday, August 27 2013 @ 01:11 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you google for quotable words on conformism, thousands of search results will come up. But it won't take long until you realize it's a waste of time to click on them because most of these advocacies of nonconformity are fake from the diversity cults of the 1960s. It's evident from the way they advocated nonconformity that self-styled gurus such as John F. Kennedy and self-righteous rebels such as John Lennon were conformists, themselves, just disguised as something else.

Perhaps, Rita Mae Brown is one of the few exceptions. She is quoted as saying, "I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” She has a good point; she convinces us with a short sentence that self-hatred always underlies conformism, or vice versa.

On the other hand I do not necessarily agree with Emerson. It's a long time ago I read his essay about the principle of self-reliance. So I am not very sure, but to me the words quoted above sound a little too dogmatic or narcissistic. Actually to remain "yourself" is not that important when you have to change yourself constantly as Henri Bergson suggested.

According to my mother's diary, I was born at 7:30 AM on December 25, 1935. But my birth certificate says I was born one week later - January 1, 1936. In those days the Japanese people were even more group-oriented than they are today. The birthday of each individual did not count at all because everyone was supposed to grow one year older on January 1. That's why my parents decided to cheat the municipal office so I wouldn't be treated as a 1-year-old when I was actually 1-week-old. From the very beginning of my life, therefore, I was made something else than what I actually was. I think the gap kept widening, rather than narrowing, toward my early adulthood.

Since I don't have a good memory, I don't remember what happened to me in this one-week period when I was officially nonexistent. Not only that, I can't recall how life treated me throughout the rest of my infancy except what I learned in later years from family members. And yet, I can still recollect the elusive sense of angst which was left behind long after everything sunk into oblivion. It's hard to explain exactly what it was, but I seemed to be feeling extremely uncomfortable with my own existence throughout these years - and well beyond. Deep inside I felt I had been born to a wrong place where I didn't really belong. This sensation continued until I could overcome it almost two decades later. I think my intransigent trait of nonconformism has its origin in the early days of my development.

Aside from the early experience of my own, one question lingers on over the human behavior: Why does a human baby cry at birth unlike a new-born cub of other species? He may stop crying as soon as he is breast-fed. But that does not mean his problem is finally solved by lactation. I hypothesize that the reason he cries at birth is because being forcibly given birth is as hard to tolerate as facing death, or even harder than that. Like a dying person, he doesn't have the slightest idea about what situation he is going to face, let alone how to cope with it. The only premonition he's got is that in all likelihood, it's a hostile world. It makes little difference whether or not his parent has a pathological bent for child abuse.

Very few people have really understood the ethics of Jean-Paul Sartre, my lifetime philosophy teacher. He based it on his ontological observation that "existence precedes essence." In plainer words, that means you are nothing until you choose to be someone or something. But it's important to note he never meant to say you can become anything you want to be. You are always conditioned beforehand by things and people surrounding you. Sartre just wanted to say you should try to "make something out of what you've been made into." A character in his play "No Exit" says, "L'enfer, c'est les autres," or "Hell is other people."

When one attempts to overcome constraints imposed on him, what he needs first and foremost are knowledge and skills with which to effectively deal with the given situation. This brings us to the issue with education. So many disguised conformists have disseminated a myth that something is fundamentally wrong with the current education systems because they are tainted with indoctrination everywhere. It's as though there could be such a thing as education that is not aimed at helping the young grow into "the fittest" by closing the inherent gap between individuals and society.

Doris Lessing is quoted as saying:

Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.'”

As the sober-minded British writer observes here, what's really at issue is the very fact that there are so many self-proclaimed nonconformists who have been brainwashed to believe indoctrination is an issue. The fact of the matter remains that those who don't have an extraordinary talent to educate themselves have no choice but to accept the ordinary indoctrination system. And that's what I did.

I don't want to repeat the same story about the abnormally Spartan way my father educated me. I later called it a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he taught me never to go with the flow because that was the surest way to mediocrity. But on the other, he forced me to get on the fast track to the exempt status from sacrificing my life for the Divine Emperor in the unwinnable war. Torn between the two contradictory principles, the helplessly dim-witted kid, that I was, finally collapsed when I was in my late-teens. Now I know what exactly made it possible for me to pull myself together. It was none other than my innate trait of nonconformity.

There's very little in common between Thomas J. Watson, Jr., who is dubbed "the greatest capitalist in history," and me. Yet I think, there is a certain similarity between his feud with Thomas J. Watson, Sr., de facto founder of International Business Machines, and mine with my father.

Time and again Watson, Jr. stressed that the single most important founding principle of his company was that it would never try to tame the "wild ducks." As to conformism, he is quoted as saying:

If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.

Financially, my life has never been really successful, but nevertheless I am proud of myself because I have never been flattened by conformity. That's exactly why I didn't stay down for too long. I could overcome all the adversity in part because of my respect for professionalism and discipline, and sense of commitment I could develop during the 16 years of being indoctrinated.

More importantly, I have owed these charming and intelligent young ladies more than I could possibly repay. They not only taught me something I couldn't have learned in school, but also made my life really worth living. I am not exaggerating when I say my life must have been "much ado about nothing" without them. To me they were comrades before anything else.

Perhaps I was a little less ugly than I am today, but I have never been a handsome and sexy guy. So the question is why on earth I could have so many unforgettably fruitful relationships with these ladies. My own answer is that it's because I always took them seriously and never attempted to have them subordinated to me like slaves. You may not be aware, but some of these young ladies still retain their innate resistance against being assimilated into the society perpetually dominated by male macaques. You may ask me how I could tell them from those who had already been incorporated. Actually, there is no secret. To anyone who isn't a conformist himself, a female who still retains the biological, psychological, and even ontological instinct against conformity always looks to shine unlike others. And on your part, the most important thing to note is that in a civilized world, it doesn't really count how much pheromone you secrete.

The only mistake I have ever made in my lifetime is when I married the woman with whom I fathered two SOBs. I don't think they were wearing a wide grin from ear to ear at birth. But in a matter of years, they became fully assimilated through something to be likened to bacterial infection, rather than a deliberate indoctrination.

When I started what I call a zoology museum on the web nine years ago, I thought it was necessary to collect a wide variety of specimens to exhibit in the showcase or the cage. But I was wrong. Soon I realized that the country named the USA is a monolith even to a greater extent than Japan is. There are only a couple of types of people among whom conformists, either avowed or disguised, are the overwhelming majority.

Conformism is not an ism. It's a disease. Even worse, unlike cretinism or moronism, it's highly infectious. American conformists are getting used so quickly to the Twitteresque way of discussing matters that they no longer understand it's necessary to give a logical reason to support or refute an argument. They think, "Why the hell do we have to explain the reason every time we speak for or against someone's opinion? Most of us think more or less in the same way."

For example, an American specimen, who flip-flops his position every second day, responded to my previous post about narcissism of the Hottentots like this: "I'm [favorably] impressed by everything and everyone Japanese." I was anxious to know the reason because he was now brushing aside, with a single short sentence, my observation of the terminally-ill people living in this cultural wasteland, which I explained to my audience with 400-plus posts I've written in the last nine years. But he replied, matter-of-factly: "There are no reasons for this. It is custom to adore the Japanese. Your people do the same. As an example, you are the one who revealed the Japanese oddity of venerating our President without knowing him. ('I rub Obama.')"

Obviously this particular specimen is one of those who were "flattened by conformity and stay down for good," or at least until the inevitable collapse of the worst rogue country in history. I will refrain from chasing him too far in part because it would run counter to Bushido (chivalry) to step on a person already flattened on the floor. But more importantly, it's one of my responsibilities as the curator of this museum to keep him alive in the showcase, or the cage, which carries a signboard that now reads: un salaud americain.

Recently I've found the French words very useful as well as usable because an uneducated person never understands the real connotation of the ontological pejorative. Thanks to these words, I can prevent my sympathetic nervous system from sending my blood pressure soaring to 200mmHG or even higher.

At the same time the French expression helps me effectively convey my friendly message to American conformists. It goes: "I rub you guys exactly in the same way you do my fellow countrymen. There's no specific reason for my adoration."

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