Amazed. That is the only word I can come up with to describe how I feel. There have only been four lectures so far but this class is already making me rethink everything I thought I knew about society and the role I play in it. Where does society end and myself begin? This is a loaded question.
The other day in class, we were learning about incorrigible propositions. We used the example of the disappearing and reappearing pen as the book described (Mehan 380). It was ironic that we talked about this in class because this had literally just happened to me the night before, except with my cellphone. What made it so strange was that both of my roommates were helping me search for it but none of us saw it sitting there, in plain sight, on my desk. When we finally realized it was there, my roommate exclaimed “there is no way it has been there the whole time, one of us must have accidentally moved it!” When we talked about this topic in class the next day, I understood my roommate’s response.
She, like every other individual, was making a “secondary elaboration of belief” (Mehan 380). This solidified the idea that when presented with information that doesn’t support our beliefs, we “throw it out” (Alfonso 210). Everyone is creating their own reality but “99.9% of them are creating the same one” (Alfonso 213). It bothers me that as a human race we are so confident in our own intelligence that we make up these laws by which objects and ourselves must abide. Then when something doesn’t follow these rules, we explain it away as if we are so superior that our thoughts and regulations must be accurate and cannot be disproven.
When I think about my daily activities, I realize how often I conform to society’s expectations. I realize how much I tend to “go with the flow of things rather than question them” (McGrane 23). If people are walking at a certain speed, I mimic that speed. If someone around me starts looking at something in the sky, I copy. Why? I want to be an individual. In addition, I have come to understand the immense pressure I put on myself to “fit in” and be a part of the big machine. I do not always want to follow the “social rule” (McGrane 28) as I have learned that I do unconsciously follow.
Even now that I know how much I conform to social rules, I still do it! It amazes me how incapable we are as a society of simply respecting the individuality of people. Why must we isolate and judge those who step outside what we consider to be normal or proper social boundaries? It doesn’t make any sense. I have also come to realize how much pressure put on myself that is unneeded.
I often explain away my failures by questioning my capabilities or personal attributes, thus using “individualistic explanations” (Newman 4) to explain my failures. Therefore, I look over the “broader societal factors” (Newman 4) that could have contributed to my failure. For example, I get a bad grade on a test and I immediately assume that I didn’t study enough. Why? It is also plausible that the test was just difficult and that I did exceptionally well for the difficulty of the test but I have learned that I will never think of it like that. I instead use “individualistic explanations” (Newman 4) to explain something I may have had no control over. It is astonishing to think how insecure we really are as a social body.
People are always looking to blame themselves for something or to find a reason as to why they cannot accomplish something. Yet, at the same time, we also enjoy blaming other people for our problems. We blame Iraq and other third world countries for the threat of terrorism but never consider what we have done to make them dislike us. Maybe as a society we should take a step back and attempt to reach an agreement rather than label every person of that ethnicity as a terrorist and hater of America. Perhaps we have done something to provoke it and could potentially resolve the issue if we could understand that. Stubborn, that is what we are.
Just a couple days ago, I was walking around in Westwood with one of my friends. We were waiting for the crosswalk to signal we could walk. We knew it was supposed to change and allow us to do so. However, it wasn’t changing even though the traffic had been stopped by a red light. We were puzzled. When another individual began to cross without the signal, so did we. Why did we follow that person’s example? Why did we need to wait for another person to act before we did anything? I thought we were supposed to be individuals? Were we not capable of making the decision for ourselves? Immediately when I began to cross, I thought, “I have just conformed to society.” I conformed by waiting for the signal, being confused when it wasn’t there, and then crossing when I thought it was acceptable by those around me.
It reminded me of the video we watched in class. The images of the masses of people in New York City and around the world that move in sync with one another, never considering why they are doing so. Why not walk in the opposite direction on the sidewalk? Why not challenge the silent rules of society? Do we really care so much what others think that we are willing to do things that may not even be what we intended or desired to do? Crazy, that’s all I have to say about that.
Tonight at dinner, one of my friends was telling me about his philosophy class. He stated that he didn’t like how much it required him to think and form his opinions and that he’d “rather have others tell him what to think.” This instantly made me think of everything I have read for this class. I realized how conformed he had become to society that he actually didn’t know how to think for himself and wanted and craved for others to direct him. This made me uncomfortable. I hope to never rely so heavily on others to form my opinions. They belong to me and shouldn’t belong to anyone else.
When I signed up for this class, I expected it to be like my high school sociology class. I though we would learn the terminology and that would be all. I thought we would have a midterm and a final that involved basic recall. I didn’t expect the lectures to be mind- challenging postulations. I really enjoy it. Although the reading is a little much, it is still fascinating. I never thought we would get as philosophical as we have in the class thus far. As we have discussed in lecture, “reality exists but each person creates their own reality. Reality doesn’t exist, it is a social construct.” Where is the truth? It is mind boggling and irritating at the same time!
In addition, I have learned some vital information that I think will help be become a better member of society, a better person overall, and to understand my role in the social world as it is today and what my role might become in the future. And this is all after only four lectures. I can’t wait to see what else is to come. As Barry Alfonso said in his interview, “you can control ideas or you can let them control you” (Alfonso 210). I hope to be able to control ideas. I believe I have let ideas control me for far longer than I realized but I plan to now be more conscious of my actions and control my thoughts instead.