Are we really as individualistic as we think? Just last week , we took a poll in my PoliSci 101 class and the majority of class believed to be more individualist rather than conformist. If we want to be technical, individualism is defined as “the actions or attitudes of a person who does things without being concerned about what other people will think”. While conformity is defined as “behavior that is the same as the behavior of most other people in a society, group, etc.” However, those two definitions sound extremely contradictory to me as if you are trying to not be conceded about what other people will think, you’re not being individualistic, you’re just not being a conformist.
The funny part about the survey we took is, the majority (including myself) originally felt to be individualistic, but as we discussed it more we conformed to be more of conformist. Let’s take fashion for example, there are continuous changing trends that could possibly make someone an conformist. If I was to walk outside and stand in the Diag for about an hour, I would see a girl in black leggings, a black North Face or Canada Goose, and Uggs or Hunters. For a male, I’m pretty sure I would see a large number of timberland boots as well. But what would Mill say about this? Are these girls conforming to fit in, or dressing be warm as Nicole Santos would say. John Mill writes, On Liberty, in which he says that people should be free, and they should be different because otherwise the freedom is going to be meaningless. He also mentions how people who try to show individuality often go unnoticed, but he says that if conforming, remember the intentions behind such an idea. With this idea of common fashion trends, I would have to agree that the winter fashion trend of boots, black pants, and a black jacket is a way of conformity while fitting into society. There are so many other ways to display fashion and stay warm without doing what everyone else is doing. If you google winter fashion, there are many individualistic forms of dress. With the way society is set up, it is hard to differentiate between being an individual and being a conformist. Every time someone tries to stand out, they are really just trying to be like everyone else and not conform.
So, what does it truly mean to be an individualist? How about this for the idea of individualist, something that everyone does notice; something different, a Monday night “home” game not in your own stadium. I’ve now been lucky enough to watch my god-brother play twice in my hometown as the Bills held a home game versus the New York Jets at Ford Field after they got 6+ feet of snow. But it wasn’t that to make this game so peculiar. It was the two fans who wanted to stand out. Midway through the third quarter, I noticed it wasn’t Ross making a tackle against the Jets, but it was not security tackling the two players as they “streaked” (with pants on) across the field. Standing in the stands with the rest of the Bills fans screaming would have made them just as unnoticed as anyone else in red, blue, or white. However, midfield-midplay was a whole new ball park. As they truly stood out, I believe that Mill would consider these two guys to be individualists.
On the other hand, just as the time the two men ran across the field, the verdict on the Ferguson case was released. Immediately, the city of Ferguson along with other cities around the world were full of hurt and disgust. The grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson on any charges as he shot unarmed Micheal Brown. Cities such as Ferguson, Los Angeles, New York, and Detroit have come together to protest both peacefully and with slight violence to show their stance against the idea that all lives matter. However, where do we draw the line between individualists and conformists? The night of the verdict being released many joined together in New York to show their willingness to fight for equal rights (video: Nation Reacts to Ferguson decision.) As much as they really wanted to stand out as individualists doing something that not everyone else was doing, they’re really just coming together to follow the actions of the people in Ferguson. So how do we draw a line to show where people are trying to stand out and be heard while being individualists, and where they are just trying to fit in according to Mill’s ideologies?