Fitting In

Posted on October 15, 2007

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Conformity.  The clothes by which one fits in.  A suit.  T-shirt and jeans.  Brogues.  Pointy toes.  Trainers.  Sandals.  Court shoes.  A skirt; a dress; a hat.  Pfft!  It is what everyone wears.  Not exactly of course, but a smart or attractive, colour coded variation.  It sounds invidious.  Everyone conforms.  Even acknowledging that there is a world implies conformities.  The wider sense of what the planet is is not objectively neutral, that idea is a chimera; instead it is the reflected truth – more or less – of human life and technology as a currency (I mean that also in the sense of current).  The lap-top, the ipod, the t-shirt, the mobile phone, the ad … The world that we respond to is built from them.  So it doesn’t mean that this says that we are therefore silly, in being so ‘conformist’, that we shouldn’t be like this, that instead we should be more individual, more ‘ourselves’, and objective, detached, and so on.  For it has to be asked, what is there besides fitting in?  Indeed it can be argued quite oppositely that it is the very cult of the individual that has produced so many of the things by which this world that we live in exists in the first place.  The PC came out of a Californian dream.  This is what interests me, the constructive power of conformity, as well as the destructive side of it.  People who are slavish and fetishistic about their laptop or mobile – aren’t they pursuing the same thing, that same cult of individuality even if in doing so they behave exactly like everyone else?  The ‘statements’ of life-style that make us different from each other are the common ones.  Commonplace.  Like names.  And so everyone is the same!  (If ‘individuality’ is a resource it appears to have been exhausted.  It is like the endless connurbations of those trying to live ‘in the countryside’.)  The circumstances in which an identity and certainty are acquired are borrowed from the human melee.  One thus becomes part of the human power structure that makes the world be (since to repeat, this world does not exist just by or in itself): one is able to act from this ground and being so able one is therefore creative, in whatever way.  It is a scramble up a muddy bank.  As with phrases for example.  They have to be able to catch, to fit one into, a particular moment.  Phrases like: “Well …”  “Come to think of it …” “You know …”.  One scrambles desperately; and because there is a subtext, that is the idea for example, “I am nice; listen to me; give me what I want” … the world gains a flavour.  Again, this is all reflexive behaviour; where in so far as it is reflexive it stands outside judgement; you can’t judge someone for blinking or scratching, and no more is it sensible to criticise conformity (it results in a kind of self-delusion that this is possible; as if the speaker him or herself is immune to the need to scratch or blink).  So is it to do with something we can do nothing about, except to become aware of it … So that dressed in the suit, in the jeans, donning the surplice, the uniform, the oufit, the hat, I fit into the human story. 

So, but there are things that fit into the human story by not really doing so, that fit into it effectively by destroying it – contradicting it, obliterating it.  Like one of those tv programs; the journalist introduces himself and the viewer to a ‘rare tribe’ – but in doing that, by that invasion, destroying the very thing that the program was seeking to preserve or cherish.  (As differently in Iraq.) The aboriginal, wanting to fit in, wanting his head-dress, mask or whatever, to be admired, plays to the camera.  Inadvertently he acquires the values of those on the other side of the camera, a manner, a gesture, a point of view, a species of vanity, and so thereby loses that quality that the camera was pointed at him for in the first place: which was his strangeness.  He becomes perfectly ordinary.

What comes next is this thought: the things that enable us to ‘fit in’ in the modern world tend increasingly to be things that actually fail to achieve this and that have this failure built into them as part of their very nature.  (See next below.)

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Posted in: Postmodernism