Reasonable boundaries or confining barriers?Tough dilemma [Archives:2003/636/Culture]

May 12 2003

By Sam Ashuraey
For Yemen Times

Society, for as long as can be remembered, has played a key role in history and human behavior. Whether it is a lenient or restrictive society, it has determined, in many cases, the boundaries of nearly everything, from dress to music to literature. It has been argued that society plays a negative role in that it restricts free thought and does not allow for anything seemingly rebellious to survive which may be a threat to the current society. On the other hand, if there was no society, wouldn't humans be granted the right to do whatever they please-such as immoral acts- without the threat of public opinion?
Society, no doubt, breeds conformity. For if a society wishes and strongly encourages humans to become what they consider their deal members, and sets standards for those members, would it not leave everybody striving to become part of that homogenous mold they have created? Those who do not try to fit this mold, along with their ideas, are ridiculed and sometimes even shunned from the society. In other words, if members of this society do not show support, agreement, and conformity to the aspects of their society, they become considered the enemy of society.
History has taught us that drastic change within a well-established society is nearly impossible. However, many of those who have tried to incite this change are regarded today as truly great and unique individuals, even though during their time they were ridiculed and treated as enemies of the people. A prime example of this is Galileo. When he proposed the idea of the earth revolving around the sun it was considered to be complete flagrant hearsay. Today of course, we label him as a genius of science and the man who recognized that the earth revolved around the sun. Perhaps society is doing the same to the geniuses of today, subjecting them to hostility because their thoughts and beliefs happen to not go along with those of society.
The rejection by society of new and unique ideas creates a cycle of “rebels” of today becoming the great men of tomorrow. Through this cycle, society has been proven wrong time and time again because the people it so strongly disapproved of during its time are the people we so fondly approve of during our time. We must remember that nearly all great men were at one time controversial, and to present new ideas, they must be.
Of course, I am not saying that society should be done away with and anarchy should be let to rule; society is a strong force that keeps people in order. People limit their immoral behavior because they have the plaguing eye of society and public opinion peering over their shoulder constantly. I do not mean it to sound so intimidating, but if this constantly watching public eye was not there people would probably do many of the things they do not do because of its absence, and because the image they trying to protect within that society is invalid.
We mustn't forget that a society's origins are based on moral and virtuous ideals, and if those simple morals and virtues were followed, it would result in a utopia. But, rather unfortunately, these ideals are distorted and used by many groups of people for their own benefit.
In Yemen, where society holds undeniably strong place with its people, it is difficult not to feel the prevalence of the deep-rooted society; it creates a pressure to conform and to stay behaved, but can in some cases are too extreme. As young people, we feel the overwhelming power of the society most because it is a time of rebellion and experimentation; but as we become order and rebellion and ideals wear down, we find ourselves to be conformist; no matter how much we like to think of ourselves as not. This reoccurring conformity is what allows society to keep its prodigious grip on its members.
Society, if its ideals are properly and moderately followed, can be a positive force- in some cases more powerful than the law. However, as it is human tendency to exaggerate most things, society will continue to be a prison and source of ridicule for some and a weapon for others.