Social Consciousness

In the society in which I live, people are brought up in manner that makes them very socially conscious of their image. Whatever they do, they always have in the back of their mind 'what would people say/think'? They are taught to continuously see their own lives through the lens of other people. As a result, their social behaviour is pretty much determined by what is deemed acceptable; they are living externally. There are very few exceptions to this. The problem is that this social consciousness, once developed, is very hard to get rid of, because it becomes cemented in the personality, and when the free-thinking minds rebel against the dogmas and traditions of society, their minds are still in the grips of that social consciousness; they still subconsciously want the acceptance, the respect of the herd; they still subconsciously pay heed to what the people say about them. And this creates an internal conflict. They are convinced of their own validity, but they cannot tune their minds out of what other people say about them. They either become miserable, bitter social outcasts, or they effectively hide away their deviance from the society. Even when there is no direct economic or legal limitation binding these liberal souls, this social consciousness proves to be a big inhibition. True and genuine freedom will come not just from breaking free from the conservative ideals but also from the mental snare of social consciousness. Or one can by-pass it by surrounding oneself by like-minded people, by creating your own little world. Internet has made this easier, but it is still a luxury that not many can enjoy.

Comments

Hamza said…
I think there is nothing like that freedom which one achieves if that internal conflict is won by the inner-self once and for all.

I don't even see the point of becoming miserable or an outcast then. The world created afterwards is not little rather people around you start looking caged and you wish for their liberation.

I know it isn't easy to rid your body of all the hatred and bitterness and start sympathizing for the encaged souls but it's worth it I guess. Everything else you said was pretty spot-on!
Butters said…
This is a good point, but we must remember that social consciousness is a very useful, and even necessary element for the maintenance of social order. This sounds like a bad thing, but it isn't. If we did not have a social consciousness, society would be in much worse condition, with very little mutual respect and consideration. Human beings evolved as social animals, not as solitary animals, and it is in this social manner that we ought to live.

However, the integrity of the individual cannot be violated either. A truly civilized society is not one that has rid itself of social-ness or social consciousness, but one that maintains only those social norms that need to be maintained, and allows individuals privacy and freedom to deviate in some ways to some extent.

Pakistani culture suffers from the dual problems of excessive social control and insufficient social control. The problem is this confusion, I think, and not social control itself.
jyothy karat said…
Im not sure how it works in Pakistan (never been there), but i relate to what you are talking about. And i think the same is true for umpteen number of youngsters or ppl in general. I remember a point in my life when i my thoughts and ideologies seemed so alien from that of the ppl surrounding me, that i started doubting my grounds! "Everybody cant be wrong, its gotta be you," some tried to reason with me. It took me a while to realise that skewed thoughts are skewed, no matter what the herd believes. And guess what? The herd just shifts its stand as soon as it finds someone who stands firm in his/her beliefs!

I also agree with 'Butters'. Human beings are social animals. There is no escaping it. Unless of course, one has reached a spiritual state which liberates you from social bonds. Until then, the mind-grind continues, and like Butters pointed out, it need not necessarily be a bad thing.
F. said…
Who decides what norms need to be maintained and what don't?
Awais said…
'A truly civilized society is not one that has rid itself of social-ness or social consciousness, but one that maintains only those social norms that need to be maintained, and allows individuals privacy and freedom to deviate in some ways to some extent.'My mother kind of says the same thing to me, but unfortunately the norms she thinks need to be maintained are different from the ones i think need to be maintained.

But yes, i agree, social consciousness is not the basic problem itself. The problem is the deeper, underlying social structure. Social consciousness just contributes to maintaining that structure.
Vasudha said…
Aren't such people usually more socially conscious online than in real life? They try to avoid real-world interactions, and "live externally" online.
karachi khatmal said…
not sure if you were at LUMS, but the so-called rebels have found their own niches as well...

some people identify the actions that are labeled as deviant and participate in those, and increasingly feel comfortable only in the company of those carrying out the same actions. over time, they create a social consciousness of their own which is just as rigid and inflexible as the one they were initially rebelling against...

rebelling just for the sake of rebellion itself can become quite a hollow exercise, as the LUMS experience highlighted for me
Salman Latif said…
Truly cited!
Social consciousness brings us engineered personality traits - people here are brought up in pre-decided frames which eventually seeps through their personalities.
However, I believe one can be a rebel without being an outcast.
And as karachikhutmal pointed, the line between a rebel for real and a rebel merely for the sake of being a rebel are two different things. People tend to pose 'rebel' in the same way they pose other traits that society asks of them.