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Conformity/Nonconformity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


Throughout history, many have tried to break away from society’s norms in an attempt to live life more fully. Examples include religious, government, and cultural revolutions where people group themselves based on their beliefs in order to create wide-scale change. But I question just how many people in these groups ­really believe in their movements. By no means am I negating the sincerity of the thousands who participated in the peace movement of the 1960s or the punk movement of the late 1970s – in fact, I have come to embrace many of the ethos and philosophies of these cultural movements. However, I am saddened by the number of young people I see who seem to believe that they are “punk” because of the kind of shoes or brand of clothing they wear.

The beliefs of the punk and peace counterculture movements were actually not that different. Both endorsed the idea of living free of ­materialism. Studying these movements shows that their original intent was to promote personal freedom from the establishment. The hippie or peace movement held beliefs that illustrated a sense of freedom in art, music, and spiritual realms. It disapproved of war and the binding nature of society’s ways of thinking. Similarly, the punk movement, which originated in Britain and quickly spread to the U.S., also called for a new freedom. The fast, loud sounds of punk rock seemed to allow nothing but pure energy, creating a type of musical freedom. Punk meant embracing anti-establishment beliefs and ignoring the limitations of conventional society. The basic feel-good nature of the sound and style pulled in youth who embraced the freedom found in the music.

Today it seems as if the original philosophies of these groups have been forgotten. Their historical records were dirtied over time by the stereotypes of non-participant generations and the bias of the media. Youth today seems to look at such movements through commercialized lenses, allowing their understanding of the world to be altered by what is in, popular, or on television.

To me, the clothing and physical or material elements specific to a certain counterculture movement should emphasize its beliefs rather than replace them. Can we really be free if we are worried about reflecting a lifestyle or understanding that we have yet to fully grasp? It comes across as if we are rebelling against something, but what are we truly rebelling against? If we are taking a stand simply because everyone else is, are we really taking a stand? I remember when I was obsessed with the look of being punk. Nothing seemed more important than visually letting others know that I was not like them in a most extreme way. Over time, this has become less critical to me as I have evolved as a person and a thinker. I still believe in the freedom that the punk movement embodied, but I am less concerned with its visual or material side.

I hope that as young people continue to mature, they will come to more fully understand the underlying themes of the counterculture movements, and that living differently means thinking differently. Trends and superficiality are the biggest threats to alternative ways of being.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 15 comments. Post your own now!

Lizzie said...
Feb. 21 at 2:09 pm
I think that the concept of a nonconformist movement is a little funny all in itself. Wanting to be different and original and free is perfectly normal, if not intrinsic to human nature, but joining a movement just to be different and original totally defeats the the purpose of the nonconformists. Yes, it's good to be with people who agree with you, and a lot of people probably have the same ideals on nonconformity, but joining a movement simply because you want to be a nonconformist like th... (more »)
 
Anonymous said...
Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:10 am
I hate to sound like a bubble-burster, but granty_mac actually has a point. By deciding to be a nonconformist, you actually are conforming in some way. You become a part of a group of people who choose not to succumb to society's norms and expectations. [Sorry! :( ] It's stuff like this that really bugs me. No matter what you do in this world, it always seems to boomerang and snap you right in the butt.
 
Dresstasy said...
Jan. 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm
This article was extremely well written and executed. i applaud you for coming outright and saying what you believe in. I too had a phase, not so much punk, but definitely of dressing as a non- comformist, but now i think its only my beliefs that truly matter.
 
granty_mac said...
Nov. 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Non-comformity, in my honest opinion, is becoming a trend in it and of itself.

So either way, if you don't conform, you've conformed...and if you've conformed...well, then you aren't exactly helping the progress of culture, now are you?

So, what do we do now?

 
letsmakeapizza said...
Nov. 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm
So you're drawing the line between authenticity and poseur-ism?
 
EnderWiggin said...
Nov. 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm
...Now what about the brony movement?
 
bombthrower said...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm
i get that i am not much of a punk, i am however an anarchist. i enjoy some punk music, but only really good punk. its such a hard genre to get right, as far is sound goe's. 
 
Jenlove. said...
Mar. 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm
This is so dang gooood! I've never even cared for punk people or hippies. But it all makes so much sense to me now!
 
a.singlenote This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 11, 2011 at 10:24 pm

This is great, man! I've been thinking the same things lately, how clothing seems to define a belief, and it doesn't really make sense.. All those girls who wear peace sign jewelry and don't actually want peace, just because it looks cool.

Good article

 
spiritualrevelationrevealspainandrevolution said...
Oct. 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm
this was extremely well written and thought out, i absolutely agree as far as the punk movement goes too
 
KDtheGhostwriter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 29, 2010 at 2:18 am

Those who don't stand for something will fall for anything. It doesn't help, however, that they can't even tell us what they're standing for.

Ironic, because in an effort to separate themselves from materialism, it is materialism that has now defined them. It's not about how you look; it's the lifestyle alone that defines what punk is.

 
iceman_tg1 said...
Aug. 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm
Have you ever read Please Kill Me: the Oral History of the Punk Movement? I think you'd like it. I read it a while back. Nice article.
 
toxic.monkey said...
Apr. 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm

sounds like it would make a good speech... except the last sentence left me hanging

yeah it really does seem that it's just about the looks today, not the mindset

 
abbey92 said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm
i agree with you a 100%. i really liked it.
 
stellarachelle said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 11:32 pm
Wow. So being a nonconformist is conforming to a group of nonconformists. What are these people really standing for? well-written.
 
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