Social Question

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

What, if anything, is wrong with following convention?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38828 points ) September 13th, 2010

Again, leaving this pretty open…Is there anything wrong with following norms, which norms are okay to not follow, etc? Is it wrong to only care about oneself and one’s family w/o thinking about other people/communities/nations? Is not caring about communities part of convention or just the opposite? Is not wanting to ‘start trouble’/‘stir the pot’/‘ruffle feathers’ a good quality or a bad quality? Are there mitigating factors (wanting success, wanting to lose the battle but win the war, keeping your kids safe, etc.) that affect whether you will follow convention? Do you follow conventions? Is ‘because that is the norm in our society’ a good explanation to any behavior when you’re raising children?

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29 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

Nothing is inherently wrong with following convention, in my opinion. Following without question is what I find troubling.

marinelife's avatar

There is no one right answer to your series of questions.

Following convention is not wrong unless you do it blindly.

What is important is the ability to think for oneself and to make a conscious decision about whether to do something because it is right rather than that it is conventional.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@iamthemob Pick your 5 best friends/relatives – do they, as a group, question convention?

iamthemob's avatar

Yes – and I would include myself as well, in some way, shape or form. I think I should rephrase – you’re right to call this into question.

I would now say nothing is inherently wrong with following convention…but following without permitting it to be questioned is troubling.

le_inferno's avatar

I don’t understand how one would expect to thrive and function in the social world without following convention. People who oppose norms just out of principle are baffling to me. Why do they do it? Because they want to be “different”? There’s no way to condemn “convention” without being a hypocrite, because I can guarantee that everyone follows norms in one way or another. I find nothing wrong with people who do not actively oppose convention.

As far as picking and choosing your battles, that’s fine too. Perhaps someone doesn’t like one particular aspect of convention, and doesn’t follow it. As long as they have a valid argument as to why they don’t, and aren’t just doing it as a “take THAT, society!” pointless rebellion kind of thing, I respect that.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@le_inferno Rebellion just because is as pointless as convention just because – there are, however, people who refuse convention because their principles matter more to them.

Trillian's avatar

Your second post asks if they, as a group, question convention. Again, as in your initial post, a question not readily answered as a simple yes or no. Some conventions are questioned by many people and have been for the last twenty years or so, like the convention of getting married as opposed to living together, or waiting until marriage to have sex.
I think that the conseqences of questioning this particular convention are fairly detrimental for our society on several levels. Young, single mothers who have inadequate education to raise their children above poverty level and the inevetable accompanying negative risk factors for children of single parent, low income homes are now part of a cycle from which there seems no escape. So, ask if following the convention of refraining from sex before marriage is, on the whole, for society, a good convention or not. Or maybe, ask if questioning convention simply for the sake of questioning it is a good thing. What has stepping away from this particular convention done for our society as a whole?
Your question is thought provoking, but I’m afraid that there are really no simple answers.
I think that a good starting point would be asking if questioning convention benefits society as a whole, or if following the conventions of a particular type will have a negative impact on society.
Our country emphasizes the rights and achievements of the individual. Other countries have more emphasis on the group. We should probably take this into account when we think about our “rights” as individuals. Individual rights may not always be the best thing for a group of people. I think that it is a good idea to take a careful look and see how other societies function and maybe wonder if their way of doing certain things might not be better for our own society. This thought flies in the face of all American convention. Is it good or bad?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian I can’t imagine that the only thing that resulted from questioning the institution of marriage has been young teenage single mothers (why is that everyone’s favorite trope to talk about, anyway?). Besides, there are queer people begging for this convention and they’re getting frack. I think all questioning benefits society.

iamthemob's avatar

@Trillian I’m with @Simone_De_Beauvoir on this one – I feel like your example has less to do with the convention of sex before marriage rather than the common convention that sex is shameful and shouldn’t be talked about – which means we don’t educate kids about the risks and consequences of sex in a helpful manner. Plus, there’s the inherent assumption in your example that it’s really only girls who should adhere to the convention of “no sex before marriage” – there’s no mention of boys in your example. This reveals another convention that we rely on which is the proper roles of men and women in childrearing, which seems to contribute more to the problem you address than the sex before marriage issue (e.g., I don’t think if these kids had gotten married first it would really change their financial situations too much).

The thing is, I think there IS a simple answer – No, we don’t question convention. There are generally some things that we accept. I don’t think that it’s ever wrong to question whether such adherence should continue. And I think it is, in general, bad to simply accept this as the “right way of life.”

josie's avatar

Most conventions exist because they can be traced backed to some fact in reality. That is why most battlefield soldiers are male. Some conventions are nonsense, such as “the motivated and capable should be forced to pay the way for the lazy and incompetent” or “you should not work on Sunday (or Saturday, or whatever)”.
I get a kick out of defying convention. But certainly it is easy and less risky to follow convention. When we defy convention, then we have to have the balls to face the backlash, because to a small or great degree it will be there. But to paraphrase the old saw, if you can stand the heat, then you may stay in the unconventional kitchen.
What you cannot do is defy convention and then act insulted or confused if people react negatively to something you say or do, because they certainly will.

rooeytoo's avatar

It really depends on the convention, some are necessary, some are if you feel like it, others are best left ignored.

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I never said that the _only _ thing was young unmarried mothers, not is it my favorite trope. I was just trying to give you a perspective that was not your own to add a different dimension to the discussion.
@iamthemob No such assumption, I just didn’t have time or space to get into all of the various aspects of this one particular convention. Had I the time and space and a keyboard that didn’t NOT put in letters after I press the keys I could certainly go over chapter and verse. As it was my answer was really long and I didn’t want to monopolize the thread or bore people with a novel.
Maybe I misunderstood the intent of the question. I was under the impression that @Simone_De_Beauvoir wanted to hear various points of view. But I see by the statment ”...all qustioning…” which way that wind is blowing. I personally try not to make statements using words like; all, never, everyone, etc. But if you only wanted to hear from people who agree with you, I apologize for taking up space in this thread.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Most conventions are nothing more than externally imposed standards whose roots are frequently traceable to authoritarian rather than authoritative sources. Many derive from religious doctrines which are not based on anything but dogma and reference to authority (real or imagined).

Making your own decisions about what behavioural standards you wish to apply to your own behaviour takes great thoughtfulness. Far too many people are intellectually lazy and find it easier to follow herd rules.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian I try to stay away from statements like that as well but I don’t get what human-created construct should NOT be questioned? There is no such thing.

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I can see that this is what you think. It was not clear to me when I fist answeredyour question, that’s all. And as I said, I thought you wanted other points of view, not just a parade of like minded head nods.
And here’s the kicker. Being aware that you and I had disagreed in the past, I was very careful in how I worded what I had to say in hopes of starting a dialogue with you where we could find some common ground. Again, not realizing that this was not your intent, I paid you the compliment of rational discussion believing you to be capable of give and take, and that you were interested in an exchange of ideas that may expand and enrich the minds of everyone. I stated before that that was my goal. Hearing other ideas and excanging viewpoints without judgement about….ach. ok. I have done.
“I think all questioning benefits society.” Ok then. That really leaves no room for discussion. I’ll leave the thread for those who see it all your way.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian I didn’t get a parade of like minded nods and you know why? Because I didn’t answer any of my own questions in my details and therefore people only expressed their own views. Just because I am responding to your comment in a way that you don’t like doesn’t mean that you’re not welcome in this thread or that this thread is about agreeing with me – and isn’t that a convenient little thing to say because how can I prove you otherwise? Nice job.

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir What? I neither like nor dislike what you express. You asked what is wrong with followng convenion and I gave a small part of a scenaio and posed couple questions of my own. You misinterpreted my response, narrowed it down to a couple of incorrect statements about what I said , and included an “all” statement that showed that you think “all” questioning benefits society.
This is an answer to your own question.
And that’s fine. So I briefly answered your statement. Again. I countered your error in what I had said and noted your “all”. Still no dislike. I would love to discuss point and counter point but I have not seen you present any of that. You just have statements that leave no room for discussion. I gave a very clear partial aspect of questioning one convention in the hopes of a nice discussion. That has failed to happen. Again, nothing to like or dislike.
I gave a somwhat more comprhensive answer than most of the other posters and left several openings for discussion. All you have given me back is deliberate obfuscation of my original post and “all”.
Honestly @Simone_De_Beauvoir, go back and read my first post. I acknowldge that there is way too much in this idea to encapsulate all of it. It was just a starting point. I certainly never meant to give the impression that I think all convention must be followed blindly, only that some conventions were laid down for a very good reason, and we can’t always see the sense of those reasons until we get a bit older, just like rules our parents give us under which, as children, we chafe and kick. I fail to understand you continung immediate dismissal. You posed a question, and I gave you a thoughtful, courteous answer. Picking it apart one layer at a time and scrutinizing it under the light would please me to no end. And if you really want to prove otherwise, take a piont in my post and counter it or ask for elaboration. Anything but dismissing it all with a wave of “all” or “everything”.
Or allow me to start, again; ” I think all questioning benefits society.” Really? That’s an interestng perspective. How?

Ben_Dover's avatar

If the conventions are outdated or an attempt to enslave you into the system, then it behooves one to resist following said convention.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian I actually want you to answer my earlier question first – what convention that is humanly constructed should not be questioned? All questioning doesn’t result in necessary and inevitable change nor does it have to – however, it does benefit society because it allows for change, for progress, for evaluation, for seeing whether something works or not for the people. I hate, hate, hate when someone does something ‘because it’s tradition’ but it is meaningless to them.

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Agreed about the tradition thing. But that opens up another important aspect of your question. Wait, let me get a source…. Here;
Lykken, D. T. (2000). The causes and costs of crime and a controversial cure. Journal of Personality , 559–605.
and here; Bureau, U. C. (2009). 2009 Statistical Abstract.

So, let’s take the convention of premarital sex. Convention used to be that a person did not engage in premarital sex. Over the last five or six decades this idea has lost a lot of ground. The women’s movement played a big part in this, as it was considered to be liberated women who now took control of their own bodies and desires, after all if a man can do it, why shouldn’t we? The 60’s was another cultural turning point. The advent of drugs into the subculture and “free love” and acceptance of any behaviour at all continued the trend of freely engaging in sexual relations of all types. The increased divorce rate gave rise to questioning the sanctity of marriage, while overlooking some of the underlying causes of an increased divorce rate.
Add to that the rise in social service availability and an unequal system whereby the male is not forced to bear any of the consequences of the sexual license. (Being of course, childbirth) The rise in teenage and early twenties, single, below poverty level parents is a fact that cannot be disputed. It also cannot be disputed that this has become a cycle of poverty and ignorance for an increasing part of the population. And it is considered to be the “right” of anyone who wants to to engage in sex. It is the right of anyone to give birth to a child whether or not they can support it. And it is the expectation that society will assist the mother. One problem lies of course, in the fact that the mother has no way (generally) to better her situation, and the assistance is so minimal that the child at a distinct disadvantage from the start. Because this is such a widespread commonality now, all over the states, I ask you to think about all the ramifications to society. Children growing up with single, low income parents are at risk for a host of negative life impacting factors. And you can see the direct result in out prison population. So the negative impact that pre marital sex has had on our society is incalculable. I question the convention that people are allowed to raise children that they cannot care for.
And this is another convention. It seems obvious to me that the penal system as it stands now is failing society and the inmates. Until the reasons for criminal behaviour are addressed on an individual basis and worked through, the criminal behaviour will not stop. So I question the convention of not having mandatory psychiatric therapy for criminals.
I know I went a bit far afield with this, but I was making a point. I cannot see things in simple black and white. I hope I’ve answered to your satisfaction and that you have a better understanding of where I’m coming from.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian No, the convention used to be that people pretended not to have premarital sex, not that they didn’t – they just hushed up the pregnancies and the diseases and, especially, the abortions. Furthermore, I don’t get why the feminist movement (that isn’t over, isn’t done still and only really helped out privileged white women whereas most single moms are black or hispanic) gets blamed for people (of all genders) more freely engaging in pre-marital activities. So, you’re saying it was always okay for men to do it and now that women thought they can do it, well gee, let’s blame the feminist movement. The reason why many women didn’t want the ‘sanctity of marriage’ any longer was because Friedan was right – they were dealing with a problem that had no name, they were unhappy, and didn’t want to have limited choices offered to them (nothing wrong with being a housespouse, just people need more choices). I’m glad marriage as an institution is questioned – not just because women should’t have to get married in order to be considered human beings (that’s obvious) but because people need to realize that marriage was not implemented for morality’s sake but for very clear economic reasons – being that ‘nuclear family’ units where one produced work and the other produced children to further do work was brilliant in terms of societal control and in terms of economic sense (you can see my socialism poking through that comment).

I understand and agree with you that teenage pregnancy and poverty is a problem but I don’t think bringing back the stifling ‘traditional’ and heterosexist marriage is the answer. The problem with feminism (and it’s not the fault of it) is that while women became more valued and independent, men didn’t reconsider their roles enough – nobody gave men progressive ways of being and I, as a third-waver, am all about valuing each person no matter what they choose to – sadly, society still looks down on men who want to be stay at home dads or who want to dance or wear glitter, what have you. Feminism got us halfway to destroying limiting gender roles but now we have to go further. As a transgender community activist, I don’t even worry about the ‘battle of the sexes’ because I don’t concentrate on men v. women – I concentrate on all people of all genders being able to live life freely.

I too question whether one single teen can raise a child but I disagree that thinking it’s possible is a convention – nobody accepts that this is so, in fact, people only take jabs at ‘all the single moms on welfare’ showing that there is no tolerance, even. And, yes, the justice system is a joke, so is the penal system and it’s good to question it, that’s my point.

Trillian's avatar

“So, you’re saying it was always okay for men to do it and now that women thought they can do it, well gee, let’s blame the feminist movement.” incorrect. I’m saying that it was the accepted convention. Blame is an incorrect term here.
Why do you insist on twisting what I say to suit your sense of offended outrage? Please be objective when you read what I have to say. I am trying to articulate how I feel about a difficult topic that has so many variables it would be useless to try to name them all. It is not my goal to just make statements that piss you off.
Before industrialization, the importance of the woman’s role in the home was not questioned. That came about when men started working for pay and bringing home money. As we moved more into a cash only economy, the fact that women were not paid for thier role contributed greatly to the devaluing of being in the home and all that running a home entails. And yes, some girls were shipped off to have their babies in secret, but the baby was then usually given upf or adoption and the numbers are nowhere near the staggering figures they are today. I am a single mother. I know exactly what I was able to provide for my kids in terms of material and also emotional security. It is statistically shown that children need two parents in a loving, financially stable relationship to give them just the basic needs fulfillment that allows them to become successful members of society.
And the reasons are more than simple economics. They are the foundation of a child’s security and ability to be a functional adult. I guess that this is not the proper forum for a discussion like this. You have some good sense and some valid beliefs. I hate that you see my ideas as an attack on your beliefs. The time lag and my faulty keyboard are not aiding this discussion. I did not say that bringing back the stifling traditional heteroexist marriage was the answer. I think that there is room for many answers and when I say that children need two parents ina loving relationship, I did not specify male and female. I think that that is nowher near as important as “loving and financially stable.”
I can’t help that society looks down on stay at home dads. I was only trying to address one aspect of questioning convention. Maybe I should have gone at it from a different angle. Questioning the convention of sex before marriage is ok. But the logical consequences of unprotected sex, on the incredibly huge scale that has happened in this country, before marriage has unqestionably had a negative impact on our society in terms of crime, poverty, ignorance, physical and mental health, tax usage, health care, child abuse and neglect rates….as I said, the ripples caused by such numbers are literally incalculable, and everywhere one looks, one can see the effects.
The Djinn is out of the bottle, and there is no putting it back. I have no pat, easy answer to what is a societal problem that permeates all levels and demographics. I do believe that great minds coming together to take an objective look and trying pilot type solutions is a step in the right direction.
And for the record, jabs at single mothers is certainly not my intent. But the sad fact remains that single mothers, even good ones, are necessarily away from home for more hours than is healthy for the effective upbringing of a child because she has to work. I know that there are many wealthy single mothers but these are in the minority.

iamthemob's avatar

So the negative impact that pre marital sex has had on our society is incalculable. I question the convention that people are allowed to raise children that they cannot care for.

I think that has more to do with having kids than having sex. There are ways that you can have sex without getting a kid out of it…

…the problem is we have a convention against talking about that…so these babies having babies often don’t get that information.

But I think that @Simone_De_Beauvoir has a point in mentioning that just because we’ve theoretically gone against a certain convention, and that may be linked to problems, until we’ve balanced that out with the other needed solutions we can’t say whether it was a good or bad thing. This is how we grow as a society, instead of stagnate.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian I am not outraged – I have these conversations for a living (so to speak) and with many more challenges than you’re presenting me – please don’t think this is something that I have never heard or addressed before. And I don’t think you write anything just to piss me off.

Two parents are always better than one and three are better than two – why do you think polyamorous arrangements aren’t accepted, then? The concept of the nuclear family is foreign to many cultures that raised their children in groups – it is certainly by no means the only or the best way to raise competent children. I will always accept a single parent who is stable before I accept that people can’t divorce (since negative feelings without a way out have also been shown to badly affect children) because of the ‘sanctity of marriage’.

iamthemob's avatar

The concept of the nuclear family is foreign to many cultures that raised their children in groups – it is certainly by no means the only or the best way to raise competent children.

THIS, on a side note, has started to really weird me out too…and I think this is part of the reason why toss out old people at the end of their lives. If they were considered part of the nuclear family, we might have both an economically and emotionally sound family base….

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Good. I’m glad we got past that. If you ever get a chance, I’d encourage you to read article that I referenced. There are a lot out there, but this one sums it up in just about all the various aspects.
I don’t know about polyamorous arrangements. Meh… if there is consent…who cares? I don’t appreciate that guy with the twelve wives that he was somehow collecting welfare or social security (Can’t remember th details) but more multiple wives or husbands to me indicates a guaranteed adult around at all times and I don’t see a problem. .
I have to go to work. Thank you for giving me your attention and ideas.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian No, I understand about consent – but why don’t people accept polyamorous arrangements that involve parenting? All of a sudden, people who say two parents are better than one aren’t so sure that three are better than two, you know? When I was with my two partner and I got pregnant, I didn’t know who it was by and it didn’t matter – yet you should have heard the comments in my direction.

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yes, but people find things to comment on forever amen. If it isn’t two partners, it’s the way you hang your wash, or park your car, or how you dress your kids. No matter what you are doing or how you’re living your life, there will always (There’s that word) be someone pointing a finger and fussing about something. That is human nature. Just like I can’t force you to think it’s ok to eat meat, you can’t force your neighbor to approve of your life style, especially if it is extremely unconventional. The most you can hope for is to not be bothered and have someone vandalize your property or something violent. Because we still have people like that everywhere. Have you seen that guy in Phialdelphia? All you’d have to do is look at him I guess. On the upside, pople have short attention spans, and they forget about their disapproval the very next time the phone rings or the new show comes on tv. I can tell you that the way to get people to accept a different idea is to show it to them over and over and over. Saturation is the key.
Edit – oops, I almost went into a big lesson about PR, and various ways to implant ideas into people….Doh!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. Some ”norms” should not be followed, other by being followed keep order and some cohesiveness in the group, society, etc. I believe if the norm to be followed is rooted in conventional wisdom which is founded in logic, then it what should rule the day.

When it comes to self preservation over caring for others you can’t do anything for anyone unless you keep yourself safe and/or healthy. When you get instructions on a jet they say if the mask drops get it on yourself before trying to place it on anyone else or your child. If you pass out you can’t do a dang them for them, so you have to make sure you are taken care of 1st.

Conventional wisdom says overall if you are an active part of the community and they with you it benefits all. You are less likely to steal from people you know or have a working relationship with even if you are not friends. You are more likely to watch out for each other’s homes, kids, and pets. If one gets in need your neighbors are more incline to help.

I try to use conventional wisdom and logic to determine which issues, etc, should be followed or stuck with and those that should be challenged and how vigorously.

”Live together, or die alone” is not some corny TV line, there is lots of logic to it.

Convention should not be allowed to hold innovation hostage on any point.

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