I see you through the fog,
but it’s been so long
and you left me here
I don’t know if this can be real
but we’re so close
let me make sure that
we can spend our time together
Throughout time people have benefited, both mentally and physically, from being close to others. Historically, close proximity was sought after in hunter-gatherer civilizations as a safety measure, people protected each other from wild animals and worked together in order to have better chances at survival. While humans have evolved since then and attacks from wild animals are usually far from the mind, people still continue to create cliques forming important, and at times, exclusive social groups. Many do not want to compromise their position in a social group by being perceived as different, for fear of isolation from that group. In 1953 George F. Kennan stated that the most powerful force in America is the power of the desire to conform, this statement still holds true today.
As a nation that prides itself in its individualism and freedom it seems strange that people lose their freedom in the pursuit to conform. All one has to do to see the strength of individualism in America is look to the rising generation. Today, for example, there is an increasing trend to form wolf packs among social outcasts. Black clothes, yellow or red eyes, and wolf tails noticeably identify these teenage packs. While these groups seem to demonstrate that individuality is growing; they in fact support the power of conformity, because a pack is just that, a group of people expressing themselves differently but in the same way as their peers.
The power that conformity holds is not trivial but can greatly affect the individual’s life and the well being of the nation. There are now extensive pregnancy tests that can report the likelihood of a fetus having a birth defect. When a test predicts a risk of a mental deficiency, such as Downs Syndrome, there is social pressure to abort the child because it would not be economically “wise” for the family, or taxpayers, to go through with the term. Others might argue that aborting the child would save it the suffering of living through life at such a disadvantage. Many mothers feel pressured to abort a child when it would be considered socially irresponsible to go through with the pregnancy. Obviously the power conformity exercises is proven to be great when it can determine if a possible life will have a continued existence.
The power of conformity is not exclusive to just decisions made by the brain, but also expressed through the biology of the human body. There is a phenomenon that many medical practitioners are aware and awed by. When observing heart cell samples the individual cells first beat at different rates. After being placed proximate to each other, their beat begins to align, until all the cells have the same tempo, creating a fragmented heart. It can be said that conformity is built into the biological make-up of every human. Even when people try and act as individually as possible it appears that the pressure to conform will always exert some influence.
Although it is clear that conformity holds a lot of power in both mental decisions and biological processes, Kennan’s argument that conformity is growing is flawed. Conformity has always been a distinct feature in human interactions, its importance and power has neither declined nor grown. While the visible expression of conformity is ever changing, sometimes the emphasis being placed on regional political views other times in simple fashion trends, the power it displays is intrinsically known and felt in the heart of every human. It is omnipresent and inescapable, sometimes people can fight it and become individuals, or leaders, but their ability to do so testifies to their own power and strength of character; in no way disproving the pressure humans feel to conform.
In the end, Kennan’s statement that the pressure to conform is felt strongly by Americans is completely true. Some people are able to fight the social pressure to conform, becoming leaders and individuals. The amount of power conformity expresses however, does not grow or decline, but has and will always have a firm and stable grip in the hearts of all people.