What is a "Slave of Convention"
"Man is born in freedom,
but he soon becomes a slave,
in cages of convention,
from the cradle, to the grave"
- Jeff Waynes Musical version of
The War Of The Worlds.
The above is, at first glance, little more than
a pretty rhyme, but it's when you take the time to think about
it that you may realise it means, or potentially means, so much
more - it is specific enough to direct your thought patterns in
a certain direction, yet generalised enough that it can be applied
to so many situations.
My own personal take on it is, at birth, we experience
a moment of true freedom - we have no specific knowledge or experience
beyond that of instinct. It doesn't, however, take long for us
to learn, and more specifically, to learn patterns, rules, or
even conventions. Even the youngest baby soon learns that crying
will get it attention. Initially, the cries are of shock, surprise,
pain or need and those are instinctive. But, generally speaking,
a baby is born smart, and it will soon learn that, even if he
or she just wants some company, or some love or attention, that
the best way to get that which he or she wants, indeed the only
way available to he or she at that early stage of life, is to
make him or herself impossible to ignore. When you're all but
helpless, completely dependent on others, immobile, the best way
to do that is make some noise - something which babies tend to
have an undeniable talent for.
Generally speaking, as babies, we are dressed
by our parents or carers, irrespective of the necessity of that
clothing - it may well be warm enough without clothes, but then
a baby will be dressed in something thin or cool. From this we
begin to learn that it is "normal" or more specifically,
conventional, to wear clothes. Our parents will try to encourage
us, as we start to grow, to sleep at night, when it's dark, yet
around the world millions of people work nights and sleep days,
so it certainly isn't a requirement to sleep when the sun has
gone down. I am sure there have been studies that show that daylight
is beneficial, maybe essential to a child's natural development
- but there will always be that aspect of our behaviour, our actions,
our choices and decisions that are made for us by convention.
We may well assume, even genuinely believe, that we have made
the choice or taken the decision of our own free will, but it
is human nature to fit in - to blend with the crowd - to get along.
Television shows such as "Beverly Hills 90210",
"Clueless", "Popular", "Sabrina the Teenage
Witch", and many many more pertain to portray life in school.
All of these shows, the first 3 even more so, demonstrate, and
even emphasize the presence and importance of the "in-crowd"
- the popular bunch. How do you get in to the "in-crowd"
- you act like them, you conform, and you conform to the conventions
that are expected of the "in-crowd"
The list of things that we do, either directly
or indirectly, as a consequence of our own experience of existing
conventions is all but endless. No one can help being influenced
by the circumstances of their lives. You live in a tough neighborhood
- you get tough - similarly, if you live in an idyllic "perfect"
safe family environment, you will be equally influenced by that
environment - and the environment is, inevitably, a product of
the conventions upon which it is built.
I use it for a number of reasons. The main one
is, quite simply, I like the way it sounds. I also absolutely
adore the music in the double CD from which the quote at the top
of this page is taken. And finally, well, I guess its a little
symbolic of my acceptance that, like each and every one of you,
admittedly, to a greater or lesser degree, I am, undeniably, and
more importantly unashamedly, a slave of convention.