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.