If it were an army training school where the only way to move forward was to live by the rules, the outcome would have been none other than to prepare for combat and overcome the enemy. But even in the battle field a soldier would improvise to obey the instructions of the superiors in self defense and engage targets. But in non-warfare type situations, this modicum of obedience is less worthy given the value of information exchange to create knowledge. Going against the grain is not considered a flaw, and the prevailing norms encourage reciprocation of thought and the right to question. In the very least, it would be a solemn departure from rules of conformism that tend to pre-fix the attire of knowledge and its ownership. Quite certainly then, departure from traditions and practice does not constitute an impairment in personality and it does not make one a non-conformist.
Technological prowess has transformed our attitudes to communication, living, traveling and many other things but the process has not come unstuck. There has always been resistance along the way, but is it necessary that we adopt every change after waging a war against it? Back in the 70’s learning was largely an outcome of a pre-set curriculum and the established mores of the teaching community. Seemingly, acceptance of the process was the acceptable way forward given minimum access to other sources of knowledge and exposure available to the parents and students. The new millennium has opened new vistas in perception and knowledge, together with the capacity of the learner to cope with multiple streams of information. More could be had in less time. If the curriculum in teaching succumbs to these portals, the utility of the process is compromised. Unlike the pacifists who would lose interest and change course, the protagonists engage the shortcoming that comes at the expense of upsetting the established order. Persons enamored to the established order resist change and tend to create stereotypes out of the non-conformists. Propaganda is also a potent weapon that confronts harbingers of change. The intensity of the confrontation either forces the protagonists to capitulate, else are shown the door out of the system.
We have a history of non conformity in the world starting from Socrates, a monotheist at a time of demi gods whose philosophical discourse became rooted in human history. Nelson Mandela stood against racial discrimination, British women of royal families falling in love with the commoners of the sub continent, fathers sending their daughters to school at a time when education was exclusive to males to the recent times where we see students rising up against outdates curriculums, girls refusing to marry men double their age, children refusing to become victims of child labor and girls speaking up against rape in courts! Who led these movements? Veritably nonconformists who engaged the society for change, starting from the family nucleus. They weathered the storm of the traditionalists that would cut across family bonds and close friendships.
Fathers who used to believe that educating their daughters in the early 40’s and 50’s would make their daughters stronger were right all along. Today we see women in fields where years back only men had a role. Pakistan Air Force has female pilots which was unimaginable in the 50’s just like casting a vote for a woman was unimaginable in Europe a century back! We now see boys and girls enrolling in fields which were given low priority in society such as fashion designing, make up artists, writers, chefs, singers and many other fields that were a taboo amongst respectable families. It only took a few non conformists to change the way our society thinks! And the struggle repeats at every turn of the generation with connotations for culture, traditions and norms of the society.
The effusive process creates a niche for more provocative orders of imagination, thoughts and craft not anticipated before that evolves towards an emergent tapestry of art and culture. Protagonists are critics and their indulgence has to be recognized as part of life conducive to change of society and non conformists owe it more in comparison to the mainstream order because societies and people take time to adapt to new things.
It is not necessary that every non conforming idea be a great one and a pathfinder; however, for the ones that do lead to a new and better way of life in the society are worthy of being adapted, absorbed and subscribed to with the passage of time. The reformation is through the nurseries, our educational institutions, the modern day cradles of thought and innovation.