Introduction: Because They Say So. The Significance of the Authority
Walking along the borderline that splits the world into a norm and the abnormal is one of the life’s most dangerous pleasures. Laws and rules are made for a reason, and breaking them means not only doing something unacceptable by the given society, in the given time and given circumstances, but also being separated from the rest of the world for a while and becoming an outcast.
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Unless one has serious concerns for his/her well-being, (s)he is unlikely to go beyond the boundaries the authorities set, since it is the existing system of rules that helps people to feel safe; however, when there is something essential at stake, one will definitely disregard the existing rules and go against the established standards of conduct.
What the Authorities Are Meant for: The League of Justice Is on the Watch
However, the question is, what the authority figures are meant for. On the surface, these people help the rest of the humankind feel considerably safer and know for sure that nothing happens to people as long as the latter follow what the authorities say.
Rather important function, it is yet not the most essential one; when digging a bit deeper into the issue, one must add that the function of the authorities also contains an element of guidance, i.e., serving people as the social weather vane pointing in the right direction and helping to figure out what is right and what is wrong and, which is the most important, to grant his/her approval.
Even when there is no obvious authority in the sight, and, therefore, no way to check the ultimately right position, people are apt to follow with the decisions that the group makes, thus, admitting the authority of the many, since the latter are likely to accept their follower into their mini-society: “When we’re in a group, we tend to think as that group does: we may even have joined the group to find ‘like-minded’ people” (Lessing 724).
Pushing the Rules to the Breaking Point: The Passion Rules the Game
However, there comes the time when the social rules are no longer an option. However, as it has been mentioned previously, following the standards of the society is crucial for people and is actually a part of their nature; therefore, the question is, what exceptional factors can push one to cross the threshold of the social standards and willingly face the threat of becoming a social outcast. Analyzing some of the most obvious factors, one can possibly see that, at certain points, the boundaries of law can become way too restrictive.
Plotting a rebellion. The stubborn individuals
The first and the foremost idea that crosses peoples’ minds when they think of going against the opinion of the authorities is the image of a tough rebel. In fact, this is pretty much the firs reason that makes people take a track which is different from the other alternatives.
According to Lessing, the element that presupposes more freedom and allows people to feel that they actually do the things which they consider right, not the ones which are offered them by the obtrusive social norms, is a really strong factor in determining the ultimate choice.
As Lessing explains, taking the example with the people who have been given the wrong instructions by an authority and the ones who are allowed to make a choice on their own, the aspect of a “stubborn individual” is pretty important: “the solitary individual, or the couple, who have not been so instructed will assert that the pieces of wood or whatever are different” (724).
Depending on the situation: under the spur of the moment
Another factor which can shape people’s idea of the issue in question and enhance free thinking instead of following the voice of the authority blindly is the environment. Once the outer factors do not favor the choice accepted by the social standards, one is likely to act against the accepted norms.
When something truly important is at stake, e.g., life, health, etc., the choice is made disregarding the social standards. Indeed, as McEwan explains, “The situations in which we act can powerfully influence our behavior – including out choice to obey or disobey a questionable order” (689).
Against the decisions of the group mind: walking alone
The last, but not the least, the aspect of “group mind” (Ross and Nisbett 746) is also extremely powerful, yet it lacks logics much. In contrast to the previous cases, when the opinion of a single person depended on the ones of the many simply because the society would have never accepted any other manner of behavior, in the given case, one acts just because the others would do so in a given situation.
Paradoxical and yet understandable, this is the case when the problem comes rather from the inside than from the outside – it is not the society that puts pressure on an individual, but an individual who is unable to think on his/her own.
Conclusion: Disobeying In the Name of Law. Escape the Pressure
Therefore, it is clear that going against the established norms is extremely untypical for a basic human being; on the contrary, these are only the extraordinary cases when one decides to break the rules and oppose the crowd. However, it turns out that, when it comes to the factors which make people make a decision to go against the established norms, these are mostly the factors threatening people’s well-being or social status that make one cross the boundaries of the established norms, morals or even laws.
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Despite the fact that among the factors listed above, the aspect of preserving one’s individuality is mentioned as well, it can still be considered that people tend to break the rules in order to stay safer, no matter how weird that can sound.
Sometimes allowing them to keep their social status intact, and sometimes made for the sake of staying original and following one’s own idea of what is right and what is wrong, going against the opinion of the many serves as both the means to enhance one’s status as a self-assured and self-sufficient personality and at the same time reassure oneself that the decision has been made despite the opinion of the authorities, which also raises one’s self-esteem.
Therefore, it can be concluded that, disregarding the factors surrounding the situation, a decision made against the authorities is an attempt to enter another stage of one’s personal development.
Lessing, Doris. “Group Minds.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 11th Edition. Ed. Laurens Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. London, UK: Longman, 2010. 723-725. Print.
McEwan, Ian. “From Atonement.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 11th Edition. Ed. Laurens Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. London, UK: Longman, 2010. 688-692. Print.
Ross, Lee and Richard E. Nisbett. “The Power of Situations.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 11th Edition. Ed. Laurens Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. London, UK: Longman, 2010. 745-750. Print.