“The masses have their heads on backwards. If you want to get things right, first look at how they think and behave, and consider going the opposite way”. ~ Lama Drom Tonpa
Black nail polish, thick eyeliner, heavy metal, Doc Martin boots. I was 15 – and all of these things appealed to me. Being a goth seemed to be my calling – after all, I was pale, ill tempered and dark humoured.
Most of us have gone through phases in our lives when joining a subculture seemed really cool, hip and radical. But soon, most of us grew out of our bling, safety pins and tweed jackets to adopt a more sedate and dull kind of lifestyle. Soon we find ourselves belonging to the typicals in society – a group of people defined by their typical jobs, typical marriages, typical debts, typical beliefs and typical aspirations.
But what happens to the people who remain in these subcultures? What happens to the ones left behind? What is the great allure of these niche communities anyway?
All human being have three lives: public, private, and secret ~ Gabriel Garcia Marques
As Emo twistedangel42 said in response to a question I asked about subcultures, “I’m actually a very quiet person deep down. I prefer wearing dark clothes and appearing depressed to people so that they’ll stop talking to me. I like repelling them by being emo. It’s easier to be me that way“.
In a world full of intrusive social duties and overwhelming demands to be likeable, sociable and acceptable, it’s no wonder that many sensitive and quiet people choose to adopt a scary facade. Although maladaptive in many cases, subcultures provide the perfect “get away” for the delicate and solitary person in society to operate behind.
Just think, are you satisfied with the level of privacy you have in your every day life? I bet you’re not. If you’re anything like me, you can certainly see that many improvements can be made!
Joining a subculture in a sense, ensures privacy by implanting a false exterior that works to repel whoever comes near. Think of it as a social fly-repellant, or a prickly, hostile shell to keep anyone from coming too close.
The logic is: look too different and behave too differently from the norm, and no one will want to associate with you. Bingo!
On the other end of the spectrum, subcultures appeal to people who want to associate with people like themselves. As author of Introvert Power Laurie Helgoe pointed out, “When an introvert looks at society and sees no reflection, she risks becoming alienated“.
For many, subcultures are a way to find acceptance when none is offered, a way to rid the overwhelming sense of loneliness and alienation in their lives to find companionship.
As one person commented in a question I posed about subcultures on a forum: “… being a gamer to me is about connecting to other people who have the same geeky interests as me. Even though they’re online, I guess there’s some kind of solace there at the end of the day“.
Subcultures have an excellent way of proving the extent to which our desire to connect reaches. Even amid our desires to be “unique” and “rebellious” we still seek out groups of people to validate ourselves. It makes us feel justified. It keeps us from feeling disconnected and alien.
Famous goth rocker Marilyn Manson once commented: “I fear being like everyone I hate … and I fear being a completely acceptable sheep of society“.
Subcultures can be said to be the beginnings of true Outsider status – just maladaptively formed and ego driven. To many, they are the clawings around in the dark for something true, authentic, lively and real.
Just think of the Punk rock subculture in the mid 1970’s, that is still popular today. It survived due to its messages of anti-establishment and anti-conformism. Although the resistance that subcultures provide can be fueled by hatred, bias and paranoia, rather than wisdom and understanding, subcultures can provide a form of awakening to the ills of society.
As influential punk singer Patti Smith of the 1970’s commented: “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom“.
It also offers the freedom and permission to provoke, pester, tease and exasperate people – which can be extremely difficult to do alone – with contrary, contradictory ideas and messages.
Subcultures can function as the modern day Diogenes, presenting shocking truths to a society that stumbles around blindly, multiplying its wretched disease among anyone with the mental dullness to listen.
Are you an Outsider? Feel free to share your beliefs, values or experiences below!