Cultural Conformity and Compliance.

To the people who are suffering in the name of culture.

What is cultural conformity? What does it mean to comply with the culture? Why do we adopt beliefs, values, and traditions even if they make no sense? Cultures have no rule book and are not definitive. It’s ever-changing with time and people’s mentality. Looking back in time ask yourselves this… How has culture evolved over the years starting with your grandparents?  How much has changed over time regarding values? Some of us changed for the better, but we know of so many who are suffering miserably because of these unspoken cultural rules. Education, humble family backgrounds or affluence sadly have no affect on these cultural beliefs. Society still chooses to indulge in illogical behaviors and have miraculously, also accepted them as normal.

What is normal? Every person thinks they are normal and what they believe in is acceptable. For example

  • A man who physically abuses people around him considers himself normal too (F.Y.I, Not ever normal).
  • An abusive father thinks that’s the best way to rear his children and believe later on they will understand. (F.Y.I, they never will).
  • A husband who thinks his wife should not be consulted regarding family matters because they are too emotional to make rational decisions for the family (F.Y.I, You have a family thanks to her sacrifices).
  • A talented woman is denied a challenging position in a firm because her family might come in the way.
  • Education is denied to daughters because they are seen as an investment with no returns (How delusional some people can be?).
  • A mother who meddles with her son’s marriage because she is losing a battle of attention with her daughter-in-law (Moms, I respect the relationship, but seriously don’t get your sons married off then).
  • Wives who have a phobia about losing control of their husbands and have to monitor their every move. They have to skew every word and every situation until it fits into their skeptical state of mind.

Are any of these behaviors normal? No, but despite being so abnormal, they are prevalent in our societies. In fact, we must know of someone personally who is just like that, but do we try to stop them knowing how wrong they are? For the purpose of this argument, the word normal does not fit the context. My normal is very different from your normal. But there is a clear difference between humane and inhumane acts. Inflicting physical pain, meddling unnecessarily in relationships, denying someone their basic rights, have to be inhumane because they defy natural laws. It is unnatural not to feel love for your children, for your wife, for your mother, for your husband, for someone who has worked hard in their life and not give them any recognition.


An experiment conducted by a top-rated program on National Geographic reflects more light on this subject. Its a test of conformity and compliance. It reveals how readily we accept rules and standards even if they make no sense. It had some fascinating results that could give insight into how cultures and their ideologies took form.

Five people waiting in waiting room

A girl walks into an Optometrist’s office, unaware that today it’s full of actors from the show. The receptionist asks her to wait and shortly after, a sound is played in the waiting room. The actors responded by standing up. The girl looked at them in puzzlement and went back to reading her magazine. The bell rung again, and everyone stood up. She stayed seated. The bell rung for the third time and the girl stood up along with the others. She complied without even being asked! This behavior continued for a while until one by one, all the actors left for their so-called appointments, and this girl is left alone. Did she stop standing up? No one is around her; she could stop behaving this way. She could have tried to rationalize her behavior, but did she?

Young Teen Girl In Waiting Room

Nope. The girl kept at it even when she was alone. No one was watching her, no one was judging her, no one would object. With no crowd around her, she stood up every time the bell rung. Now, comes the turning point of this experiment. One by one, real people started coming in and gave the same reaction like she did but eventually conformed to the irrational behavior everyone was displaying. They had no idea, why they were doing it. They were skeptical but couldn’t find the courage to go against the flow.

It’s astonishing to know that the experiment comprised of people who came from all walks of life and regardless, still choose to conform to a rule that made no sense. Think of all the ways we changed our society and submitted to things that were illogical and inhumane. We continue to indulge in those behaviors and mentality. With so many pressing issues in our society, it never occurred to us to look back and find that halfwitted person in history who started all this nonsense and made us into who we are today?

Where is the rule book for such societies? Instead of following cultural values that have no beginning but surely a disastrous end for all of us, we have to think of our actions as humane and inhumane. Is someone in pain because of me? Are my actions hurting the people I love? Is someone happy to see me when I walk through the door? Do my children run to me because they have been waiting all day in anticipation? Am I respected? Do I respect others around me? Reassess your life and speak up when we see someone act inhumanely. We stop it with our hands, our words or the least we can do is despise it in our hearts and vow never to act like that with others ourselves. Speak up against the blind beliefs in our culture and be the change we want to see in others.



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