Recently, the OH and I had a date night and I managed to convince him to go and see the film, Divergent, based on the young adult trilogy by author Veronica Roth. The style of the film reminded me somewhat of a cross between The Host by Stephenie Meyer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, but in its own right, it really hooked me in with the story line.
Official trailer for Divergent
The first book introduces us to a dystopian Chicago where each individual chooses the part of society (factions) they feel they belong once they turn 16, based on their personality. According to the woman who leads the government, Jeanine, this is to ensure a harmonious society where each faction plays their role. Each 16-year old chooses between Abnegation: (selflessness), Amity (peace and harmony), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intelligence). While those who belong to Erudite play a role in the government and sciences, the Dauntless ensure the security of the society and Abnegation looks after the less fortunate.
The society factions in the Divergent series. Source: TrisandFour.com
By now you must be wondering, what does a film have to do with my post on indviduality and society? The Chicago in the Divergent series is a dystopian world for a reason: we can’t be classed in factions and expected to live in harmony. Just like The Host, individuality and those who don’t fit into the ‘norm’ is seen as a threat to society and should be eradicated. The human personality is full of traits that we can’t put each person into factions or categories. Most of us can’t be put into a box and be expected to fit in. In some way, we can all be seen as divergent.
One of the things that you see in most schools around the world is that you have groups that people fit into, the ‘in’ groups. If you’re not ‘in’ that group then you’re part of the ‘out’ group (those who don’t fit with the rest of the group, whether by physical characteristics, interests or personality). I remember when I was in secondary school, I was friendly with my classmates, but I never truly fitted in with the Cool or the Smart Asians. I never figured out which group I really belonged to because I never really felt like I was an integral part of their group.
I learned that being true to yourself is the most important thing. You don’t need to be part of a group, whether you’re ‘in’ or ‘out’. As long as you’re true to yourself and know who you are, that you have friends you can spend time with, you don’t have to be friends with absolutely everyone or be in a ‘group’ to fit in. I’ve learned that being an individual who is able to mingle with different groups of people is also a good thing, it shows your versatility, the interest and ability to communicate with other people who might not fit an ideal of what should be the ‘norm’.
Why should we let society, or those in our peer groups, how we should act? Society is based on a majority viewpoint where any behaviours that don’t conform to the ‘norm’ is considered unacceptable. We need to keep an open mind that for a harmonious society, we need to be open minded. Some individuals have social conditions which affects their ability to fit in and they should not be ostracised because of this. We teach those on the Autistic Spectrum Condition social skills training to enable them to fit in, but society should also be more accepting of people’s ability to make mistakes. If we’re all narrow minded about what’s acceptable, then we’re being resistant to change.
All the fears and lack of awareness from traditional perspectives are a result of a changing society where newly undiscovered (or previously known but not accepted) traits are considered a threat to a peaceful society. As long as we’re accepting of indvidual differences and they pose no threat to our well-being, why should this be considered a negative thing? One of such instances which shocked me the most is the gay propaganda and crimes that are quite prominent in Russia at the moment. Why should there be so much negativity towards these people?
It might not be as powerful a message as some of the social inequalities around the world today, but tattoos are seen as a sign of the mafia or triads in Asian countries. I refuse to be categorised based on societal perceptions of what I should look like or act. I am full of dichotomies which I feel shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing: each person is full of their own interests and should be able to discover their creative skills and to show their personalities in their own way, as long as this does not cause harm to others.
I am seen by colleagues and friends as intelligent and hardworking, but I like to also express myself through tattoos (I now have 7) that are personal reminders of life events that are important to me. I like to express my creative side through my dressmaking and jewellery making projects. I also like to bake and cook, take and appreciate good photography as well as improve my fitness levels and learning different martial arts disciplines through BodyCombat and will soon take up capoeira.
If you were to join a faction in the Divergent world, which would you choose?