By: Annie Sragner, Associate Arts and Life Editor
The world seems to operate through a series of social systems that have been accepted as “normal” in society. There are unspoken rules of etiquette dictating how to behave in places like public bathrooms, classrooms, busses, restaurants or any social situation. These de facto rules ease the coming together of people. While passively going with the flow is much easier than standing against the crowd or bandwagon, it takes courage to resist and be different.
If something bothers you, silence is the least fruitful route. If a problem lingers and festers in your head, keeping it to yourself can cause it to manifest and intensify into something bigger. But what are the consequences of speaking up? Even if you cause a disturbance, you may alert others of a new perspective. There is more than one path toward experience.
There is a concept called “hegemony” that every person should be aware of. Hegemony is the dominance of one group over another group, not necessarily through physical or police force, but through social institutions such as education, politics or the media. I’m sure you can think of countless examples where a certain group controls others through strongly suggested or forced social compliance.
Take language, and the way we use it to construct our social institutions for example. Words and ideas are used to label people and create inferred connotations that influence the way we think. But words are all we really have to relate to each other and to express our experience of life. I find that my most successful relationships are the ones in which open and honest communication is integral. It creates comfort.
If you disagree with someone or if something doesn’t sit right with you, respectfully trading opinions may enlighten everyone involved. Even writing down the stream-of-consciousness flow of thoughts turns an abstract situation into concrete words on a page that is suddenly more manageable. If you have a great idea, put your words into the world, and reify them into reality.
Everyone has valid opinions and experiences that we only get to share through speaking up. Do everything in your power to live by and radiate what you think is right. Say what you want, do what you want, love whom you want, vote for whom you want and be who you want, relentlessly. Believe that your voice deserves to be heard.