Ruling out Rules!

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” Aristotle said these words more than a couple of thousand years ago. And boy was he right. I won’t be defending the great philosopher, but simply question the rules this society created by us has forced on us mere mortals.

Society as such is not a definite entity. It evolves and shifts in infinite ways. What is socially acceptable now, might be highly questionable years ago and what is unacceptable now, might be a norm years ago. Society seems to be changing with time, but it takes a while to go from a change in individual mindset to change in the general social mindset. Every generation feels like a flag-bearer of change, the one who will show the light to the unenlightened. The older generation seems to first resist this blinding light and dismiss it as the usual youth rebellion. With time, as the previous generation gets older and hands over the reins of responsibility, they begin to accept changes and gradually let the new generation do their thing.

Society and its rules vary not just with time, but geography, culture, religion, economics, demographics, and several other factors factor in somehow. It also comes down to individual capabilities and restrictions as well. A businessman running a family business, living with a large family will think differently than an artist living alone and has a free bird attitude towards life. They might belong to the same generation, but the polar opposite lifestyles and ambitions demand different things from them. What works for one, will create challenges for the other. The challenges of a housewife raising kids will be different than an unmarried working woman. Not saying that one should get preference over the other. The whole point comes down to acceptance and tolerance.

Getting comfortable and becoming accepting of vastly different ways of living life is what makes any society progressive. So do not look suspiciously at that couple next door, which have strange work hours and dubious marital status. Do not talk pitifully about the stay at home mom taking care of her babies and managing the house. Do not question the morality of the woman who is past the “marriageable” age and seems to focus only on her career and partying. Do not question the spending capabilities of someone renting a 3BHK house all by himself/herself. And do not look down on a big fat joint family living in a similar sized house. We all have our own aspirations, situations, responsibilities, and preferences to deal with. Self-questioning and evaluating is a good thing, but the role of a society is to create a safe haven for all kinds of individuals as far as they aren’t harming anyone.

Aristotle said only a beast or a God is able to shun society. This definitely is an over statement, since there are loners who mostly like to be left alone. But one cannot ignore the impact society has on our life directly and indirectly. So let’s tame the beast with some training in acceptance, instead of letting it go at large and then return to prey on us.