Dangerous Games

People do things they shouldn’t every day. From the mundane deviations from society’s norms like dropping a piece of litter on the sidewalk to transgressions of a larger degree, like using a fake I.D., very few individuals stick to the straight and narrow one hundred percent of the time. Sometimes the reason for the disobediance is simple ignorance. Sometimes the act might be committed in disagreement with the rule or law itself. Some people might go against the crowd as a result of pressure from peers, or a desire to rebel against the system. Whatever the reason, many people treat rules as though they were meant to be broken.

I’ve never been one of those who laughs in the face of rules, to be honest. My guilt complex kicks in before I have even done anything wrong, in fact. In the presence of security cameras, I always feel an omnipresent sense of culpability. Even if I’ve done nothing wrong, I feel as though something about me must scream “GUILTY!”. Obviously its my overwhelming presence as a petite 20 year old woman in Wallabees.

No, I haven’t a very devious past. If I have broken rules, the punishment I’ve endured has been largely of my own making. The self-punishment reflex rears its ugly head far too often for my liking, far exceeding any external discipline. A recurring theme in my life, it seems, is this harsh self-judgment. Perhaps this is what makes it difficult for me to understand why people commit crimes, of both a lesser and more serious degree.

I clearly was not cut out to be a criminal. I, admittedly, have a horrible temper, one that I’ve learned to control a little better as I’d aged. But no matter how stupid I think a rule is, I feel obliged to follow it. What is it about an individual that makes them able to ignore that moral compass guiding them toward obedience? Perhaps the compass points slightly ajar for some, enabling them to feel as though actions that don’t comply with society’s expectations are not devious at all. Though I’ve not studied criminology, in social psychology I learned a few things about deviance.

One aspect of deviance that I find fascinating is the defining of one’s identity as a deviant. Many scholars over the years have developed theories about deviance and those who engage in deviant behaviour. Sociologists such as Frank Tannenbaum and Edwin Lemert were instrumental in developing theories that spoke to deviant labelling. Lemert argued that to become deviant, an individual commits a deviant act, society reacts to this deviance, and the individual then begins to agree with society’s reaction, accepting the deviant identity. Evidently, this phenomenon would be instrumental in perpetuating further deviance on the part of this individual, who would seek to confirm their identity by acting in accordance with society’s acception of a deviant.

This societal definition can and does change along with society. Laws change, as do norms, as society progresses. Such change is also fascinating when thinking about going against conventionally acceptable comportment in society. In a different context, deviant behaviour might be completely normal. Perhaps this is why deviant subcultures exist- behaviour deemed unacceptable by society could be commonplace within a group that subscribes to different ideologies and methods.

I have a theory that I am too much of a worry wart to follow any deviant path. I gravitate toward safety, and deviance is not terribly safe. Maybe that is why deviance is fascinating to me. Deviance is an interesting part of our society, and many deviate in small ways on a daily basis. Sometimes you just can’t fight the man in a larger way, and speeding at 70 km/h in a 50 zone makes you feel emancipated.

 

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