Sunday, September 3, 2017

Little Boxes

Pete Seeger, the famous American folk singer and social activist, sang decades back about "little boxes".
"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
       Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same..."

Box like houses, exactly alike in appearance, alike in expectations from life, alike in their middleclass conformity. The song always struck a chord and the boxes always intrigued me. No wonder they are making their way in to my blog!
Boxes. In other words, social conformity. The invisible boundaries that society imposes on us. Of course, without boundaries, we the notorious species called homo sapiens will run amock with chaos and mayhem everywhere. So, yes, boxes are a social necessity perhaps. But when we put our mind in that box too and refuse to see the blue of the sky lurking from some open corner, crippling ensues. When we love the boxes so much that we are threatened if we can't relate to another human being without the reference frame of the social conditioning, the boxes become cages.
The socially defined boxes in our mind keeps dictating us at every cross road of life. We are used to putting our feelings, our relationships, our whole life in to the boxes that undergo social scanning. We need relationships with tags of social approval to feel comfortable. One human being, reaching out to another is not of any value, unless you can put defined and acceptable tags to that relationship. It tells us that love is hardly even understandable unless you can put a label of social conformity!

Need to be acknowledged, need to be accepted is a basic human psychological need. But in a desperation to achieve that, so many times we our selves become a social commodity. Individuality is the price to pay when you need to conform at any cost! We need to marry at a certain age, make babies at a certain age, obey certain functional or dysfunctional commandments of society in order to have breathing space. Otherwise we are failures, we are outcasts.
How dark must be the despair when a successful intelligent young girl feels like an outcaste because she didn't fit in to a defined social box of "being married at the right time". How heart-breaking it must be when parents leave their kids hands when something could not be put in the boxes they believed to be right for their kids. Be it career, be it finding a partner or even sexuality. How painful, when your "friends" avoid you because you make them feel uncomfortable by standing by your unconventional beliefs.
I agree, boxes feel safe. The usual, the predictable has a sense of security around it. Its like getting a tick mark against your name from society. Tick marks; something that we are so fond of seeing, since the time we start going to school. They mean approval. They mean we are accepted as being part of the herd. They mean we are not alone. But do they mean happiness? Do they mean freedom? Do they mean being compatible with your own self? Does, not being alone, guarantee not being lonely?
Of course society changes with time. It is changing as I write too perhaps. But somewhere the roots of social conditioning are so deep, the dogmas are so stifling that its scary to stand apart. We are comfortably numb by a state of social hypnosis and no longer feel the pain of being exactly alike each other in our limitations.
So, today, if I could seek something for the generations to come, it would be their strength to stand apart, it would be their ability to choose fearless conviction over social conformity. After all, how wonderful is a world where your mind can take a fearless flight in an open sky. Where we don't cage ourselves in social dogmas. Where we can develop our individuality without being judged, learn to embrace emotions and value relationships.

Too much of a dream, eh?



  1. Social stigmas have almost become synonymous to life. So much so that, you can be happy or unhappy in it. But you can never deny and run away. Our society expects us to be with another body after certain age, they never ask you to find the right soul or right mind for yourself. Not sure how do we still call it "soulmate". And this starts from childhood, be it your exams be it your extra curricular activities and finally be it finding the right person for yourself. There is nothing wrong if you really want to run faster too. What happens to people who wants to swim against the tide, what happens to the boy who loves to play a piano or the girl who loves to dance, or the person who fell in love outside his caste. What about these wishes of life. These are good as long as you stay within that small defined social barriers. Some say without barriers human beings can't be human beings. My question is, if you need barriers to remain human beings then are you really human beings at all.

  2. The species Homo Sapiens is a pleasure driven & habit forming animal...with a broad spectrum of perception dependent on native capacity & environmental exposure. Boxes are needed to form our habits, or else civilization wouldn't reach where we are today. They also provide the safety tags which are essential for basic survival. And in the process gets created the invisible boxes inside our own mind that we carry a our language, behaviour, interaction, opinions etc. etc.

    To break them we need to challenge our own beliefs as each of us make the society. Everybody in the society struggled at some point, may be unknowingly, in a spectrum of individuality somewhere, to break a box or many.

    We should start today, as rightly said by Gandhi - "We must be the change we want to see in the world".
    That'll be the best gift to the next gen.

    1. Well said! :) thanks for sharing your thoughts!