Nonconformist in a generally acceptable way

Aha – just exactly what I said yesterday. It’s as if I’d stolen it from Jenny Diski, but I didn’t. (Nor she didn’t steal it from me, neither.)

As a rule people look for positive authority or referents to back up their
essential beliefs about themselves in relation to the world: the priest, imam,
Delia Smith, the politburo, gang leader, Milton Friedman, your mother, my
favourite novelist. It works well enough, and when it does, we call ourselves
and others like us sane. When it goes awry, when people lose and/or reject all
positive referents in the real world for the self inside, we call them
delusional, psychotic, mad. In order to count as sane, you don’t necessarily
have to conform to the norms of the world, but you do have to be nonconformist in a generally acceptable way.

Emphasis added. That’s exactly what I was ruminating about. What we think of as eccentric, nerdy, weird, nonconformist is actually barely different from what we think of as normal. That’s either depressing or reassuring, or a little of both (she said in her usual normal average typical waffling cover all the bases way).


  1. says

    For me, the biggest evidence of this is that we aren’t constantly having 9/11s or Columbines or whatever pretty much every week. You’d think some small fraction of people would just be randomly going off the deep end in the most murderous of ways. But we all act pretty much the same pretty much all of the time. Thank goodness, really; I think it’s a positive thing.

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