“My wife could turn to me and she may say, ‘Why do you love me?’ And I can with all honesty look her in the eye and say, ‘Because our pheromones matched our olfactory receptors.” — Robin Ince

If we take biology out of the equation, why do we do the things we do?

Of course, if you totally remove biological responses, innate reactive and primal behaviours, physiology, and psychology, there very well may be nothing left.

If you believe in fate, or that we have souls, that there is a god or two or three, you may say that destiny, heart, purpose, or divinity wholly or in part answers the question.

The things we think may be thought out of our own free will, or they may simply be a series of chemical responses.

They may also be learned, and that’s what is perhaps the most interesting option of all. The most dangerous option: Learning to think a certain way without being consciously aware of the fact that we are learning, adopting, and executing certain behaviours based on certain passively constructed thoughts or ideas. This is the cousin of not being aware that we also have a choice in what we choose to think.

It’s called buying into a “normative society.”

None of us are born with a critically self-formed political affiliation. We may be born into conservative families, our early experiences may shape what we come to believe about politics, but all of this happens after birth. And for the most part, I think it’s safe to say most of us are aware that we are choosing to vote liberally over conservatively and vice versa, to like one politician over another, to choose between sides. Which party we choose over another is more or less an actively- and consciously- made decision. Sure, we may be manipulated, influenced, lied to, and our choice may not even be based on facts, figures, or anything of value. Nevertheless, we are aware of the act of choosing. But where did we learn that we have to choose between sides?

Where and when did we adopt and us-versus-them mentality? Why have we come to adopt the belief that life is lived in these phases of going to school, then starting your career, getting married, then having kids?

When did we come to associate being alone, single, and unmarried, especially later on in life, with being terribly lonely? Or weird?

Why do we buy into these overwhelmingly simple and classical theme of good versus evil? Why do some of us do things in the name of our country, or approve certain actions of our country, but dodge neighbours and disapprove of our kids behaving in a similar vein?

There are of course exceptions to all of these and they are by no means all-inclusive; people we know or have heard of or read about who defy these pre-set expectations of what is important, and of how to live in society. In some cases, there may be a lot of them. But a case can still be made that they are just that, exceptions. There are seven billion people in the world, and there can never be enough free-thinkers, innovators, and mould-breakers.

It may not necessarily be an entirely negative thing, buying into a normative society, and adhering to the norm. But like with any purchase, it serves well to be aware of the cost of such an action, and how much we’re paying.


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