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TABOOS and SOCIAL NORMS- ARE YOU A SHEEP?


“Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd;


Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard” (Donnell, Nakadate, Pfordresher &Shoemate, 17, p.54).


Although the question is absurd we should think about it How much free are people in their decisions and behaviours? Rules, rules and rules…Look but don’t touch, touch but don’t taste, taste but don’t eat…The society leads individuals like sheep by using social norms and taboos as a cudgel.S├Żnce humans are intelligent creatures there is no need social norms and taboos. People must be free in their mind for the sake of individualism.


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First of all people must show their characteristics freely and break down taboos if they are useless or irrelevant for them anymore. If one accepts all the rules of society without any questining he or she would become an “unknown citizen” (Donnell et al, 17, p.54) and lose himself in the society by forgetting his personality.Every person is different so noone has to share the comman thoughts of society but society chooses to punish deviations. Infact couse of the punishment which society apply to a deviant is to envy this person since the other members of the group desire secretly to do the same thing. Taboos are forbidden things and also(so) very attractive (http//visit.geocities.com, Dundar,C.,1.05.00).


Secondly as can be seen many historical events, taboos and social norms prevent scientific invents and tecnologycal development. For instance in the Period of Tulip society’s does not accepting “matbaa” caused the Ottoman Empire to worsen for fifty years. Galileo is another example as a victim of society. He discovered that the world rotates arund the sun but the taboos and social norms of the Catholic Church convicted him. “It was a sad end for so great a man to die condemned of heresy” say O’Conner and Robertson (www.history.mcs.st.andrews. ac.uk/Galileo.htm, 5.05.00). This meaningless rules not only kill a genious but also kill human’s creativity.Philosophers are peoples who are not afraid of rejecting or punishing by the society and these brave people enable the humanity to improve by breaking down taboos.


Another issue is people’s acting as anyone else to gain other people’s love and respect but is it true cheating both ourselves and peoples around us? Flinch says “We may not really like wearing formal clothes, but do it anyway because it’s socially appropriate for occasion” (18,p.10).But one must live how he think it’s proper according to him not according to someone else.If a person like to wear colorfull clothes wearing so makes his or her feel happy.Thus being only ourselves and behaving how we want would make us happier.Reversely if everyone wears the same type of clothes or everyone has the same style life would be very boring. Would you like to live in a society which all people are like “Agent Smiths”? Would you like to be an “unknown” in black suits?


Some experts claim that “taboo is like a fence that keeps us what is wrong and a good life is a proper life” (Roberts, A.F.,16, p.6). However a good life differs from one to one.Life is special and one must decide what is good or what is wrong independently.Mind and intelligence is the main characteristics of the humans. We are not animals that needs to bring in line and to pasture where to go. Fences are necessary for animals not for human beings. On the other hand “sometimes rules for behaviour differ from one culture to another”(Smalzer, W.R. ,16 ,pp.14-14). So why they can not differ from person to person? As can be understood they are not very logical or fundamental rules for people. These are only dogmatic rules. If they were very usefull they would be same and proper on the whole world but they are not.


They also argue that social norms and taboos keep the unity of society and by doing so enable the society to develop. But isn’t the USA very improved country? Folse says that “individualism is a fundamental value in the US.All Americans believe in the right to express their own opinion without fear of punishment” (1, pp.107-108).They decide what to wear, how to live by themselves. There are many kind of people there; their language, their religion, and their race are very different but this is not a disadvantage for them indeed this variety of culture helps the development of the country.


Finally opponents can support that these rules prevent crimes by the help of social pressure. However pressure can never be a solution for crime, infact people are always more inclined to forbidden things as Sigmund Freud stated (http//visit.geocities.com, Dundar,C.,1.05.00).


As a conclusion thinking with respect to other people decreases our self confidence, so we must not permit others to lead us, to influence us, and to pasture us.We must not forget that every fashion comes from some people and always there is someone who can break down taboos and then other people follow them.Why do we choose to follow like sheeps instead of being our own leader?


Mehtap Parlak





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