Society is at its best, just living in a community. We all are aware of what society is and how we live as a part of it, however we do not know nor understand the fine intricacies and the pieces of a puzzle that must fall into place to properly form social groups and interactions and how we all connect with each other to form a perfect union. The concept of societies has been around since the beginning in which early civilizations realized that they needed people to work in groups to survive. If one member was kicked out of the group, then they would surely die in a world without interaction.
Humans are social creatures and to be without one another is to not live a true life. However, living in societies and social groups does have its cons as the culture of a said group may become so deeply ingrained into us that we are reluctant to change or not be open to new ideas or constructs. While there have been some improvements and less rigidness in the ways of humanity, it brings up the central question of can we really change our ideals and ways of life to better help and better ourselves? Is society even capable of doing that? Is that even possible or have we become so stuck in our own minds that we cannot escape the one track mindset we were born and raised into?
Ever since the beginning of time, morals have been an ever important concept that has been rooted into our consciousness. The idea of good and bad or right and wrong has been a key aspect in all of our lives and it is such that the wrong decision made in regards to these morals could result in a detrimental outcome. For example, if someone tripped and fell and tumbled to the floor in an incomprehensible mass and rolled down a hill and banged into a tree head first, chances are that there will be at least a few people there to witness it. All of them will react differently and act accordingly to their thoughts. Some people will laugh, some will look down at them in sympathy and pity, and some will rush down to immediately go assist them and ensure that they were not hurt in the incident. All of those decisions are a result of morals and conscience.
There is a concept known as unconscious bias which does have a major role to play in how we exist in society. The brain is one of our most vital organs. It takes in information every single second of every day and all of that information can be overwhelming because of how much there is. So, our brains categorize that information by pulling certain words or ideas about said topic and essentially placing them into file folders so that when we are presented with it again at a later time, we can pull from that and remember. Unconscious biases are mental shortcuts our brain takes when categorizing information and they are formed over time as a result of the environment you are in and certain stereotypes you hear.
A simple example and test of this that you can do is when you say or hear a word. What is the first thought that comes to your head about it? If I say pink and blue, most likely you will think pink is female and blue is male. Whether or not you believe these things doesn’t matter as it all depends on the environment in which you were raised. From the very beginning, we were always taught or at least presented with the idea that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. And then all of the other thoughts that go along with it and the stereotypes that follow that girls are dumber and boys are smarter or that women stay at home and men are the breadwinners and go out and work. All of this begins and stems from a very early age and how we as people were brought up. Obviously we know that the stereotype that boys are smarter or better at math and girls are not smart is not accurate, but because we were all raised and presented with this, it is still so deeply ingrained into our minds and society which results in the idea may never leave.
This action is exactly what the name implies. Unconscious. Everyone has unconscious biases about something as it is just how our brains categorize information. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you think these things, but what tends to happen in society is people tend to act upon these actions in the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions are small acts of disrespect usually relating to one’s background and can be conscious or unconscious.
They usually do not intend to give off a derogatory meaning or be exclusatory, but to the person on the receiving end, it can be quite hurtful. For example, me and my family have had people say things such as “Oh where are you from” or “Oh your English is so good”. They may seem small and usually the person saying these things does not mean to be hurtful, and yet they still come across as such. We can fix this as a society by noticing that we are saying these things and realizing that what we are saying can be hurtful.
The film The Seven Samurai presents ideas of society and specifically how women were treated. It takes place in 1586 and so the director, Akira Kurosawa, shows the ways in which women were treated in society and the expectations put on them. Separate from that, the film also shows how the views of people can change if they are presented with a different perspective than what they were raised with and are open and susceptible to the change in ideals.
Samurai’s are seen as these untouchable men that are haughty and high strung and do not care about the little people of the world. Despite this idea being present in this storyline, while the society as a whole in the world of the movie hasn’t changed, at least the society in the village has changed its views in regards to the samurai. Thus proving that societal views can change if everyone has an open mind. But even if everyone is open to accepting these new found ideals, there will always be one that disagrees and keeps to their own and never strays away from what is known to them.
Manzo, one of the people in the village, out of fear of the samurai and the ideals that he has grown up with and learned, caused him to push those onto his daughter Shino to prevent her from opening up her mind to new things. By cutting off her hair, he has destroyed her femininity and in turn, is trying to destroy the way society thinks of her. Society thinks of her as a beautiful girl that will one day grow to marry and have a family. But Manzo, when the samurai arrive, fears that because of their behavior, they will grow to like her and take her away from him and “ruin her”. And what ends up occurring is that when Shino does end up being with one of the samurai, she is immediately beaten and shamed and is now deemed “damaged goods” by him and the village. While the samurai she was with receives no punishment or degradation in the slightest and instead just gets teased by his male companions. His reputation hasn’t been ruined, but Shino’s has been utterly torn and will probably never be recovered as a result of this incident.
It is obvious that society views women very differently in 1546 then how they are viewed now. However, there are still some unfortunate parallels between both of these times that still touch on shaming women and praising men for participating in the same action. An example of this that is taking place in 2022 is what is happening between Kim Kardasian and Kanye West. They have recently broken up after years of marriage and Kanye has been consistently trying to get her back despite the obvious fact that Kim has already moved on to someone else. And while Kanye’s endeavors are seen as nice or “he is just trying to bring his family back together” he isn’t shamed or criticized for his actions. If the roles were reversed and it was him who would have moved on and Kim who was trying to get him back, she would be seen as clingy or crazy and would receive so much hate in the media while he would get off scot free. But no one sees Kanye in that light in this circumstance. It is quite the contrary. His actions are seen as heroic and good while Kim is being shamed for not accepting him and moving on so quickly.
436 years later, we still have the same situation in which women are shamed relentlessly for an incident and men get a polar opposite treatment that rarely ruins their reputation or societal position. So yes while we have changed to an extent in regards to how we treat women in society, it still remains relatively the same and still has the same end result. A woman’s tarnished reputation and societal mistreatment until something worse happens.
To quote the book Siddhartha, “We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.” As a society, we have improved despite all of the struggles and I believe we are capable of such change if we continue to try our hardest to improve ourselves and learn from our past actions. If we do that, then we are on the right track to a better society for us all.
3 thoughts on “Are We Capable of Change?”
This was so well written. What wonderful connections, observations, and questions.
I really liked the connection to a modern situation, with the Kanye and Kim situation. Along with the way, you transition from unconscious thoughts, the Seven Samurai, and then to Siddhartha is very skillful.
This was no doubt, one of my favorite pieces of writing I’ve read. I enjoyed every bit of it. The way the integrations were incorporated and the way the connections were applied made this a wonderful read. These connections allowed this topic to feel more open for discussion and I really liked how the connections were written. It was really moving piece.