Questioning The Status Quo (A Toastmaster’s Speech)


A year or so ago, I watched a movie called ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yeman’. It was a love story that starred Ewen McGregor and Emily Blunt. The story of the film was based on introducing salmon fishing in Yeman, as a sport. In the story, it showed how fish swim only in one direction in a river, against the tide and are unable to swim in the counter direction. In society too, we see that humans are susceptible to this phenomenon. We call it ‘herd behavior’.

“Non conformism” is my topic today. Non-conformism is the non-submission, to the value system that exist in contemporary society. These days, you are expected to be a citizen of a homogenized world where many distinct identities dissolve and modern living takes over the imminent landscape. We are collective creatures wanting to be belonged. We like to have friends, social connections, the need to be a collective herd than to be a lone lamb. We are happy, the more friends we have on our own facebook page. We are slaves of quantity and not quality. Nevertheless, in diversity there is richness and in endemicity there is culture and in uniformity there is boredom. So, we as a race, belong to a boring landscape where quantity rules quality. A conformist’s haven and a non-conformist’s pit of quicksand.

Now for a personal touch to my talk. I chose to be a non-conformist to the juggernaut of the times. Peer pressure never affected me and a collective identity eluded me. I was always an individual knowing my forte and my Achilles heel, and the spectrum in-between. I am a creature of a blend of black and white, cherishing my bubbly demeanor but lamenting my inner demons. A contrast in non-conformism.

Now to a short story, a while back, I reacquainted with a friend years after school and in one of the e-mails he sent me, he asked what my vice was. Each person in society has to have a mandatory vice in the current world we live in. Booze, smoking, indiscriminate sex and gambling are some of the favored vices of man. I too had my vice, so it was easy to tell my long lost friend that I had a soft spot for Rum and Coke. But it also made me think, on the wider aspect of life.  We are identified no longer by our benevolence or knowledge but on our vices and collective material strength – the type of car we drive, the watch we wear, the mobile phone we carry and the number of social connections we have.

Humans are always on a journey of finding, finding love, identity, status, wealth, serenity and bliss. There is no perfect cocktail or concoction, but each and every man has a working mix that works for the individual. For me, it was always the case of soul mate and love, in a world where Mcdonalds-type relationships or McAffairs ruled. We no longer engage in trust, commitment and security. We savor what can give us a rush of dopamine without a spike of oxytocin. We are programmed for gratification and not the impression and vulnerability of love.

And now to the climax of the talk, to the queen of all conformist traps – Marriage. A place of convenience, what is oiled by tradition, convention, security, social compliance etc………..We choose to go down the aisle with the notion of a timely event that takes place in late twenties and early thirties. We rarely wait for true love. We exchange rings in a hurry and in a matter of a year we are buying diapers from a shop. Again, it’s a matter of fleeting time, when the biological clock is ticking and we are chasing the commoner’s dream of a nuclear family. Single life is seen as a crime and those who choose a lay monastic life, are seen as traitors to a generation and losers in life.

In the movie, ‘Salmon fishing in the Yeman’, the scientist who introduces salmon fishing in to the Yeman, falls in love with the secretary, and they start a beautiful project of togetherness. Two non-conformists, who believed in their inner strengths and their mutual affection. Who else would be stupid and crazy enough to think they can bring Salmon to one of the driest places on earth ?

I will leave by passing on a quote by Author Jack Kerouac

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I am not asking you to rebel, be a maverick or renegade, nor to go picketing, I am not asking you to use shock tactics, I’m just asking you to look beyond the needle’s eye of your pupil to look beyond what we are harmonized to and question the ‘status quo’ from your own personal perspective.

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