The Case for Conformity
Most people can decide for themselves whether or not to watch an address by the head of their country. The unfortunate residents of The Twilight Zone‘s “Eye of the Beholder” aren’t so lucky.
I’ve described in a previous post why I consider this Rod Serling’s finest work. But on this 54th anniversary of the episode’s first airing, I wanted to highlight the full address given by “Leader” in the climatic scene.
We hear some of it as poor Janet Tyler is trying to run away. But we miss most of it, and believe me, it’s worth quoting in full:
I say to you now that there is no such thing as a permissive society, because such a society cannot exist! They will scream at you and rant and rave and conjure up some dead and decadent picture of an ancient time when they said that all men are created equal! But to them equality was an equality of opportunity, an equality of status, an equality of aspiration!
And then, in what must surely be the pinnacle of insanity, the absolute in inconsistency, they would have had us believe that this equality did not apply to form, to creed. They permitted a polyglot, accident-bred, mongrel-like mass of diversification to blanket the earth, to infiltrate and weaken!
Well, we know now that there must be a single purpose! A single norm! A single approach! A single entity of peoples! A single virtue! A single morality! A single frame of reference! A single philosophy of government! We cannot permit… we must not permit the encroaching sentimentality of a past age to weaken our resolve. We must cut out all that is different like a cancerous growth!
It is essential in this society that we not only have a norm, but that we conform to that norm. Differences weaken us. Variations destroy us. An incredible permissiveness to deviation from this norm is what has ended nations and brought them to their knees. Conformity we must worship and hold sacred. Conformity is the key to survival.
You could fill a book with a detailed rebuttal to these chilling words. For now, though, I’ll simply quote what I said in my original post:
Survival? Perhaps. But to what purpose? To live a life in which you are merely an interchangeable cog in a vast wheel that allegedly represents progress? To be nothing more than an unhappy piece of someone else’s puzzle? To sacrifice everything that makes you different in order to please a society that views you as nothing but a faceless building block — one that will think nothing of discarding you if you stand out? That will change you, shun you or murder you for the unspeakable crime of being different?
Serling was warning us in his own inimitable way. I pray that it’s one we’ll always heed.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!