By Roland Watson

In this article, I will review some of the consequences of behavioral form, so you have a better idea of why it is so bad and why we all need to fight it. I'm going to start by examining how form - again, social influences - change your personal identity. This is its overall effect.

Form doesn't just get you to do something right now. Its cumulative effects change who you are as a person. Even more, it doesn't just get in your way and stop you from achieving your most important life goals. It actually gets you to change your mind about what you think your goals should be.

What is maturity?

The process by which you create your identity is the same as the process through which you mature into a unique individual. What happens in life is that after you are born, your family exposes you to a range of experiences and social circumstances. Through school, you receive a basic education.

Therefore, for the years of your childhood, you "are" determined in a variety of ways, because there aren't many things over which you can can personally exercise a choice. Indeed, this is the period where you learn - hopefully - how to choose: what you need to do to make good decisions.

This is also where you start to get a feel for what you like, where when you are given a choice you begin to show a preference. After puberty, the most obvious example of this is the strong attraction that you feel towards one person, but not another.

Then, as you grow into an adult, not only are you now faced with many choices, you have to make them, too. You can no longer rely on your parents to decide. As you make these choices, and as the years pass, you become an individual. In subtle and not so subtle ways, you become distinct from other people, in what you like and how you act. You become your own self.

Ultimately, you reach the point where you are a mature person, who understands the choices with which he or she is faced, and who - again, hopefully - chooses well.

Interference with personal maturity

This is how it is supposed to work. You learn about life, and its challenges, and then take them on. And in the process, through your approach and your choices, you become unique.

The maturity process, however, is now much more difficult to complete. There are essentially two reasons for this.

First, there are now so many people in the world. How can you possibly be different and distinct? And secondly - and this is actually much more important - modern form, from television and advertising, is incredibly powerful. It is overwhelming. It has made us uniform.

Of course, even traditional societies had - the ones that continue to exist have - behavioral form, starting with their cultural traditions. These traditions exerted a profound influence in the choices that you made, and therefore on your life. For example, some cultures were - some still are - warlike. They groom their children to become warriors. Just think of the Spartans in ancient Greece. Meanwhile, others devote themselves to establishing peaceful communities. Also, as a basic influence, the lives of most people in traditional societies are shaped by the need to get food: to farm, herd, hunt and fish.

In non-traditional societies, though, the influence of the media has become paramount. We no longer view only our parents as role models. We also emulate the people we see on TV and in films, and now even on the Internet! Modern media strongly promotes a particular set of goals and lifestyles, and many people pursue them. It is the rare person who is not only willing, but able, to become a non-conformist.

The consequence of modern media is that we are becoming more uniform, living up - or down - to the stereotypes that society wants us to fulfill. This in turn is having disastrous psychological consequences. Increasing uniformity is leading to a reduced sense of unique identity; lowered confidence and self-esteem; and unhappiness, guilt and depression.

Many people feel that they are only ordinary, not special; and that they are not attaining society's ideals - which, by the way, are not only impossible to achieve - they are designed to be impossible to achieve. People are not only confused about what purpose or goal to follow for their life, they don't even know where to start looking.

Another brilliant psychoanalyst was Carl Jung. He thought that form, and the conflict that it causes - between our own self-interest and society's demands - creates a mental imbalance that has to be compensated for by the unconscious mind, through dreams and irrational behavior. Form can not only screw with your dreams, it can drive you crazy.

Interference with social maturity

In summary, the pervasiveness of form is interfering with the maturity process. However, this isn't just for individuals. It holds for society as a whole as well.

In an introductory talk, I discussed the existence of cycles, including social cycles: of how different societies rise, mature, and then decline. The maturity of a society relates to the collective willpower of everyone in the society. This is another topic that Jung explored, our collective will, and also the idea that we have a collective unconscious.

We make choices as groups, not only as individuals. We decide, collectively, which way we want our society to go. Indeed, this is a foundation of democracy. The democratic system is a formal mechanism to make and implement collective choices.

What is happening is that the power of the modern media is undermining our collective will: the coming together of individual wills to achieve common goals. It is weakening the ability of society not only to function, but just to hold together - to exist.

I'm trying to avoid controversial subjects, but for the United States, whatever your viewpoint, it is obvious that there are many important things that we just can't seem to handle. The reason for this is form. It is breaking us into distinct sub-societies, and which can never agree with each other, much less cooperate.

In conclusion, you can be unique, if you successfully fight form and follow a normal maturation process. And, our society will right itself and once again mature in a positive way, as a side effect of everyone, as individuals, fighting form and reclaiming their personal freedom.

Form and education

I now want to change the topic a little bit. I want to consider what form is, and what it is not. By this I mean that form is not education.

Form and education are fundamentally different, and the distinction here is purpose. To inform and illuminate someone is education; to shape and conform them is form.

Of course, many times form is presented as education. In most cases, though, a quick analysis will reveal its true intent. Education often exists as in a vacuum, as a description or explanation of the ways things are. Form always has a secondary motivation, which is to get you to believe that things are a particular way, to serve some other purpose.

In education, the task is to convince someone of something; with form, it is to persuade. Said another way, the goal of education is that you understand. With form, it is that you believe.

The questions you must ask

There are two crucial questions that you will have to answer with regards to form. The first is: when are you being brainwashed to support the forces of social conformity, meaning, when are you working to meet the needs of the system rather than your own; versus when are you exercising your free will to satisfy natural human needs and to fulfill your own unique tastes?

You must answer this question if you want to understand the specific ways in which you have been conditioned.

Secondly, are there any forms that you should willingly accept, and if so, which ones? For instance, you should consider accepting those traditions of your background that you find positive - or at least non-objectionable - including: Your family traditions, and, your cultural traditions. These are part of your foundation - your identity. These are the things about your family and culture of which you can be proud.

Good and bad form

I want to examine the idea of good form in more detail. In other words, does it even exist?

One view on this question is that there is education and form, with the latter comprised of two categories, good and bad. Good form also has a selfish intent, but the intent in this case is ethical.

What I mean by this is that it is ethical to want to continue your family and cultural traditions, but also, in a sense, selfish. You could, if you wanted, follow the traditions of some other family, or even culture.

However, with bad form, the selfish intent is unethical. A basic case of this is following a tradition which is itself clearly unethical. There are so many examples of this around the world that it is hard to know where to start.

One broad set of examples comprises all of the cultural beliefs and practices that exist, in one country after another, which impose or otherwise reinforce the view that women are not equal with men. Another set is that lighter skin color is better than darker skin color. What I am talking about here, of course, are the manifold cultural traditions that encourage misogyny and racism. Needless to say, you should definitely not follow, or pass on to your children, these types of traditions.

Moving on, the other view of form is that good form is actually a part of education. It is a means of presenting, and perpetuating, ethical education. In any case, this situation, that there is education and both good and bad form, or only education and bad form, can be viewed either way. It may even be an issue of semantics. But, one thing is clear: bad form is both selfish and unethical.

I also want to comment that education, the type of formal education that children are exposed to in schools, is often used in the service of form. An example of this is the teaching of English to indigenous groups around the world, as a prelude to introducing new values to them, the introduction of which undermines and even destroys their own traditional values.

Of course, speaking frankly, many schools don't teach education at all. While they may cover basic subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic, which are educational, other subjects, and also the structure of the entire school experience, are designed to promote other values and beliefs which are not only selfish; they are regularly unethical as well.

For example, Islamic madarassas, which are schools, regularly teach that all non-Muslims are infidels and must be converted. A similar belief is seen in evangelical Christian schools. Christian schools are also notable in their aversion to teaching evolutionary theory.


I want to close this article by examining how you can tell if a form is good or bad. This is the issue of deciding which forms to accept, and which to reject. What basis can you use for making your decisions?

Here are a number of guidelines that you can follow. If a behavioral form is intended to get you to stereotype, judge, or injure other people, or the natural environment, even if it only has this consequence indirectly, you should reject it. Similarly, if the influence positions you relative to others not in a viva la difference fashion, but in an "us versus them" manner, you should reject it. If it is intended to get you to buy things, reject it.

On the other hand, if its intention is to get you to behave ethically, with regard to other people, to nature, and also to yourself, such as to encourage you to work hard to make the most of your circumstances and your life, accept it. Of course, as I was just saying, this isn't form at all. It's education.

If the influence promotes merit, the idea of working hard to accomplish a goal, accept it. If it relates you to - encourages you to be part of - a positive trait or human achievement, accept it.

For your culture as a whole, you should accept those forms which define your culture's approach to existence, if you agree with them; which represent traditions of cultural excellence; which are traditions that support peace, both internally and with other cultures; and which are not barbaric, intolerant or nonsensical.

You should reject your culture's traditions that are barbaric, intolerant or nonsensical, in the context of modern - and your - understanding and practice, as well as those traditions with which you do not agree.

In the final article in the series, I will consider the varying power of social influences, and also differences in people's susceptibility to them.

© Roland Watson 2013