I have a heartfelt respect for the unconventional. For people who pave their own path. And for those who express themselves via sub-cultures often rejected by mainstream society. They represent a freedom of thought and physical manifestation that I wish the conventional and like-minded part of society would treat with more admiration and respect.
Sweden is a pretty open society, but I wouldn’t say it’s an open-minded society. We still have a long way to go in order for more people to dare to go their own way without being scoffed at by the mainstream ‘superiors’. I can often see how they laugh and whisper behind people’s backs on the streets and in the subway. And in the media, unconventional thought is often met by bullying remarks instead of intelligent argumentation.
I often observe people, but because I’m curious as to who that person is and why that person is the way he/she is. There’s a beautiful story behind every individual. I recently became a father, and to me it’s inconceivable how people who themselves are parents, and know what the love for a child is like, can say derogatory things about others who stand out from the crowd in an odd or otherwise unconventional way. Every person is someone’s child and nobody deserves to be treated badly for being different.
My beloved Japan is a prime example of a culture in which a multitude of sub-cultures, some of them very extreme in its visual expression, manage to co-exist and flourish. The sense of individual expression on the streets of Tokyo, Osaka etc is extraordinary – it feels like being in a living art gallery.
A friend and long-time resident of Japan pointed out to me that the Japanese are in fact very judgmental, but they just don’t say anything. If people are judgmental, albeit silently, how can it be explained that Japan has such an immense variety in terms of styles and individual expressions? I guess it is a clash between generations and between the traditional and modern. The Japanese culture is in many ways contradictory and hard to grasp. But nonetheless absolutely wonderful.
I can see that there is a strongly conventional side to Japan that may dislike the unordinary. But most importantly, the intolerance is not openly voiced to restrict the lives of others, which enables the unconventional to dare to express their identity without being openly scoffed at. I see Japan as very thoughtful in this regard. It’s not suprising that e.g. the Walkman was invented in Japan as a result of the need to be able to listen to music portably without disturbing anyone else around you. One does not want to impose things on others, which is a beautiful trait.
It’s not wrong to be mainstream. But it’s absolutely unworthy to bully the daring ones who choose to reimagine how things can be done differently – be it in thought, action or appearance. Approach them with openness, curiosity and a willingness to exchange ideas.
Let’s embrace the unconventional. If you zig, please let others zag.