Cultural Defiance/Cultural Deviance:

Collected Essays (an excerpt)

Defiance is a poitical act, whether on the level of society or of interpersonal interaction, and is judged objectively. Defiance implies the willful breaking of formal conventional rules. Defiance is a willful rebellion against some social institution, whether it is the state, the church, the school, or the family. It is an implicitly political statement that says, "I will not cooperate with something I don't like." The defiant person chooses to be defiant.

Deviance is another story entirely, a moral issue. To be deviant is to be different -- almost ontologically so - from others. A deviant act is no deliberate rebellion against a social institution, but an innate response to a socially-constructed reality. Deviance is always judged subjectively according to culturally-defined norms created over time by convention and based on widely (though not universally) shared values. These values become the "unquestionable truths" of the culture. A deviant my appear, to those in the mainstream, as soeone who is defiant; that the deviation from the norm is willful and chosen specifically to flout the cherished cultural conventions, rather than the authentic expression of an individual's peronal experiences. But moreso than mere defiance (which deals, after all, wih externalities), deviance appears subversive; an utter lack of respect for the sacred, for the values of one's peers, one's society. It appears to polite society a moral malformation. No deviant chooses to be different.

I stand here today to confess -- no, to profess! -- both my defiance and my deviance, as well as my desire, in my life as a Dominican educator, to inspire my students in similar acts of defiance and deviance. The contemplative person in today's world must stand out as both a rebel and a misfit. It could hardly be otherwise, for we have constructed for ourselves a world where the senses are ascendant and the interior life unbearable...

© Peter K Fallon, 2022. All rights reserved. Contact:  pfallon@roosevelt.edu

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